The Empire Triumphant

Race, Religion and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films

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About the Book

George Lucas’s first Star Wars trilogy shows the influences of its era; Cold War tension is evident in its theme of rebellion against totalitarianism. Recent entries in the Star Wars saga—The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002)—are much more concerned with evil corporations, terrorists, and the corruption of the political process. Each film is influenced by the times in which it was released, but also by cultural subtexts and by other films that had direct and indirect effects on Lucas as writer, producer, and director.
This work focuses on all six Star Wars films. The first topic of this multifaceted examination is how the films use the language of colonialism (“The” Rebellion, “The” Empire) to emphasize the idea of imperialism. Next the author looks at how Asian influences—including religious undertones from Taoism and Buddhism and the works of Kurosawa and other Asian filmmakers—provide a subtext for much of the action. Next the discussion turns to the representation of people of color in the Star Wars universe, and how other ethnicities are represented overall, particularly through the literalization of the word “aliens.” These topics of discussion provide for penetrating conclusions about Lucas’s films and how they represent race, religion, and rebellion.

About the Author(s)

Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., is a professional actor and director whose previous books have covered topics ranging from Star Wars to Renaissance faires. He is a professor and chair of the theater department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

Bibliographic Details

Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 2 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2219-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1171-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

INTRODUCTION: Of Fanon and Fanboys      1

1. Frantz Fanon in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, or What Is an Empire Without Colonies?      19

2. The Power of Mythmaking / May the Tao Be with You: Myth, Religion and Star Wars      78

3. “Help Me, Kurosawa Akira, You’re My Only Hope”: Asian Culture and Star Wars      102

4. “Making the Galaxy Safe for White People”: People of Color in the Star Wars Universe      126

5. “Bridge on the Planet Naboo”: Asians (and Others) as Aliens      151

CONCLUSION: The Empire Triumphant: Cultural Appropriation and Postcolonial Discourse      184

Chapter Notes      189

Filmography      201

Bibliography      203

Index      209

Book Reviews & Awards

“looks at elements of colonialism and imperialism in the two trilogies and pinpoints Asian influences, including Taoism, Buddhism, and the works of Akira Kurosawa”—South Dade News Leader; “George Lucas has been making a galaxy far, far away safe for white people…primarily about perceptions of the films as seriously marred by racism, colonialism and improper culture appropriation”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram; “shows the influences of its era…theme of rebellion against totalitarianism…evil corporations, terrorists, and the corruption of the political process…the discussion turns to the representation of people of color in the Star Wars universe, and how other ethnicities are represented overall, particularly through the literalization of the word ‘aliens’…penetrating conclusions about Lucas’s films”—SFRevu.