Call me crazy, but I’ve always found when watching Star Wars (the modern episodes, not the classic) that my sympathies lay more with the villainous groups. Now, I’m sure I’ve lost some of you whose knowledge of Lucas’ universe is somewhat less than my own. You can go watch them; I haven’t the time to explain it all to you; I expect most of my audience is sufficiently well versed anyhow. So I’ll simply begin.
Sympathetic Villain Number 1: Naboo Freedom Fighters
Did I get your attention there? No, I’m not saying that the Trade Federation were the good guys. Far from it, I’ve just got a few points I want to make. First, we’re obviously supposed to sympathize with Naboo, after all, they’re the pacifists. They don’t want to go to war. They want to do things democratically. They love peace so much, they don’t want to defend themselves. They love peace ever so much, that they elected (somehow) a fourteen year old queen. Yet look at the facts. They refuse to defend themselves! (Yet we’re somehow supposed to sympathize when they’re invaded by an army of stupid robots?) They elected a preteen to rule over them! (Why am I not surprised they couldn’t defeat an army of stupid robots?) They’re incredibly racist against a fellow sentient race: the Gungans! (Again, they needed the technologically backwards frog-people to beat the stupid robots for them?) Their Queen snuck off to the capital of the universe to try and negotiate a peace treaty, instead of fighting an army of non-living, stupid robots! And they somehow manage to defeat the army of stupid robots using about three dozen people with pistols, two lightsabers, and about a dozen space ships. Why are we supposed to feel bad about the fact that they were persecuted when they didn’t fight back against the army of stupid, militarily-incompetent robots?
The answer is, of course, in true Hollywood-liberal fashion, because they were being oppressed by big business! The “Trade Federation,” because of poor government oversight, is able to oppress these poor, innocent, incompetents on Planet Naboo with their equally incompetent robot army. (Of course, once “proper” government oversight exists, we see an oppressive government! You’d almost think George Lucas changed political parties in the intermediate thirty years!) But this ignores one critical fact; regardless of pretense, the Trade Federation is no corporation. No mention is made of their business activities, indeed nothing is even hinted at by the incomprehensible reason for which they invaded Naboo in the first place! What we see is nothing more than a union, flexing its muscles in the public arena, harming innocents with its goon squad, in order to extract a better deal. After all, this is no antiquated trading company. What use does a seemingly modern (albeit ancient, by merit of “long time ago… far far away.”) have for a stupid robot army? Yet if one considers the battle droids to be nothing more than enforcers for a power hungry union, the movie takes on a far more realistic, plausible, and accurate picture.
Sympathetic Villain Number 2: Separatist Forces
Alright, now perhaps this is just my southern roots speaking up, but if thousands and thousands of star systems, amounting to tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of planets, are attempting to split from the existing government, surely there is some issue that needs to be addressed? Although we have no copy of the Republic’s constitution, it seems unlikely that a clause prohibiting secession would be included, and subsequently overlooked by thousands of systems. But what happens when these systems decide that it is no longer in their best interests, and the best interests of their people to remain in the republic? The Republic creates, (and later) authorizes, and mobilizes millions of clone soldiers to suppress these disenchanted nations. And the Jedi are mobilized to track down and assassinate the leaders of the movement. And somehow, we’re expected to root for such a force? Take Episode II for example: Lucas expects the audience to resent the death sentences imposed on Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Padme Amidala. Why, because they’re being killed in an arena by a bunch of separatists. Never mind that all three are loyalists, behind enemy lines, two of whom are spies and assassins for the Republic, sent to capture or kill a Separatist General! Never mind that they manage to lead an army of assassins and thousands upon thousands of clones in a sneak attack against a more or less peaceful world! If such a thing happened in our world, the populations of the nations involved would be screaming for blood! But not in the charmed world of Lucas. The justification that is given for the brutal suppression of freedom is merely that of “manipulation by vague, imperceptible, evil forces” and “corruption”. Since when did corruption of a few government officials warrant the ignoring of constitutional rights accorded millions and millions of people?
Sympathetic Villain Number 3: The Republic/ Galactic Empire
Now we come to the most unbelievable lapse of common sense yet. The Republic is in chaos, but victory is close at hand. With the death of the Separatist Generals, it is expected that peace will arrive shortly. But our “heroes” continue to spout the most inhumanely stupid rhetoric. “This war represents a failure to listen” Well Senator Amidala, you’re certainly right about that, but not in the way you might think. This war stems from the aggression of the Republic, in the response to the right of every man to decide his own destiny. When the Republic ceased to listen to the rights and opinions of the people, it lost the right to govern them. “The council would like you to report on the Chancellor’s dealings.” “They’re asking me to spy on him? That’s treason.” Thank you Anakin! Despite your terrible acting, you right about that. We’re expected to sympathize with a group of powerful individuals conspiring to commit treason in the name of… what exactly? The Force? Mighty convenient… “He controls the Senate, and the courts! He’s too dangerous to be left alive!” “He must stand trial!” Wait… we’re supposed to root against the trial of a dictator, and instead support his execution at the hand of an unregulated, undemocratic, mind-controlling council? WTF…? “There’s been a rebellion. The Jedi have tried to overthrow the Republic.” “I don’t believe it!” Wait, so let me get this straight. An unelected, self-appointed group of vigilantes tried to bypass the legislature, the court system, and the will of the people, assassinate the democratically elected leader… and we don’t consider this an attempted coup? How in the world have they done one thing that was not trying to overthrow the Republic? Only in Hollywood could such a contrary idea be considered possible. And finally: “So this is how democracy dies. With thunderous applause.” Again, let me make sure I’ve got this correct. Democracy died when the government changed its name from the Republic to the Empire? Not when a group of vigilantes tried to bypass every single branch of government and assassinate the Chancellor? Not when they assassinated enemy generals, launched sneak attacks upon peaceful populations, and committed treason by ordering one of their number to spy upon the Chancellor? I give up, I concede to the greater wisdom of George Lucas, a truly better man then I.
Bonus Sympathetic Villain Number 4: The Galactic Empire (Ep IV-VI)
Alright, well, I figured I’d throw this in here. Why do we root for the Rebels? Sure, we hate the Empire for killing Luke’s family. Oh, and Alderaan too. Obviously we’re not dealing with a very nice bunch of people. But exactly how nice are the rebels? They did blow up two space stations, and a great many more ships, each of which contained tens of thousands of people, each with families and friends of their own. I’m not saying they weren’t right to fight against tyranny. Rather I question the blind assumptions of blamelessness we assign them.