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Monday, September 26, 2011

Star Wars and Youth Counter-Culture

The youth of my generation grew up on Star Wars. We all wanted to be Luke Skywalker. Luke was a middle class kid from a farm whose family was wealthy enough to own property, and buy droids. Luke even had his own land speeder. His aunt and uncle were not rich enough however to pay for Luke’s education. So they wanted him to stay working and go to the academy the next year. Luke was desperate to escape the confines of his home town, especially since all of his cool friends went off to join “the rebellion”. He meets a wise old man who tries to convince Luke to find his own destiny, which Luke takes to mean jump right into the fight. Luke has some fun for awhile being chased by Tie fighters through the canyons of major cities, and finally feels victorious when he manages to throw his molotov cocktail into the window of a Death Star coffee shop.

In spite of all the things they have set to blaze, the rebellion has done little to actually stop the empire. Trying to wait the empire out, the rebellion takes to camping out on Hoth. Luke starts to learn that while the rebellion seemed glamorous back when he was on the farm, the day to day life of a solder involves freezing your ass off and getting attacked by wampas. Sooner or later, the empire shows up in riot gear with tear gas to clear the hippies off their property.

Luke finds a mentor to help him realize his own potential, but Luke cannot get his mind off all his friends still fighting the rebellion. The drug dealer he has become friends with and the girl that he has a crush on are being threatened by the empire. With the cardonite freeze of a dead end job for one, and exploitation and degradation for the other. Luke, thinking he knows everything after a week, rushes out to fight and gets his ass handed to him.

As it turns out, the slaves of the universe are too busy being slaves to join the rebellion, and so white kids of privilege took it upon themselves to fight in their stead. Furthermore, it is Luke’s own father that is the servant of the empire, which is the only reason Luke even exists and could be a middle class white guy taking on the empire to begin with.

Luke becomes dark. And when he is seen again after his defeat, he has gone from the all-white of his youth to all black. He deals with his enemies by choking them and making demands. When they resist, he destroys them without mercy. He hovers somewhere between Jedi and Sith.

When he rejoins the rebellion, he is not a hot shot pilot running from the police, but an activist trying to knock down the satellite dish protecting the new death star. For once, the rebellion is willing to put everything on the line instead of taking pot shots. Luke realizes that his dad knows he is on the mission, and turning himself in is the only way to distract Vader long enough to give the mission a chance to succeed. Luke is brought before the disgusting old man holding the reigns of the empire. Luke’s father tells him to get a real job and a hair cut and to join the empire/military/corporate world like he did. Luke finally convinces his father that the empire kinda sucks because it fucks so many people over, and in his dying moments, his father is redeemed.

The rebellion, for its part, paid a heavy cost for finally putting its fleet on the line but they did take out the new death star, the flag ship and several other ships. A new republic is born. doubtlessly some centuries later a new empire arises, and the cycle repeats.

Viva revolution. Hail caesar. Viva revolution. Thanks George Lucas for ruining my generation.

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