Are we the baddies? ‘Star Wars’ fans debate whether films are an allegory for Vietnam War

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Star Wars fans are debating the theory that the films originally intended to have a political underpinning critiquing the Vietnam War.

The fact that the movies are an updated take on the classic hero’s journey formula — something that has stretched back to humanity’s earliest examples of recorded literature, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf — is widely known by now.

But the matter of whether Star Wars has political undertones is still debatable, partially due to the fact that the films take place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

The current discussion originates from a post by the Star Wars Twitter account Thursday, in which the social media account made a post of an image of a comic book with a Pride Month theme associated with it, as We Got This Covered previously reported.

When a Twitter user questioned whether the post was too political, the Star Wars account clapped back.

“Queer characters existing isn’t political [and] Star WARS is literally in our name.”

As a quick aside, we totally support the notion that “LGBTQIA+ hate has no place in a galaxy far, far away,” as a WGTC author concisely put it.

Regardless, this spurred further conversation where another Twitter user questioned the validity of the Star Wars account’s second point, relating to war being “literally in our name.”

A commentator replied to that question with, “The original Star Wars was an allegory of the Vietnam War.”

Upon that remark, a third Twitter user weighed in, saying, “It absolutely was not, unless the Empire is the USA.”

The entire exchange was later shared by the Reddit user u/damnsamsquantch on the r/SelfAwareWolves subreddit, with the caption, “Are we the baddies?”

By the way, the phrase “Are we the baddies?” is a meme that originates from the sketch comedy show That Mitchell and Webb Look. That show features a segment in which it slowly dawns upon two Nazi soldiers that they are the bad guys of World War II, as That Mitchell and Webb Look Wiki notes.

It’s important to note here that the original reply by the Twitter user @theronster was meant to be ironic, according to their own subsequent reply tweet. Even if they did simply have a difference of opinion, that’s also totally ok to enter into dialogue, as long as one is not abusive about it. (So please, don’t use this article as an excuse to further drag the Twitter user.)

But regardless, the discussion does bring up the interesting question of whether there is any truth to the fact that Star Wars may have been partially inspired by the Vietnam War.

According to George Lucas’ own words, he always intended for Star Wars to be an anti-authoritarian story, as he explained in a sit-down interview for AMC with fellow sci-fi blockbuster director James Cameron.

Lucas also likened the story of Star Wars to colonial America’s battle for independence against the British, in addition to drawing parallels to the Vietnam war.

“We’re fighting the largest empire in the world [during the U.S. Revolutionary War against the English Empire]. And we’re just a bunch of hayseeds in coonskin hats that don’t know nothing. And it was the same thing with the Vietnamese. The irony of that one is, in both of those, the little guys won. And the big, highly technical empire…. the English Empire, the American Empire, lost…that was the whole point.”

According to an article in History, Star Wars also took inspiration from World War II and Nazi Germany when it came to the Galactic Empire, Richard Nixon served as inspiration for Ian Mcdiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine, and ancient Rome inspired Star Wars political institutions such as the “Senate, Republic and Empire.” The medieval Knights Templar also helped inspire the Jedi Knights and the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union — along with its imminent threat of nuclear-fueled mutually assured destruction — also helped inspire the story element of the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star weapon.

In a CNN article from back during Revenge of the Sith‘s 2005 Cannes Film Festival premiere, Lucas once again acknowledged how Star Wars paralleled elements of the Vietnam War, but further asserted the prequel trilogy’s allegorical aspects could also apply to the then-new war in Iraq.

Given that Lucas is part of a 1970s cohort of filmmakers — such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, who are both very well known for their social commentary messaging in their movies — we’d frankly be shocked to hear the THX 1138 director say he considered his movies to be apolitical. For example, Scorsese’s short film The Big Shave and Coppola’s magnum opus Apocolypse Now are both considered to be quite critical of the U.S.’ handling of the Vietnam War, specifically. And the aforementioned THX was a dystopian meditation Lucas helmed, somewhat in the spirit of 1984, years before Star Wars was released.

In short, Star Wars has always been political, and we’re tired of pretending it’s not.