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George Lucas’s original outline for Vader reminds us ‘Star Wars’ has always been political

It all began when Anakin started "hanging out" with the Emperor.

It’s true that you could draw an unlimited number of political allegories from the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire in the original Star Wars trilogy, mostly inspired by the controversial Nixon presidency and the Vietnam War, issues that were then at the forefront of the American psyche. But it seems that even for George Lucas himself, the parallels were a conscious creative choice, rather than an honest coincidence.

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Fans of the galaxy far, far away have recently unearthed the original outline for “The Tragedy of Darth Vader” which Lucas revealed in 1981 during a story conference for Return of the Jedi.

In this rough outline, Anakin Skywalker is training under Ben Kenobi but “hanging out” with the wrong crowd. The creator describes the Emperor as an elected official, whom “nobody knew was that bad” at the time. “He was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over,” writes Lucas.

Now, a lot of Star Wars fans these days might feel like the Mouse House should stay well clear of political issues, boiling the whole story down to epic adventures on a galactic scale. But in case you missed all the subtle hints in the first two trilogies, this proves beyond any doubt that Lucas had always intended his story to be politically relevant to the contemporary landscape.

Other details are interestingly quite similar to how the prequel trilogy panned out. The Jedi Order doesn’t seem to have an established hierarchy in this draft, which is why Anakin’s exploits are referred to as “going off doing his Jedi thing” while a lot of Jedi Knights have mysteriously been getting killed. Ben learns that Anakin is behind the murders, so he fights his student and throws him “into a volcano.”

Lucas even recognized the intimate connection between Obi-Wan and Anakin as early as 1980, writing that Ben blamed himself for Vader’s fall to the dark side. That prophetic hook has now taken on a life of its own, with Obi-Wan Kenobi revolving around the same character dilemma that underpinned this relationship.

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Image of Jonathan Wright
Jonathan Wright
Jonathan is a religious consumer of movies, TV shows, video games, and speculative fiction. And when he isn't doing that, he likes to write about them. He can get particularly worked up when talking about 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'A Song of Ice and Fire' or any work of high fantasy, come to think of it.