Star Wars: The Acolyte remains a mysterious addition to the upcoming Disney Plus slate. Announced at the December 2020 Investors Day, the show has been described as “a mystery-thriller that will take the audience into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic era.” This would place it a couple of decades prior to The Phantom Menace, making it the earliest live-action Star Wars we’ve ever seen.
Showrunner Leslye Headland, previously known for Bachelorette, Russian Doll, and uh, being Harvey Weinstein’s private assistant at Miramax, has given a new interview with the AV Club discussing the show. This contained the slightly worrying fact that one of her writers has literally never seen any Star Wars movie: (“she’s texting me before we started the room, she’s like, “Luke and Leia are brother and sister, what the…?”) but also a defense of those who criticize Disney for making Star Wars political.
In response, she says that Star Wars has always been political by design:
“When I do go on social media, the feedback is “Don’t make Star Wars political.” I’m like, “George Lucas made it political. Those are political films.” War is, by nature, political. That’s just what’s up. It’s truly what he was interested in talking about and looking at and digging into.”
It’s always felt a little ironic that fans latched onto the Disney era of Star Wars as bringing politics to the franchise when the opposite is true. Sure the more recent movies may feature more prominent female characters, gay kisses (tucked away in the corner of the screen), and better representation in general – but this is just calculatedly liberal window-dressing for extremely safe and intentionally depoliticized narratives.
If you want political look to Revenge of the Sith, which is a criticism of the War on Terror and the Bush presidency. While promoting it Lucas wasn’t shy about drawing real-world parallels:
“We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam. … The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.”
He went on to say that maybe Revenge of the Sith “will waken people to the situation” of the early 2000s Bush-era.
So Headland is right that George Lucas made Star Wars political, but I doubt that Disney would ever let her tell a truly radical story in The Acolyte. What we’ll likely get is yet another Disney project that plays it safe, has a diverse set of characters, and ends up reinforcing the status quo – just as the Sequel Trilogy did.
More on Star Wars: The Acolyte as we hear it.