Review: Star Wars and History

Real history or fake history?
Real history or fake history?

I was initially extremely excited to find this sitting on the New shelf at the local library. The publisher’s description starts with, “At last–an analysis of the historical patterns that influenced the creation and storyline of the ‘Star Wars’ saga. ‘Star Wars’ took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but its epic stories are based on our own history.” This is true, and “at last” is a pretty accurate summary of feelings; who hasn’t wanted to explore the parallels between Star Wars and mythology, Star Wars and history, fact woven into fiction?

However. This book contains a very few interesting tidbits. Mostly, it is a collection of essays by people largely uninformed about their topic — ignorance or misunderstanding of historical, biblical, or Star Warsian canon is evident at least once in every single section. Here are some examples… Historical ignorance: significant and relevant players in the Russian counterrevolution are missed; situations and circumstances of the American Civil War, French Revolution, and Vietnam conflict are misunderstood or expressed badly; Machiavelli’s The Prince is taken at face value rather than as satire. Examples f biblical ignorance: One essay says you can read in the Old Testament about Judith’s assault on a Syrian general. Actually, the “book of Judith” is apocryphal, and never considered canon by the Jews. (Also, biblical slavery laws have nothing in common with other ancient slave laws.) The icing on the cake, examples of Star Wars ignorance: One essayist comments that neither we nor Anakin ever learn his father’s identity, but canon is explicit that Shmi literally meant “there was no father” — however close to blasphemy the apparent virgin birth may be, even Qui-Gon remarks the child was conceived by midichlorians. Speaking of Qui-Gon, his name is frequently misspelled.

Finally, the films are often misquoted, and dubious sources are cited as canonical — whether Star Wars or historical canon. I say give it a skip. The most interesting part of the whole thing were some of the pictures. Additionally, the emphasis is heavily on the prequels and the recent cartoons, so if your canon is original trilogy only, you really won’t find anything worth reading.

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