Despite taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars The franchise draws several parallels to our own galaxy’s history. In an interview with the Boston Globe in 2005, creator George Lucas said that the inspiration for the original film “… came from our literary history, our social history, like robots and whatnot. Part of it’s based on mythological motifs; the politics are based on history. There’s a lot of cultural reality to it that isn’t necessarily scientific but is more social. “
Historical events have long influenced arts and entertainment, from Shakespeare to the modern era, and Star Wars is no exception. The epic science-fiction space opera, which has since grown into a multimedia franchise, has always been influenced by political and historical events. Growing up in post-World War II America, George Lucas was greatly impacted by the changing world around him, an influence that transferred greatly into his beloved space epic.
The Galactic Empire vs The Rebel Alliance
The core conflict of the original trilogy is the Rebel Alliance in opposition to the Galatic Empire. The resistance movement consists of largely untrained rebels scattered throughout the galaxy against an organized unit of soldiers and tacticians. Having to plan and organize without detection by the Empire, the Rebel Alliance found its roots during the Clone Wars. It grew to a significant operation unto itself by the conclusion of the original trilogy. The metaphorical David and Goliath story is familiar to history; the American Revolution, the Serbian Revolution, and the Haitian Revolution being some examples. However, it was the Vietnam War where George Lucas found inspiration.
Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in 2005, Lucas revealed that “It was really about the Vietnam War, and that was the period where Nixon was trying to run for a [second] term, which got me to think historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away. “Lucas saw this initial inspiration come to life in Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine refused to give up power, turning the Galatic Republic into the Galactic Empire. Lucas has not shied away from how his personal beliefs shaped the world of Star Wars, speaking to James Cameron in a 2018 interview with AMC that the inspiration behind the Rebels, including their fighting tactics, was the Vietcong. “We’re fighting the largest empire in the world,” he said, referring to the American Revolution, “… and it was the same thing with the Vietnamese. The irony of that one is in both of those, the little guys won. ”
It should come as no surprise that the manipulative Emperor Palpatine, who is the cause of the galaxy’s turn to the Dark side, was heavily inspired by dictators and rulers throughout history. Palpatine’s success as a politician comes from his ability to influence those around him. By hiding his true hand from his enemies and allies, he appears to be a benevolent leader looking out for the best interest of his people when he was pulling strings all along.
Although many have seen comparisons to dictators like Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, it was an American President that sparked an idea. In a 1981 conference, when asked about Palpatine’s origins, Lucas said, “… he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy, and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy. ”
Some of the most thrilling scenes in Star Wars are the galactic space battles between good versus evil. From the first aerial battle in a New Hope to more complex scenes in The Rise of Skywalker, dogfights have become some of the most anticipated action scenes in the series, perhaps only second to lightsaber combat. While space conflict may not be something we have seen in our lifetimes, the idea of aerial combat is not entirely new.
World War I and World War II changed the landscape of modern warfare forever. With the added technology of heavy machinery, planes soon found their way to the front lines in the early 20th century. The concept of fighting wars on the ground and in the skies also found its way into Star Wars, with the dogfights of the World Wars being the inspiration behind them. Lucas even snuck some architectural features of the warcraft into his series, most notably with the Millennium Falcon cockpit being inspired by the B-29 bomber nose.
Darth Vader’s Army
One of the most notable comparisons of real history in Star Wars are the soldiers who work for the Empire: Stormtroopers. Hired to phase out the aging and expensive clones, Stormtroopers were enlisted and trained shortly after Order 66. The concept of Stormtroopers allowed the Empire to protect their assets throughout the galaxy and also instill loyalty to the institution they worked for. Although they may be lacking decent aim, Stormtroopers were ruthless toward those who refused to align with the Empire.
Stormtroopers in Star Wars share their name with the members of the Sturmabteilung of Nazi Germany. The real Stormtroopers used similar tactics to their fictional counterparts, wearing uniforms and intimidating political opponents with public rallies and marches. Director JJ Abrams carried Lucas’ inspiration into the sequel trilogy, using what happened to many members of the Nazi Party after WWII as a jumping-off point for the First Order. Speaking to Empire Magazine in 2015 Abrams said, “That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? ‘ What could be born of that ?. ”
The Death Star
The devastation that the Death Star was capable of looms over the entirety of the original trilogy. From the reveal of the Empire’s secret superweapon to the destruction of the second iteration in Return of the Jedi, the Death Star’s capability to destroy an entire planet from its core had never been seen in the galaxy before. But for us on Earth, this was nothing new, as just over three decades before the release of A New Hopewe witnessed similar decimation.
The Manhattan Project confirmed that humanity was capable of creating atomic weapons. When American forces dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nearly 200,000 people were killed or injured. The fallout and exposure caused numerous illnesses in the years to follow, making the exact number of casualties challenging to pinpoint. While the bombs ended World War II, they left irreparable scars on the lives they changed and the homes they destroyed; a pain mirrored in Princess Leia Organa, who witnessed the destruction of her home planet Alderaan in A New Hope.
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