In 2016, Disney chief executive Bob Iger stated to The Hollywood Reporter before the 2016 release of Rogue One that, "Frankly, this is a film that the world should enjoy. It is not a film that is, in any way, a political film. There are no political statements in it at all.”
Iger made that statement at least in part because Rogue One's writers tweeted openly about their perception of Star Wars and its relationship to modern day politics after the 2016 US presidential election.
Chris Weitz tweeted, "Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization," with Gary Whitta then adding that the Empire was "opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women." They were quickly deleted, but still heard around the galaxy.
Similarly (and more recently), Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, got into a brief Twitter spat with Texas Senator and death penalty fanboy, Ted Cruz, over Net Neutrality.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai raised Hamill's ire when he posted a cutesy video about doing away with net neutrality. Among other things, Pai claims (while wielding a lightsaber) that, without net neutrality, you "can still stay part of your favorite fandom." I guess Pai accidentally left off the part where you can only still post about said fandom if you can afford it, which will likely become more difficult for poor folks (most of us) without net neutrality. Also, if your fandom is "facts that are inconvenient for corporations," you are also in trouble.
Anyway, this was Hamill's response and the resulting Ted Cruz convo:
Whether it's Star Wars, Star Trek, Star-Lord or Corsair and the Starjammers, there is a rallying cry among many fans of all things genre — "keep ur politics outta mah franchise."
Well, sorry Bob Iger. Sorry Star Wars fans who don't like to think about the real world. It is 100 percent impossible to keep politics out of Star Wars because politics were explicitly baked into the Star Wars recipe from the very beginning.
George Lucas has been pretty open about certain political influences on his space opera.
In an interview for the Chicago Tribune in 2015, Lucas stated explicitly that the movie "was really about the Vietnam War, and that was the period where Nixon was trying to run for a term, which got me to thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.”
There it is. Black and white. Clear as crystal. Star Wars was about Nixon. Good day, sir.
Did you think that was too subtle? How about when, during an interview in "The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," Lucas, when asked if Palpatine had ever been a Jedi, replied, "No, 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."
Despite that, Republican figures like Ronald Reagan liked to evoke the original trilogy by calling Russia an "evil empire." They even co-opted the title "Star Wars" to describe Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.
Which is all to say that, even people who don't get Star Wars' origin at all, LOVE using it to describe their politics anyway.
And I don't want to surprise anyone, but George Lucas was no less political when he returned to Star Wars for three prequels. I could talk about the story which revolves around the disintegration of a democratic state through manipulation by a fascist emperor who believes he should wield "absolute power," but thankfully Lucas is even less subtle than his own scripts, so I'll just let him tell you his intentions:
"Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. George Bush is Darth Vader. Cheney is the Emperor."
Now you don't have to like Lucas's take on his own stories. You don't have to agree. You can come up with your own interpretations. Once fiction is out in the world, the people who consume it absolutely should draw their own conclusions. That's what fiction is for.
Certainly, Ted Cruz has his own interpretation of Star Wars and once, during a filibuster, described himself and the Republicans as being a Rebel Alliance fighting against the Obama Administration's oppressive Empire. Which, uh... sure. If you say so, Skip.
But the bottom line is this: people are going to talk about Star Wars in political terms because its influences have always been political. Whether it was Vietnam or the Iraq War, politics and Star Wars have always been a two-way street. No fans, no corporate executives, no amount of tweets can change that.
And so, with all that being said, you don't have to like the fact that (MULTIPLE SPOILER ALERTS) Rian Johnson wrote a movie where (SERIOUSLY THIS WILL RUIN THE WHOLE OF THE LAST JEDI FOR YOU IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT SO PLEASE DON'T READ THIS PART UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE LAST JEDI FOR THE LOVE OF GOD):
1. The Rebellion would've been totally good to go if Poe Dameron had literally just #listenedtowomen
2. General Hux is a goose-stepping alt-right Nazi caricature who gets repeatedly and hilariously smacked around by everyone.
3. Kylo Ren tries to gaslight Rey and 100 percent fails, leading to a tantrum where Kylo snatches defeat from the hands of success.
4. Establishment rebels sacrifice themselves so that the next generation of rebels can escape the shell of their former base to form new strongholds with new leadership more in touch with those who wish to rise up against the First Order (kind of a little bit, totally, one million percent what Democrats should be doing rn).
You don't have to like that. You can hate that. But you can't say that Star Wars shouldn't be political and expect anyone to respond to you with a straight face, because Star Wars has always been political down to its very DNA. That is exactly why it has been so successful and so relevant for over four decades. And that is why it will always remain unapologetically political forever (or for so long as it makes bank for Disney). Which is probably forever.