OUTER SPACE SEAN Everyone familiar with Star Wars knows that the Empire is Bad, and the Rebellion is good. But... Why? SMASHCUT: MAIN TITLES John Williams' incredible Star Wars fanfare announces the beginning of the episode, but instead of Star Wars, we see the "FEE Presents: Anything Peaceful (a video essay series)" logo instead. CUT TO: EMPEROR PALPATINE We see various clips of Star Wars pertaining to the dialogue, cut on the words in bold. Need shots of: Emperor Palpatine (evil version); New Republic (galactic senate); and "ordinary citizens of the galaxy". SEAN Seriously. What makes life under Emperor Palpatine so unbearable, and what would make life under the New Republic so much better, for the ordinary citizens of the galaxy? DISSOLVE TO: WHITE SEAN The movies offer surprisingly little information as to what's actually wrong with Imperial rule. Now, I'm not talking about blowing up planets or Anakin murdering Jedi children. I'm talking about the daily lives of ordinary citizens. People who don't have any connection to the Sith or the Jedi or the battle for the Senate or any of that stuff. CUT TO: EMPEROR PALPATINE More clips corresponding to dialogue. Need shots of: 1. Palpatine using Force lightning on Mace Windu & Luke Skywalker; 2. Yoda vs. Palpatine in empty senate chamber; 3. Palpatine in Naboo Parade from Ep. I; 4. Death Star blowing up Alderan from Ep. IV; 5. Palpatine watching the space battle from the Death Star in Ep VI; SEAN Sure, behind closed doors, Emperor Palpatine is secretly a Sith Lord who can shoot light bolts from his hands. That definitely seems evil, but according to the movies, nobody but a few Jedi even knows about it. He doesn't walk down the street electrocuting random peasants. For the most part, his brutality seems to be limited to confrontations with the Rebel Alliance. FADE TO BLACK Darth Vader's lightsaber ignites from the final scene in Rogue One, before he lays waste to a dozen Rebel soldiers. SEAN And yeah... Darth Vader is one of the most intimidating villains of all time, and he's obviously a menace to Rebellion soldiers and the Jedi... CUT TO: TATOOINE Shots of Owen Lars' moisture farm. Shots of Anakin murdering Sand People. SEAN But imagine you're just some ordinary moisture farmer going about his business on Tatooine. Unless your name is Owen Lars... Or, you know... Sand people... Darth Vader almost certainly doesn't care about you. He's mainly interested in finding Luke Skywalker. CUT TO: CLIP: EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Darth Vader to Luke during their climactic battle. DARTH VADER "Together, we'll rule the galaxy as father and son." LUKE "I'll never join you." CUT TO: CORUSCANT Shots of the various planets and people in the Star Wars universe. Will also need shots of the First Order rally from Rogue One. SEAN So the question is... What would it mean to live in a Galaxy "ruled" by the Empire, and why is it the ultimate depiction of Tyranny in Popular Culture? CUT TO: MOTION GRAPHIC Tiles pop up depicting each film, book, comic book, video game or other media property available within the Star Wars universe. SEAN The more I've thought about this, the more I have struggled to come up with an answer based on anything actually depicted in the films themselves. CUT TO: STAR WARS BATTLES Shots of various battles from different films. SEAN Part of the problem is that in most Star Wars movies, the characters are all fighting in a single political struggle. QUEEN AMIDALA Shots of Padme in the Galactic Senate. SEAN And apart from Padme's interminable dialogue about Senatorial procedure in the Prequels, there's almost no discussion of governing philosophy in the entire series. STAR WARS BATTLES More shots of battles, and Starkiller Base from Rogue One blowing up planets. SEAN Ask yourself: What does the Rebel Alliance stand for besides the destruction of the Empire, and what does the Empire stand for apart from maintaining power? CUT TO: CLIP: GRAND MOFF TARKIN Grand Moff Tarkin describes the value of the Death Star from Episode IV. SEAN In "A New Hope", Grand Moff Tarkin at least offers some insight into the Empires operation. GRAND MOFF TARKIN "The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station." SEAN But... What does that actually mean? CUT TO: EMPEROR PALPATINE Shots of Palpatine before his disfigurement in Episode I. SEAN What policies does the Emperor want enforced across the Galaxy? What is it that he's actually imposing on his citizens that requires multiple planet destroying superweapons to enforce? I mean... I get that Palpatine wanted power, but... What's he actually do with it? BAD EMPIRE We need these shots: 1. Anakin & Obi-Wan in the elevator bantering with each other. 2. R2D2 and BB8 from Force Awakens 3. R2D2 and C3P0 from the end of Empire SEAN Once he acquired political control over the Galaxy, did he ban gay marriage? Droid marriage? Gay droid marriage? Shots of: 1. Jedi Libary 2. Protesters (if there are any in the movies?) 3. Robot Factory from Episode I. SEAN Did he ban books and restrict speech? Does Star Wars even have books? Did he nationalize... or... um... Galactize major industries? For something that's so important to the story, Star Wars doesn't really even try to answer these questions. But here's what we do know. Shots of: 1. Han Solo/Millennium Falcon. 2. Storm Troopers in Mos Isley Spaceport. 3. Jaba the Hutt. SEAN First. There's a lot of smuggling in the Star Wars universe. And that probably means that there are a lot of laws and regulations making various goods and services costly or illegal. Prohibiting or restricting trade creates Black Markets, it can also impoverish many people and make their lives much harder when they can't access the things that they want and need. 4. Any shots you can find of people trading in the SW universe. 5. More Stormtroopers. SEAN Even though it's the invisible fabric of everyone's daily life, commerce doesn't really seem to exist in the Star Wars universe at all, but one way the Empire could be ruining people's lives is by controlling what gets bought, sold, or traded; dictating prices; or by taxing everything so much that even basic necessities become impossible to afford. 6. Large-scale shots of Imperial Armies. SEAN Another thing we know is that the Imperial military uses its power against citizens of the Empire, and not just in terms of collateral damage. 7. SW Rebels: Shots of Stormtroopers grabbing people or conscripting them. 8. SW Rebels: Stormtroopers taking people's stuff. 9. Rogue One: Star Destroyer hovering over Kybur Crystal mine. 10. Death Star dish installation. 11. Imperial Military. 12. Darth Vader force-pulls Han Solo's blaster in Empire. SEAN In Star Wars: Rebels, Storm Troopers and other Imperial agents are often seen conscripting innocent people into their armies and seizing their property without compensation. More recently, in Rogue One, we see a Star Destroyer hovering over a Kybur Crystal mine, and the Empire appears to force people to work in the mines in order to acquire key components of the Death Star. We might assume that the Imperial military gets many or most of its supplies and resources through similar means -- stealing from people around the galaxy, taking their property by force. But... That assumes some kind of property rights, and that's never fully established in that worldr. CUT TO: CONSCRIPTION/SLAVERY Shots needed: 1. Finn's story about being conscripted as a baby from TFA. 2. Shmi Skywalker/Slavery 3. United States' military draft. 4. War footage from real-world wars. SEAN And there's one more terrible thing we know about the Empire from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. FINN I'm not Resistance. I'm not a hero. I'm a stormtrooper. Like all of them, I was taken from a family I'll never know. And raised to do one thing. But my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn't gonna kill for them. So I ran. Right into you. And you looked at me like no one ever had. I was ashamed of what I was. But I'm done with the First Order. I'm never going back." SEAN That's a form of slavery that many real-world governments have used throughout history. Sadly even the United States government still has the power to draft its citizens into war, though that hasn't happened for decades. Unfortunately, Star Wars never actually wrestles with these issues in any meaningful way. CUT TO: GALACTIC REPUBLIC VS. EMPIRE Shots needed: 1. Galactic Senate "Democracy". 2. Real World footage of "Democratic" leaders like Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarek, etc. who have done horrible things to their people. 3. Emperor Palpatine amassing political power, becoming Supreme Chancellor from Episode I. SEAN It seems to assume that the major difference between a "good" world and a "bad" world is the presence of Democracy, but that's hardly a guarantee. Many Democratic leaders have created misery for their citizens and even used Democracy to amass power and become dictators themselves -- just like Emperor Palpatine did. CHANCELLOR PALPATINE "And as my first act with this new authority, I will create a grand army of the Republic to counter the increasing threats of the Separatists." SENATOR AMIDALA "So this is how liberty dies..." SEAN I think that works so well in the film because it's so true to what we actually see in real life. And... Padme gets to the real issue here. Liberty. The only answer to this question that actually makes sense is that the Empire is an awful place to live because its people lack individual freedom. 4. Any shots we can find of ordinary citizens in the Star Wars Universe. 5. Stormtroopers, Clone Troopers, Droid Armies, etc. 6. Mos Isley. 7. Han Solo. 8. Jaba the Hutt. SEAN Citizens of the Empire aren't secure in their possessions and property. They can't go where they want without being stopped by Imperial forces. They can be imprisoned or forced into an army without a trial or the opportunity to say no… And restrictions on trade and commerce make them poor and condemn them to getting what they need from dangerous black markets, smugglers, and gangsters. 9. Medal ceremony with Luke Skywalker from Episode IV. If the Rebellion stands against that, then they are true heroes. FADE OUT YOUTUBE END CARD SEAN Hey everybody, thanks for watching this episode of _________. If you want to see more video essays like this that talk about art, culture, and cool ideas, subscribe to this channel and check us out as @FEEonline on all the social media.

Out of Frame


About this show

Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

What's So Bad About The Galactic Empire?

May 4, 2017

Have you ever really stopped to consider why the Galactic Empire in Star Wars is evil? The Star Wars films show the Galactic Empire committing war crimes against their Rebel enemies, but over the course of the entire franchise, we learn almost nothing about how they treat their ordinary citizens. Welcome to Out of Frame.

Written & Produced by Sean W. Malone
Edited by Pavel Rusakov & Sean W. Malone

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