George Lucas on Star Wars: Palpatine and Donald Trump

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became the pop cultural staples they are. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Palpatine, First Galactic Empire, Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith

The Scene: Palpatine announces that the Republic will be “reorganized into the first Galactic Empire!”

George Lucas Says (via the Revenge of the Sith commentary track): “When I [first began writing Star Wars], it was during the Vietnam War. It was during the period when Nixon was going for a third term, or trying to get the constitution changed to go for a third term. And it got me to thinking about how democracies turn into dictatorships. Not how they’re taken over, or how there’s a coup or anything like that. But how the democracy turns itself over to a tyrant.

So I went back and looked at how, after the senate in ancient Rome kills Caeser, they turn around and give the empire over to his nephew and make him emperor. … [In the case of the French Revolution], after they’ve gone to all this trouble to have a revolution and get rid of the king and people in power, eventually they turn the democracy over to Napoleon and make him the emperor. So it has to do more with a historical precedence, and it does happen a lot more than what we think. …

It’s more interesting when it’s actually given over to compensate for the fact that the electorate representatives can’t agree on anything and are corrupt. And therefore, in order to clean up the mess, somebody is allowed to come in and “fix” things.”

I Say: I usually don’t like to get political here. But Star Wars is inherently political. So what the hell?

What Lucas describes here, with societies turning themselves over to dictators, is largely what happened with America and Donald Trump in 2016. This notion is briefly alluded to in an interview Lucas did with James Cameron not long ago.

Donald Trump was viewed as an outsider. Someone outside the political system. He spoke to a section of the populace that felt alienated and forgotten by that system. He was democratically (from an Electoral College standpoint at least…) elected to the presidency. What followed were four years of scandal and outrage resulting from a would-be authoritarian leader being elected to a society used to being run by democratic rule. It all culminated in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, as Trump attempted to overthrow the 2020 election and stay in office longer. The similarities between Trump and Palpatine speak for themselves.

The scary thing? The Trump authoritarian threat hasn’t passed yet. Like Palpatine in the sequel trilogy, Trump may survive defeat and return to menace our society yet again…

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