Star Wars was a commentary on the Vietnam War

Oct 28, 2018
Harrison Ford in Apocalypse Now

Ewoks.

Cute and furry. 

or

Feisty and ferocious?

In Return of the Jedi the Ewok are introduced for the first time and they end up being heroes, helping to defeat the Empire. 

George Lucas has been quoted as saying he "needed to come up with a primitive creature that was still using sticks and stones and spears--or weapons--and that lived in a primitive society that would be forced to take on the highly technological Empire."

His original idea of using Wookies just wasn't going to match his plot point idea so Ewoks it was. 

The official Star Wars site says of the Ewoks:

"In our own history, the origins of the Ewoks can be found in the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975). In that confrontation during the Cold War, the guerrilla Vietcong warriors were a constant threat to the anti-communist soldiers because they knew every inch of the jungles they called home."

No stranger to making films that feature broader political themes (refer THX-1138 and his short films), Lucas also used the Ewoks as a metaphor for the Viet Cong who fought the US government's GI Forces.

Indeed Lucas is on record having said that the original Star Wars was in part a commentary on the Vietnam War:" 

"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 thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships?"

Apparently, he wrote a note in 1973 that said Star Wars was about: "A large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters.”

One could argue this concept made clear the moment they start to watch the film. The first scene features a massive Star Destroyer chasing down a small fleeing ship. In that sense, Star Wars is about the asymmetry of power in the universe, the same as the struggle between the Ewoks and the Evil Empire.

Obviously, the Vietnam War played hugely on the minds of the American people so of course it had an effect on George Lucas.

He was an objector to the Vietnam war but was actually drafted by the US Army. To his luck, he was rejected when Army doctors discovered he has diabetes. I say luck, because: war.

History shows that Lucas became a filmmaker, kicking off with THX-1138 and then American Graffiti. He also started developing a film about the Vietnam War. There's a long and interesting history behind it but eventually, it became Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now in which Harrison Ford had a small role (named Colonel Lucas...)

“A lot of my interest in Apocalypse Now carried over into Star Wars.”

So that's that.

Many viewers have noted commentary in Revenge of the Sith. That film features the Emperor taking more power for himself, becoming the Senate and Darth Vader decreeing to Obi-Wan that if he wasn't with him, he was against him.

This had strong parallels to political activity in America at the time when concerns were being raised about the powers the Patriot Act had given to the State, the invasion of Iraq to find imaginary weapons of mass destruction and George Bush's statement to the world at large that if you were not with America, you were against it.

This however, was not a deliberate commentary that time as the script was written prior to Bush's statement.

It was not lost on Lucas though and he stated in an interview "The parallels between Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."

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