At Friday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest stood with a rather unusual guard behind him: two storm troopers, the iconic soldiers of the Galactic Empire. The gag for journalists reinforced the notion that the new “Star Wars” movie is a cultural phenomenon and most probably will be the highest earning film of all time as it broke the record for opening weekend sales. The location was also symbolically appropriate, since the saga is one of great social and political significance.
In essence it doesn’t belong at all to the sophisticated genre of science fiction; it’s a simple tale about the black and white struggle of good vs. evil, including knights and princesses, only wrapped up in the backdrop of a far off galaxy. “Star Wars” is now teaching a third generation that freedom, justice, honor and democracy are worth fighting and even dying for. It is marked for a time when a reiteration of our civilization’s basic values is more than useful. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it told of the necessity of defeating an empire of evil, and at the turn of the century, of the slow death of liberty in the face of an external enemy and protracted wars. The latest episode, in turn, conveys that the elimination of a dictator doesn’t necessarily mean peace and the return of the good old days.
It may sound funny to some, but in an age oversaturated with pop culture, “Star Wars” is a much more effective vehicle for the ideals of Western civilization than secondary school required reading lists. In particular, American intellectuals and Nobel laureates have no problem using references to “Star Wars” and its fantastic world to illustrate opinions and ideas. Central European intellectuals would find it cheesy. But in short, one must admit that the mega-corporation Disney does far more for our future than so many café denizens. And it makes billions on it. That’s the power of capitalism and modern society in its purest form.