It was a strange sight to witness after the midnight preview of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith: As the crowds poured into the lobby, there was no mad dash for the parking lot or even the restrooms. Instead, small groups of people clustered together and discussed what they'd just seen. Sure, many of those were conversations about what a ruthless bastard Anakin became (well, he did) or how there really wasn't enough Wookie action (well, there wasn't). But some of those conversations concerned what the now-complete hexology all meant: Why did Anakin turn to the Dark Side? If the Force is to be balanced, doesn't it need a Dark Side by definition? How could the Galactic Senate be so blind to Palpatine's machinations?
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Questions such as these are the basis of Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Imagine. Edited by Kevin S. Decker and Jason Eberl, the book explores the Star Wars mythos in seventeen essays that discuss the intellectual concepts that give the Star Wars universe its unique depth.
Decker, who received his Ph.D. in philosophy from SLU and currently teaches at UMSL, also contributed an essay to the book. "[Mine is] called 'By Any Means Necessary: Democracy, Tyranny, Republic, Empire,'" he says proudly. Decker focuses on "both the history of politics and the political philosophy, and discusses the various social and political conditions by which what happens in these first three prequels could happen. Which is that people could voluntarily consent to and be manipulated at the same time, giving up power such that an emperor could take over."
And yes, while that sounds highfalutin, please carefully consider that Decker never wanted to see the movie in the first place: "I actually had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see the first film back in 1977, because I had no interest in science fiction and it looked quite dumb to me. My parents had heard that it was really interesting and so they took me, and I was very depressed having to go with them, but then I saw it and it completely enraptured me."
And while the second trilogy may not consistently have the same "gee-whiz" factor that the original trilogy has, Decker notes that "I wanted to focus on the most recent trilogy when I wrote, because I think that there's a lot in terms of politics and ideas going on there. Things are a little muddier, a little grayer in this new trilogy." Most important for Decker is the political maneuvering exhibited by the man who would be emperor, Senator Palpatine. "I focus on the speech that Palpatine gives in the second film, where he says, 'Well, you're giving me these emergency powers to raise an army, and I love democracy so I vow to put down these powers as soon as we're all safe.' This speech has been delivered many times before!"
Regardless of your attachment to the greatest movie series of all time, Decker and the authors of Star Wars and Philosophy hope they've added to the level of discourse that surrounds the topic. And if not, Decker notes that the book "is good toilet reading. If you get more out of it that you can take into discussing all the sex and violence [in Revenge of the Sith] with your friends, then that's great. That was our intention."