Sci-fi and fantasy stories are all about politics, but Comic Years should not be your go-to site for US Presidential Election coverage. Yet, US politics over the last four years seemingly infects every walk of life. With the ease of voting by mail, the most Americans in history participated in the process, with results slow to arrive over three days of non-stop news coverage. Late Saturday morning on the East Coast, the major networks called the race for former Vice President Joe Biden. What happened next was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and I spent the past 20 years working as a government and politics reporter. People took to the streets across the US in spontaneous celebrations. The church bells in Paris, France rang out, and there was fireworks display in London, England. This reaction to the election results prompted people to comment that it reminded them of the celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi.
While President Trump may have lost the election, Baby Yoda’s internet remains undefeated. Within hours of the call, a number of videos popped up online editing footage of the election celebrations with John Williams’ Return of the Jedi score. (Not Yub Nub, though, alas.) Eventually, so many people compared the real-world election celebrations to the galaxy-wide celebrations that Return of the Jedi trended on Twitter.
Some folks upset with Trump’s humiliating defeat, however, said this moment wasn’t the end of Return of the Jedi but, rather, Revenge of the Sith. We all remember the scene when Chancellor Palpatine names himself an Emperor, Padmé says, “This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” Yet, this is wrong compared to both Lucas’ intent and the story itself.
The Comparison of the Election Celebrations and Return of the Jedi Is Apt
We’ve talked about how important political philosophy is to be Star Wars, and the saga itself is, ultimately, a political story. Now, the US is not a full-on autocracy, and the people of America overthrew their government at the ballot box not via armed conflict. The Death Star that blew up this weekend was metaphorical, but the euphoria Americans felt was very real. As our own Emily O’Donnell wrote last week, science fiction and fantasy stories are all about overthrowing oppressive regimes. So, if the fight itself matches our favorite fiction, why can’t the victory match it as well?
Yet, what makes the US election celebrations even more like the end of Return of the Jedi is that Donald Trump is exactly the kind of leader George Lucas had in mind when he created the Emperor. The Star Wars prequel trilogy warned us about an authoritarian taking control of democratic institutions. In a story conference for Return of the Jedi, when screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan asked Lucas if the Emperor was also a former Jedi, Lucas said that he was a “politician named Richard M. Nixon.” Emperor Palpatine was Lucas’ idea of what America could have looked like had Nixon decisively ended the Vietnam War and stayed in power. (Beating The Watchmen to that idea by a few years.)
Yet, like many right-wing populists before him, Donald Trump behaved that same way. His rhetoric highlighted hypernationalism and the trappings of democracy, yet his actions showed serious conflict with presidential norms and the law. The full extent of the harm the Trump administration caused is something for other press outlets to fully analyze. Yet, the celebrations after the election unseated him show that, like in Return of the Jedi, the people he lorded over felt genuine relief from his defeat.
What do you think? Do you think the celebrations after the US election are comparable to the celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.