Star Wars: why it sucks, why everyone loves it

It's hard to find a person who dislikes Star Wars, even harder than to find one who dislikes Lord of the Rings. And it's for good reasons. Star Wars has profound strengths:

An attempt to define magic

The Force theme

So, unlike LOTR and Harry Potter, its popularity isn't completely unearned. There's a lot of good ideas here. But there are also systemic flaws with Star Wars, and these are the main reason I'm writing about it, because the flaws get so little attention. No, Star Wars is not a masterpiece. We need better than this.

The temptation/redemption theme is crippled by the perversity of Star Wars morality. Most Star Wars villains are strawman evil and the designated heroes are always the horribly flawed Jedi or those affiliated with them. Worse, the Jedi/Sith dichotomy is nearly built in to the fabric of the universe; these are *the* two sides to the Force, *the* two sides to every conflict. There isn't even any grey. Some EU works do a little better, but I don't think I've ever seen one that portrays the Jedi Way, not just individual Jedi, as wrong. The Jedi ideology is so ingrained into the universe that if there was ever a movie that showed benevolent Force users that aren't Jedi, it would hardly feel like Star Wars anymore.

strawman evil

Why do I rag on the Jedi so much, you ask? There are a few major things:

Myopias on violence

Most Star Wars source material is statist, but that's to be expected.

Why you should be an anarchist

There's almost no worldbuilding. It's not just fake sci-fi; for all the Star Wars source material we have, we see almost nothing about what the world is like outside of the spaceships and warfare and politics. What is daily life like in this universe? Is there an internet? What kind of jobs do people have? Pretty much the only legitimate economic occupation we see is "moisture farming". This severely limits what we can do with the Star Wars universe in our imagination.

fake sci-fi

The droid rights problem (more on this in the Solo section). The droids in Star Wars are pretty clearly supposed to be sentient, but aren't treated like it by the "goodguys"; none of the heroes - or even the droids themselves - ever object to them being sold as property or the practice of wiping their memories.

The same thing applies to clones: no rights, they're bred and forced to be soldiers. What's that? They explore this in the Clone Wars show? Yeah, but they don't address the implication that um, the Republic is a slave empire and the heroes shouldn't be fighting for it.

Basically all Star Wars source material features enemy mooks too incompetent to produce decent action scenes. You can't fear for someone being shot at by soldiers that both think and aim like toddlers, and it's not interesting to watch someone overcome such a non-threatening enemy.

Another pervasive flaw with the action scenes is that characters don't experience fear. Everyone in this universe acts stolid while being shot at knowing they could die any second; such unrealistic psychology makes them less sympathetic.

Each trilogy is dominated by a single gender. The original and prequel trilogies have one female character each, neither are Jedi, and Padme exists only to support Anakin's arc. As for Leia, honestly I feel like you could just take her out of the original trilogy and the story would be much the same. I can't think of a scene where she does something that couldn't have been done by another character. In the sequels on the other hand, male characters are constantly sidelined or deglorified while every female character is a Mary Sue; Rey is the most overpowered hero Star Wars has ever seen and Kylo is a total wuss.

Why representation matters

Glorifying a character

Mary Sue

Even aside from these systemic flaws, none of the Star Wars movies are good. Each one is filled with its own additional flaws, most of which area rarely acknowledged, so I'm needed to point them out.

Now, lots of people - maybe *most* - think that the sequel movies were awful. Many also think the prequels were awful. Few people think the original trilogy was awful. But I think all of the trilogies have roughly the same average quality, except for Rise of Skywalker, and that quality is mediocre. Star Wars is popular because it's based on a lot of really good ideas and the systemic flaws aren't any worse than the ones in every other popular story, but story discourse could really benefit from acknowledging more of these movies' flaws.

Episode IV: A New Hope

On Chapter 1

Torture is an uncomfortable topic and I'm not saying they should've depicted it. But if they had've confirmed that the Empire does it to prisoners, I think that would've helped make the Empire more scary, and be more consistent with the fact that they're willing to blow up planets as a show of force.

You might say they wanted to kill off Luke's family first to raise the tension or whatever. But they could still have done that. Luke could have decided to go but wanted to tell his aunt and uncle he was leaving, and found them dead when they got there. They could have pieced together that the stormtroopers traced the droids through the Jawas to the Lars homestead.

(It also doesn't make sense from the Empire's perspective. If the plan is to let them go and track them, why waste some stormtroopers fighting them, with the risk of accidentally killing them?)

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Stay away from time travel (and prophecies)

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The third issue is the way he mentions the women separately in that sentence. Is this an implication that women shouldn't be judged the same as men who take the same actions, or are the Tusken raiders so partriarchal that the women really no power over it? There's no indication of such.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Relativist rhetoric

Now, in the case of this movie it is necessary for me to say that Revenge of the Sith has some positives. I've been only counting the flaws of these movies and that's kind of unfair except that it's true. None of them really have any outstanding points to praise. But the prequels are the only trilogy with a strong hero's arc, and Revenge of the Sith is not only a decent resolution to it but also a tragedy, which is super rare in our fiction. I have to give it some credit for that.

Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Okay, maybe you don't want Leia to be the protagonist since she's not starting from the beginning like Luke and Rey, but she should at least be a Jedi. She could have been Rey's mentor.

Rogue One

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Sexist tropes


Don't have POV characters lie to the audience

Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

I honestly don't feel like writing a whole thing on this one. MauLer's critique covers it so well. The video's 2 hours, and he says a few things I disagree with, but at least 95% of his criticism is valid.

MauLer's critique


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