Star Wars IS ABOUT OWNING STUFF

The stories of the Star Wars universe are rarely about who you are and almost always about what stuff you own.

Sure, that’s a simplification. Star Wars is a universe defined by a lot of different threads, most of which aren’t anything I particularly respect or admire. It’s about bloodlines and mysticism and special powers where the good guy never gets to use cool powers and where a monastic order of stupid assholes are meant to be a tragic loss. It’s about a battered vision of the past where somehow there’s a set of collapsed empires and ancient civilisations and everyone’s building in the wreckage and even that’s meant to be its own fallen empire of our own long lost past.

It’s still a universe where stuff is really important. Sure, Luke has the force but the force lets him use a sword and lets him pilot a spaceship. When it comes down to it, the whole of the story isn’t really about stuff as much as it is about moments indicated by characters getting stuff.

This is because the stuff is used as a signifier. Whether it’s Darth Vader’s helmet or Darth Vader’s slave drones or Darth Vader’s light saber — hm, weird coincidence there — characters’ story arcs are instigated in part because they own something. Han Solo owns a cool ship, which is why we learn about him. Luke Skywalker’s path of the Jedi is instigated in part by buying some people, and then, the transition from ‘normal person’ to ‘jedi’ is begun when he is given his dad’s light saber.

An added factor here is that Star Wars is a setting where you get to own people, and you can also wipe their memories when they become untidy, to make sure it really reinforces the vision of those people as stuff. Why you’d be able to do that on clearly thinking, feeling things is a weird decision, but I don’t know, I’m not a member of that society a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

The fantasy isn’t an inherent ill; Luke Skywalker is born to be a once-in-a-lifetime juggernaut of a Jedi, descended from a Jesus figure created by a Satan figure out of a mother who was too pure for this sinful earth. There’s plenty of the genetic to his story, you can very much point to the way that this entire story is built around two sets of cousins. If Palpatine is responsible for the birth of Anakin Skywalker, then the entire world of this place is about the one nearly-dead dude jerking himself off in this whole space.

That is weird, right? If Palpatine made Anakin, then he’s Kylo Ren’s great-grandfather and Rey is his daughter. Maybe that’s a better weird franchise notation, the oddly recurrent pattern of characters who are related making out? Except even then that’s just returning back to the way that when people are property, suddenly there’s this undercurrent of plots about how your parents have some ownership over you and you’re expected to love them or care for them even if they’re literally totally absent and then try to kill you multiple times.

I’m told the whole point that the light saber requires a Jedi is because if you don’t have force training, you’ll cut your own limbs off with the light sword, you know, the way that people using much heavier real swords touch their swords all the time. And of course there’s also the way that pushing that laser through a metal door is shown as being a piece of effort, putting weight behind it and that… I mean that again, is looking at the stuff in the universe. Light sabers are laser swords that work entirely like, you know, metal swords.

It isn’t an absolute at all, and we know that Star Wars has pretty much always been toyetic — the particular character of a franchise that wants to present things to an audience they can see as purchasable toys. Which I get, and a lot of these purchaseable toys are extremely cool looking purchaseable toys, and perhaps, some playsets.

It is not that Star Wars is a fantasy constructed around owning many things, but that it represented as a fantasy where owning something is the instigatory explanation for a character’s power. For all of its vision of (a 70s’ white guy’s vision of) eastern mysticism, it is a mysticism filtered through (that same 70s white guy’s biases of) American capitalism. It is not a place where a Samurai defeats their enemies even with a practice sword, or demonstrates that there is a depth to his capacity beyond the sword — Star Wars is a place where the sword, itself, is too important.

It can’t be a wooden sword, it can’t be a force of will. It’s got to be something you can signify with something you can buy, which means, inevitably, Star Wars is about stuff. It’s about stuff, and thanks to decades of marketing, everything that gets made in the Star Wars universe is going to be about selling you things, about making new things, new objects, new brand integrations and new perspectives on just making more, more, more, stuff.

It is a universe where power, like wealth, is inherited. A place where you are destined, not doing. A place where nothing matters until you have a reason to pick up the right piece of Stuff.

Happy Star Wars day.

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