Part 4: What the Prequels are All About
Since 1999, people have made fun of Episode I for having taxation as a major plot point. The actual story conflict in Episode I, though, is that a planet is being invaded and the Senate won’t do much about it. The dispute over taxation is merely the pretext for the invasion.
Because the exposition in Episode I is rather clumsy, however, viewers latched onto taxation because it is explicitly mentioned in the opening crawl, and is therefore more clear than anything conveyed in the dialogue. Alas, it’s not even clearly explained who is in favor of taxes and who is against them. (While one might reasonably assume that the Trade Federation are against them, this not clearly stated.)
But again, this is an issue of concept versus execution. Lucas might have dropped the ball somewhat during the opening act of Episode I (damaging his hard-won reputation as a master storyteller). But the very idea of a space opera conflict being fueled by political or economic issues is not inherently stupid. Such issues are central to Frank Herbert’s Dune and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, both widely considered classics of the genre as well as likely influences on the Star Wars saga.
Also, a major point of Episode I is that a seemingly trivial conflict plants the seeds for later discord on a wider scale. For one thing, removing Chancellor Valorum from office – on the grounds that he is too weak a leader – is what allows Palpatine to gain greater control. Again, imperfect democracy is too willingly given up for something that is ruthless, but effective.
And if you still think taxation is a trivial and silly reason for a war to break out, promise me that you will never open a history book. Otherwise, you will be very bummed when you found out how America got started.
As for the midichlorians, I can only say that I find it odd for science fiction fans to object to having a scientific explanation for something in a science fiction universe. Most fans I know are quick to make fun of creationists for trying to keep science out of high school textbooks, so I’m not sure why these fans resort to the language of their enemy when the topic of midichlorians comes up.
This may be just me, but personally I find it an interesting piece of world-building that the Jedi have arguably built a religion around a natural process. The Sun may be just a big ball of hydrogen, but that’s never stopped some cultures in our world from worshiping it as a god.
Honestly, though, I don’t think that Episode I is saying that midichlorians cause the Force. It is saying that midichlorians help people communicate with the Force. Qui-Gon refers to midichlorians and people as living together for mutual advantage. Thematically, this seems to tie in with Obi-wan trying to convince the Gungans that they are part of a “symbiont circle” with the human population of Naboo, and that what happens to one affects the other.
Which I guess brings us to the Gungan everyone loves to hate, Jar Jar Binks. People find him annoying, and fair enough. People also find him a racist caricature, however, and that’s a viewpoint I have to challenge.
I dislike the way that the left now uses the word “racist” the same way that the right uses the word “socialist” – as a lazy way to discredit something without having to construct an actual argument explaining why it’s wrong.
Racism is the belief that some races are better than others; alternatively, the word refers to unjust actions against people because of their race. That is what the word means, and neither concept is endorsed by Episode I in its depiction of Jar Jar Binks or his fictitious species. Racism is specifically refuted in Episode I: A major plot point in the film is that the queen of Naboo has to acknowledge equality with the Gungans.
We’ll explore the deeper recesses of Jar Jar Binks in the next installment