Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why I sort of admire the Galactic Empire

The Galactic Empire: Say what you will about them, they polish a mean floor.

Idi Amin: Hamming it up for the cameras.
You gotta go some to beat the Galactic Empire. These folks, they don't give a shit about you or what you think. Since the dawn of mass media, most power-mad dictators have made at least some effort to put up a good show for the benefit of those under their control.

For an example, just check out Barbet Schroeder's 1974 documentary General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait, in which the infamous Ugandan butcher does what he can to portray himself as a fun-loving man of the people, including playing the accordion and dancing joyously at a state dinner.

But the Empire doesn't go in for stuff like that. No, sir! There's no attempt on their part to "play nice" or win the "hearts and minds" of their (presumably) billions of subjects. None. They're just straight up evil, and they make no attempt to hide it. Their top-ranking guys all look like they were imported directly from children's nightmares, and their official outfits are intimidating at every level. I mean, just study that picture up there: rows of samey-looking, humorless white dudes in gray and black uniforms with knee-high leather jackboots polished to a high shine.

The only really colorful ones I can remember in the organization are the Emperor's Royal Guards, and they wear blood-red robes with masks that cancel out their features, rendering them eerily interchangeable. So not exactly the kind of look that says, "Hug me. I'm a big fuzzy wuzzy teddy bear."

You can tell that the Emperor isn't consulting with any publicity agents or marketing wizards either. The Empire's theme song, while undeniably awesome, is famously unfriendly-sounding, for instance. Not the kind of thing to get people's toes a-tappin' on a feel-good patriotic holiday. It's in a minor key, for Christ's sake! This is unvarnished oppression in 4/4 time. (On the other hand, kudos on getting John Williams for the gig. That couldn't have been cheap.)

And then, of course, there is the subject of the Empire's headquarters -- that gigantic globe that looks like a slightly-dented basketball made of concrete. This place, which one snooty-sounding officer calls "the ultimate power in the universe," is a hugely-expensive boondoggle and serves as a metaphorical middle finger to the rabble who live under the aegis of the Empire.

I'm sure this ridiculous thing was paid for with the sweat of the commoners, and I'm equally sure that the Empire's tax collection methods make the Sheriff of Nottingham look like Leo Buscaglia. And the darned thing got blown up twice, meaning that the people had to cough up enough dough to build two of 'em! So what did they call this gazillion-dollar money pit when they were finished? The Liberty Sphere, perhaps? How about the People's Freedom Orb? Happy Fun Ball? Nope. They called it the Death Star. Once again, there's not even the slightest attempt to placate anyone with a name like that. It's about as unambiguous as a name can be. They might as well have called it the Fuck You Star.

So what's admirable about this? Well, I'm impressed by the honesty of it. They're bad, but they're forthright about being bad. In these duplicitous times of ours, I think that deserves some commendation.