Movies, United States, World

How World War II Gave Us Star Wars

Not too long ago in a world not too far away, two very significant events changed the world’s history forever. In a period of war, these irreplaceable events were born. First, the birth of a world conflict unlike any other, World War II. And from that birthed a cinematic masterpiece to later form the basis of most science fiction media and later a whole series: Star Wars. Over time, humans will dissect both to reveal the allegorical bits and pieces between the two that will shape the ideas of political influence forever. Not only has Star Wars become a monumental aspect of American culture, but it also uses the all powerful historical basis of World War II to create a significant, capturing story. World War II’s affect lives on through media even to this day because of Star Wars. …

(Lucas Arts & Britannia)

Starting in 1939, World War II made its appearance, even after “the War to end all Wars”. A combination of worldwide tensions, new advanced weaponry, a worldwide Great Depression, and the primary invasion of Poland by Germany, the second World War ironically became the most bloody, destructive war of all time (“World War II”). Hitler’s rise and tyrannical approach created serious power struggles, oppression, and fear throughout the world. Countries made teams, or allies, to better aid their cavalry and outcome. Two alliances were made: the Allies which consisted of Great Britain, The United States, China, France, and the Soviet Union, and the Axis Powers which were Germany, Japan and Italy. By the end, over 60 million casualties were totaled. It ended with Hitler’s suicide along with Germany and Japan’s surrender.

In George Lucas’s movie series, Star wars, one of the main characters is a man named Darth Vader. He is the “leader” of the Galactic empire and the fictional soldiers called Stormtroopers. Being led by an internal force called the “dark side”, these characters have a direct relation to history itself as it connects to one of the opponent forces of World War II, the Nazis. Darth Vader, along with other Sith lords, is a representation of Adolf Hitler, one of the largest, more powerful and feared leaders in the war, and his stormtrooper soldiers connect to the German Nazi’s. In Star Wars, an ongoing struggle between good and bad, force vs. dark side, dominates the saga. The intergalactic battle, Jedi vs Sith, is a direct comparison between the Axis Powers fighting against the Allies. The plot itself is much more dense but only an overview is necessary to understand the connections between WWII and Star Wars.  The basic plot covers a story of good versus evil, where a group of rebels try and fight the tyrannical and absolute power of an evil Galactic Empire and its rulers. In the way that Hitler wanted to rule and make a world of his own, Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Vader seek to control the galaxy and all those in it.

George Lucas, the creator of the saga said himself, “I love history, so while the psychological basis of ‘Star Wars’ is mythological, the political and social bases are historical,” (Klein). This statement proves that maybe it wasn’t completely based off history, but it speaks volumes in allusions and parallels to real political problems of the past.

(Lucas Arts)

The basic parallel of power struggles between the two prove an obvious significance. The German fascism and other eastern hemisphere power struggles called for the US to go into combat, us being the rebels on the Star Wars spectrum. Princess Leia’s leadership in the Rebel Alliance parallels to the work of women in the French Resistance . In World War II, Allied powers were gathered to defeat the Axis, and in France a women’s movement was seeing light. Women wanted more than to stay at home, so some bravely served in the battle. As the Allied powers took the win, both the USA and Soviet Union emerged as global superpowers. This is similar to the Rebel’s defeat of the Imperial Death Star, Darth Vader’s prized space station with a high powered weapon large enough to disintegrate planets, at the end of the first movie. 

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Other obvious commonalities include sharing a similar name: the Galactic Empire having stormtrooper forces while the Nazi Party had Nazis. Likewise, both Imperial uniforms and Darth Vader’s helmet almost exactly mirror those of the German Army members in the war. Characters like Chancellor Palpatine had a similar rise to Adolf Hitler: going from chancellor to emperor/dictator. The film even used actual footage with editing in the movie, “War films and World War II dogfight footage served as some unlikely inspiration for exciting space battles unlike anything audiences had ever seen before!”(“From World War”).

Along with World War II, historical allusions to the Cold War are pertinent when the threat of nuclear weapons was displayed in the original movie, when the Death Star, a weapon with enough power to eliminate whole planets like that of a nuclear weapon, destroys Princess Leia’s planet. Further connections show in the fact that her planet, Alderaan, very closely resembled Earth (Reagin).  This made serious connections to nuclear tension between the US and Soviet Union, proving the Star Wars saga had more intentions than just entertainment.

Star Wars turned into a form of propaganda, speaking out against political decisions that felt wrong to him. Several political topics arise throughout the movies but Lucas later admitted that much of it was really speaking out against the Vietnam War and Nixon’s presidency. Of course, they gave rise to greater

(Lucas Arts)

thought and follow historical patterns. The main point however, is that Star Wars gave George Lucas a voice, and a powerful one at that. As the movie series gained popularity, his views were spread widely. Media, and the film industry especially, carries both great responsibility and power. He said himself, “No matter who you look at in history, the story is always the same” (Caro). Whether its Allies vs. Axis or Imperial vs. Rebels, there is much to take from it. They speak volumes, in both textbooks and home DVD players.

Overall, the parallels between George Lucas’s Star Wars and World War II are undeniable. With the constant race between good and bad, the tensions of warfare, similar characters and features, and many other connections between the two provide strong evidence. Nonetheless, the political content in the series is abounding. The movie is a platform in which Lucas can speak his mind to others and put out a certain idea. The series gives him power and purpose. Next time watching Star Wars, or even any mass media production, be sure to look into the deeper meaning or context as to see the intended grasp on the movie. While Star Wars has an amazing plot and characters, the historical allusions are there for a reason.

Article by Kelly Owens

Video by Taylor Pollard

Works Cited:

Caro, Mark. “`Star Wars’ Inadvertently Hits Too Close to U.S.’s Role.” Tribunedigital-Chicagotribune, 18 May 2005, articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-05-18/features/0505180309_1_star-wars-sith-palpatine.

“From World War to Star Wars: Dogfights!” StarWars.com, 18 June 2015, www.starwars.com/news/from-world-war-to-star-wars-dogfights.

Klein, Christopher. “The Real History That Inspired ‘Star Wars.’” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 17 Dec. 2015, www.history.com/news/the-real-history-that-inspired-star-wars.

Reagin, Nancy, and Janice Liedl. “Star Wars and History.” Wookieepedia, 13 Nov. 2012, starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars_and_History.

“World War II.” HistoryNet, www.historynet.com/world-war-ii.

 

One Comment

  1. I agree with the points brought up in this article. One outside piece of evidence that could further support the parallel between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Palpatine is that in Star Wars, Palpatine seeked emergency powers in order to control the Separatist threat, while in history, Hitler seized his opportunity for emergency powers after the Reichstag fire of 1933. The parallel suggests that Lucas is hinting that we need to be careful of our own modern society today and make sure rulers don’t come to power the same way Hitler and Palpatine did.