If you find the nightly news a bit too depressing these days, why not pop down to the cinema and watch the new Star Wars film, Rogue One?
The latest instalment of the blockbuster series sees a well-funded rebel army, fuelled by religious dogma and a willingness for self-sacrifice, take on an authoritarian regime that is slowly losing its grip on a vast and multi-ethnic territory.
Where do these script writers get their ideas?
Thankfully we can go to the cinema and lose ourselves in this escapism safe in the knowledge that nothing as far-fetched could ever happen in real life.
If it did happen – let’s just throw caution to the wind here – Star Wars would clearly precondition us to support the rebels.
For a start, we are assured that they are fighting a cruel and tyrannical regime. The precise details are never elaborated on, and there isn’t a whole lot in the way of evidence aside from some over-zealous policing and a bit of loose talk about wanting to engage in a genocide.
Still, we believe the rebel’s narrative, mostly because their two leaders look like they have just stepped off a Benetton ad. Here, the rebel alliance displays a masterly understanding of the value of propaganda. Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor are a modern day Fidel and Ché. Cassian even has that Latin American brogue that is so hard to resist, even when it’s scolding you for stepping outside its rigid centrally planned economic model.
Jyn and Cassian are heroes we can believe in, primarily because they’d look really good hanging from the walls of student bedsits. The film makes clear that among their tactics are suicide bombing, kidnapping and a ruthless shoot-to-kill policy directed against all regime collaborators, but they’re the compromises you make for the sake of inter-galactic geo-politics.
The regime, on the other hand, is led by a tight band of elderly men who look a bit like the Rolling Stones after a particularly heavy night on the sauce. They aren’t going to capture the Millennials wearing those robes.
The rebels have won the propaganda battle long before a shot is fired. But many questions go unasked.
For example, the rebels have no shortage of fighter jets but who exactly is funding them? Saudi, probably.
There are also many aspects of the story that aren’t shown at all. Scenes filmed in the markets in Jedha show the extent of the civilian population, yet when the markets are destroyed by warring factions the film completely ignores the bureaucratic challenges of resettling them elsewhere.
Many people on Planet Jedha have legitimate concerns about the need to look after their own homeless first, but this is completely ignored by the film. That’s the corporate media for you.
Also missing was a thorough analysis of the internal conflict within Jedha’s left-wing community as they struggle to define a policy position due to a lack of clarity about what America’s role in the slaughter is.
The film also makes little attempt to understand the challenges and constraints facing the regime. Sure, not everything they have done has been perfect but since when was government easy?
An alternative telling of the story would see Darth Vadar and the Emperor struggle to maintain a broad alliance of disparate ethnic and religious groups, all the while being undermined by fundamentalists who attempts to fly planes directly into their headquarters.
As it happens, that’s what’s being shown in cinemas in Moscow this Christmas.
It could be, of course, that Star Wars is based on real events. In fact, there is a distinct possibility that the George Lucas creation has been foretelling Middle Eastern politics for the best part of 40 years.
The Empire Strikes Back was a clear reference to the upcoming Iran-Iraq war, which began four months after the film’s release.
Likewise, Return of the Jedi clearly foretold the release of captured US pilot Bobby Goodman, who was released back to America from captivity in Lebanon within months of the film hitting cinema screens.
It has long been considered that 1979 – the year of the Iran revolution and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan – was the pivotal year in modern Middle Eastern politics, but could it be that 1977, with the release of the first Lucas instalment, was the actual turning point?
The next Star Wars film is due for release in 2018. It is due to focus on Han Solo and, according to its website, will document how a “thieve, smuggler and scoundrel” can rise to prominence.
Thankfully nothing as far-fetched could ever happen in real life.