Star Wars is a generational thing and older people think my cohort are mentally subnormal for enjoying it, but it’s been such a part of my childhood that I’m prepared to just set aside that voice in my head telling me it’s nonsense. So I was sad when I came out of the cinema earlier this week, having watched the best Star Wars film in at least 36 years, to hear that Carrie Fisher had died. Rogue One is an interesting example of my theory of Ottomanism.
In the most recent Star Wars films the human rebels have been overtly multiracial while the baddies are almost to a man of northern European appearance (including lots of Brits – I’m pretty sure the original started the craze for English baddies in Hollywood. Before 1977 they tended to be Russian or German). Rogue One leads to Episode IV (I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler) and one of the things the film does brilliantly is recreate the feel of the original – including some of the cast, despite one actor in question having been dead for several years. All is done perfectly except the demography of the original film – spoiler – until as Rogue One segues into the start of A New Hope the rebels are suddenly all blue eyed, blond haired Midwestern farm boys. American film makers can authentically recreate the haircuts of 1977 but not the people.
Other great examples of Ottomanism include Hamilton and the Harry Potter series; Ottomanism is not unhappy with other non-progressive ideas, such as hierarchy or inequality. Women must be empowered but then individual women were often very powerful in the least liberal of societies, such as the Ottoman Empire. What defines Ottomanism is what it is against – ethnic nationalism.
I can see the Star Wars series increasingly becoming an analogy for the decline of the United States, and its unbridgeable divide between globalists and nationalists; there’s obviously going to be some sort of Trump-like villain in Episode VIII. Star Wars is pretty simplistic, but it’s dangerous to present events in such black and white terms; if the American republic as we know it falls, as doesn’t seem that impossible after this year, most likely both sides will see themselves as trying to save it. Having said that, Rogue One for the first time presents some of the rebels as being extremists whose accent and dress is clearly middle eastern appearance; the imperial patrol in Jedda is clearly modelled on Americans in Iraq. And so not for the first time I found myself wondering if the Empire is actually for the best.
Anyway, this is usually the point when my dinner guests start slipping out of the door. And, blather aside, Rogue One is fantastic – so go and see it.