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1997-1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002+

Star Wars Returns to the Empire

This editorial is something of a departure from most of our editorials, but is something I felt had to be said. My opinions may be controversial and are not necessarily those of my teammates here at TheForce.net. The facts I present are documented so that others may confirm what I write. I'd also like to thank Jonathan Holden for providing much of the information for this editorial.

Much of Star Wars' popularity is due to the fact that, despite its backdrop of sci-fi and fantasy, it is very much a mirror of our own world -- heroes and villains, empires and rebellions, good and evil.

Our own world is not without its Empires. In 1949, a great charismatic leader led his armies on a crusade of conquest and upheaval. Spurred onward by false promises of peace, prosperity, and equality, his men plundered, raped, tortured, and starved those who opposed -- it is now believed that as many as eighty million people were killed in the process (Washington Post, July 17).

This emperor was not Palpatine of the Galactic Republic, but Mao Tse-Tung, leader of the Chinese Communist revolution. Today, his legacy lives on in a country that attempts to control the very minds ands beliefs of its people. Those who disagree with the State are routinely imprisoned -- no other excuse is needed other than that they are a "threat". The situation is not getting better, it is getting worse, according to the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report. I draw not only upon the word of others, but also personal experience -- I have visited China, and made friends whom I am now told have been imprisoned for "subversive" beliefs. I am also told that torture is the rule, not the exception, in many Chinese prisons. Mr. Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, is never allowed to visit Tibet because his wife Melissa Matheson wrote Kundun, a movie which accurately portrayed Chinese atrocities in that country.

Which brings us to Star Wars, for Episode I just opened in the People's Republic. With the recent poor relations between China and the U.S., and China's restriction of American movies into the country, how did 20th Century Fox pull it off? It turns out that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp. (which owns 20th Century Fox) has done many favours for the Chinese. For example, in 1994, Murdoch removed the BBC from his satellite broadcasts into China at the request of Chinese officials, who did not like a BBC-aired program about Mao Tse-tung. Murdoch also canceled a book by former Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten that was critical of the Chinese leadership, which was to have been published by his HarperCollins unit (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 10, 1999). Murdoch has also been recently making disparaging personal statements about the Dalai Lama, ruler-in-exile of Tibet, in an attempt to strengthen his friendship with the Chinese government. (The Daily Telegraph, London, Sept. 7, 1999) The list goes on....

Now that we know a bit more about the "man in charge", it's not so surprising that 20th Century Fox got the extremely lucrative go-ahead to market Episode I in China. This editorial is not in any way to smear the good name of all the wonderful people at 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm Ltd., who have worked hard and long on the movie undoubtedly have had no part at all in this little charade. And I think it's fantastic that the good citizens of China will get a chance to share this great movie along with the rest of us. However, I do think it's important that we understand that the cost of showing a movie about freedom and truth was to turn a blind eye to real oppression and brutality.

And maybe I have Murdoch pegged wrong. Maybe he's only a guy trying to make a buck. Well, so were the Neimoidians.

For general comments on this editorial, please email theForce.net. For specific comments or criticism, please email me personally.

Paul Davidson
Nov. 11th, 1999

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