This post represents a section of my chapter for Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling that was cut for the sake of space. It looks at some of the ways Star Wars has explicitly engaged with political discourse over the years.
Star Wars has always been a deeply political franchise. Not just in its themes, which include war, totalitarianism, multiculturalism, and civil disobedience, but also through its use in political debates and activism. George Lucas has consistently claimed that the first Star Wars film was an analogy for the Vietnam war, and that the villainous Emperor Palpatine had a specific real-life counterpart: “Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy.” The franchise is also steeped in historical references which, while not directly political, certainly contribute to its politicisation by various groups. The Stormtroopers and other, visual parallels between the Empire and Nazi Germany are just one example.
The franchise has also frequently been read as making a specific political statement, as in Ep III, where Anakin Skywalker tells Obi-Wan “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.” This caused many US conservatives to protest that the film caricatured former President George Bush’s post-9/11 assertion that “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Ronald Reagan’s 1983 anti-missile defense initiative was dubbed “Star Wars”: a move that irked Reagan, but was shrewdly deemed good publicity by assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, who reasoned: “It’s a good movie. Besides, the good guys won.”
In a 2012 article, Jonathan Gray wrote about how fans used a scene from Ep V, in which a Rebel snowspeeder takes down an Imperial Walker with a grappling hook, as a metaphor to protest Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill in 2011. One man played the scene on a loop using his iPad, chanting “The Rebels brought down Walkers. So can we!” Others carried Star Wars slogans on signs, or dressed up as the vehicles from the films. The Star Wars references served as an important point of “morale and community building” among the protestors. In another article, Andreas Jungherr describes how Darth Vader was used by the SPD (a German political party) to discredit Angela Merkel in the 2009 German federal election.
Stay tuned for the full article, on Star Wars and popular feminism, later this year!
 Christopher Klein, ‘The Real History That Inspired “Star Wars”’, History.com, 2015, para. 4 <http://www.history.com/news/the-real-history-that-inspired-star-wars> [accessed 24 February 2017].
 Derek R. Sweet, Star Wars in the Public Square: The Clone Wars as Political Dialogue (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015), p. 10.
 Frances FitzGerald, Way Out There In the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (Simon and Schuster, 2001), p. 39.
 Jonathan Gray, ‘Of Snowspeeders and Imperial Walkers: Fannish Play at the Wisconsin Protests’, Transformative Works and Cultures, 10 (2012), para. 1.2.
 Gray, para. 3.2.
 Andreas Jungherr, ‘The German Federal Election of 2009: The Challenge of Participatory Cultures in Political Campaigns’, Transformative Works and Cultures, 10.0 (2011), para. 5.6 <http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/310> [accessed 10 February 2017].