Since today is Star Wars Day and everyone I know is having a fantastic time writing, “May the 4th be with you” on Facebook and Twitter, I thought I’d ask a question that’s been troubling me for weeks now:
When are we going to deal with the troubling fact that Luke Skywalker is one of the most successful and best respected mass killers in history?
Not only does Skywalker kill tens of thousands — in hand-to-hand combat and by blowing up two iterations of the Death Star — but he’s celebrated as a galatic hero for doing it (to say nothing of that fact that Earth-bound movie-goers consistently name him as an exemplar of heroism decade after decade).
I understand that the Empire is an unquestionable evil and that bringing an end to Palpatine’s reign of totalitarian terror is laudable, but the body count that Skywalker racks up along the way surely must give us pause.
When that Death Star explodes and thousands of lives are lost, and then the very next scene shows Skywalker and his friends cheering and laughing, isn’t our moral compass taken for an uncomfortable spin? How can we explain these celebrations to our children?
Alas, it is The Myth of Redemptive Violence:
The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience- unto-death.
This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.…