To welcome Donald Trump and Mike Pence into the White House, I found it fitting to create a poster that would symbolize the dynamics of the Trump Administration and its opposition.
I was initially inspired by the heated conversation surrounding the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, prompted by a tweet from the film's scriptwriter, Chris Weitz: "Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization...Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women." Many of the Alt-Right felt threatened by alleged anti-Trump undertones, and chose to boycott the film as well as circulate the hashtag “#dumpstarwars.”
I found it amusing that the Alt-Right have only just realized that their ideals have been condemned in fictitious history as well as our own history classes.
The similarities of the Empire and Trump's Administration are not due to an altered plot for the sake of taking a political stance. The pre-existing motives and characteristics of the Empire have not changed.
In the Star Wars saga, the galaxy was originally governed by The Galactic Republic, made up of a Senate of representatives from each planet. One Senator, Palpatine, rose to power and replaced the Galactic Republic with the Galactic Empire, in which he named himself Emperor and ruled as an authoritarian. He was manipulative, fear-mongering, and in a galaxy of incredible diversity, promoted “Human High Culture”—the belief that humans were superior to all other species. In Episodes I - III, the Jedi and members of the Old Republic fight to hold onto their democracy, but eventually fail. In the original trilogy, Episodes IV - VI, an organized resistance, the Rebel Alliance, arises to overthrow the Empire and restore democracy.
The theme of Star Wars has always been much deeper than light vs. dark—it tells of the lifespan of a hateful, militant, fascist regime. While creating Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas once inquired, “How do you turn over democracy to a tyrant with applause? Not with a coup, but with applause? ... That is the story of Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler.”
To ensure that the Imperial Army imitated historical fascist governments, John Mollo, costume designer, used characteristics of authoritarian militaries from several time periods and cultures such as ancient Japanese armor, Nazi uniforms, and early Prussian uniforms. Referring to his task of capturing these elements in costumes, Mollo said, " [George Lucas] wanted the Imperial people to look efficient, totalitarian, fascist..." he also looked to contrasting references to align The Resistance with those who have been admired throughout history. "...to look like something out of a Western or the US Marines."
Lucas' historical references are detectable, but often overlooked. As I was designing this poster, I wasn't sure at first if I wanted to include the arm band with the Imperial Crest, I wondered if the uniforms would be symbolic enough. But then I thought back to how the Alt-Right reacted to Chris Weitz’s tweet, and how so many people have been willfully ignorant to the warnings that historians and scholars have been expressing since the election.
We’ve grown numb to the most important themes of these films. It’s easy to dismiss subtle historical references in a work of fiction, especially in a time when credibility has been removed from facts and science. The purpose of the arm band is to amplify those historical references—to bring them to a more literal light—and open up a conversation about what this presidency is rapidly developing into.
Within his first week in the White House, Donald Trump has moved to deny federal funding to “sanctuary” cities. He has signed an order directing the Department of Homeland Security to build the wall. He is referring to human beings as “removable aliens.” He has instituted a media black out at the Environmental Protection Agency. He has removed crucial informative resources on the White House website, including content about climate change, sustainable energy, health care, and civil rights. Knowledge is power. Denial of knowledge is oppression.
Throughout history, as well as internationally celebrated film, we’ve observed that this is how it begins. But we have also observed how we can remedy corruption and governmental collapse—with heartfelt resistance to hatred and oppression, and an organized, altruistic alliance. We need to look out for one another and remember, in the words of Jyn Erso, “Rebellions are built on hope.”
When you purchase a “Resist the Empire” poster, $10 is donated to either Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, or The National Immigration Law Center! May the force be with you!
Blitzer, Jonathan. "A Scholar of Fascism Sees a Lot That’s Familiar with Trump." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2017. <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/a-scholar-of-fascism-sees-a-lot-thats-familiar-with-trump>.
"Donald Trump." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 26 Jan. 2017. Web. 26 Jan. 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/DonaldTrump>.
Http://www.starwars.com/news/contributor/cole-horton. "From World War to Star Wars: Rise of an Empire." StarWars.com. Disney, 15 July 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.
Horton, Cole. "From World War to Star Wars: Imperial Officers." StarWars.com. Disney, 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2017. <http://www.starwars.com/news/from-world-war-to-star-wars-imperial-officers>.