The Edge of Tomorrow 2 - 1992
Slavery in Star Wars - Nick Farrow
(page 2/13)

Slavery in Star Wars

Countless thousands of people have watched and loved George Lucas's Star Wars movies. Even today the mention of lightsabers or Jedi knights will send otherwise sane adults into extended reveries as they remember their favourite scenes and characters. However in this innocuous fantasy and heroism and justice is embedded a glaring inconsistency that calls into question all that we presume about the heroic Rebellion. Let's look at the part droids play in the life of that galaxy far, far away.

Everyone has fond memories of the robots who play such a major part in all three of the movies. The feisty R2D2 and the querulous C3PO are always in the thick of the fighting. Indeed they are injured more often than their human compatriots. Many times they are the only thing between death and their companions. Imagine the course of the Rebellion if R2D2 had not repaired Luke Skywalker's X-wing fighter in flight before he made one last attempt at the Death Star. Later on C3PO and R2D2 save the assault team on Endor when they deliberately lead Imperial troops into a trap.

The droids are not only useful as repair or translation machines. In other situations they display an intelligence beyond that of a simple calculating device. C3PO frequently displays a wide range of emotions including pride(1), irritation(2) and frequently fear. Our assessment of R2D2's feelings is hampered by the language barrier but what data we can glean points to a range of emotions at least the equal of C3PO's(3). It would not be improbable that both droids would pass a Turing test with flying colours(4).

We can, therefore, treat C3PO and R2D2 as sentient beings and by extension the other droids we see in passing(5). But what is the place in society of these obviously intelligent, feeling beings? They are property; to be bought and sold as we would a car. Luke's uncle, Owen, views the jawa's' selection of droids for sale with no more feeling than an ante-bellum overseer inspecting a new consignment from Africa.

Owen Skywalker's attitude is not out of the ordinary. Recalcitrant droids are made to wear "restraining bolts", hi tech slave collars, to aid punishment and prevent escape. They are forbidden to use the escape pods as a means of avoiding death(6). In an eerie reminder of apartheid, C3PO and R2D2 are refused entry to the cantina at Mos Eisley. Even in the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" droids are discriminated against.

Star Wars and its sequels appear to be simple parables of freedom vs. tyranny. Upon closer examination they take on a darker tone. The callous fashion in which droids are treated destroys all the credibility of the Rebel Alliance. Luke Skywalker and his friends are in truth self-deceiving hypocrites fighting under a banner of liberty while oppression lives in their own ranks.

  1. His frequent assertion that "I am fluent in over six million forms of communication" can only be seen as boasting or a near equivalent.
  2. C3PO: "Go that way then! I'm going this way it's much easier"
  3. See many of the exchanges between C3PO and R2D2.
  4. En routc to the Dagoba system Luke and R2D2 converse via a screen. Surely a small scale test?
  5. In support of this slightly contentious statement nowhere does anyone treat the duo as anything but standard off-the-shelf units.
  6. C3PO: "You can't go in there...You'll be disintegrated for sure."

Nick Farrow