I just watched the Prequel Trilogy for the first time in several years, in an effort to get myself ready for seeing The Force Awakens tomorrow. My first takeaway was that Episodes II and III aren’t nearly as bad as I remember them. So that’s neat. The next big ticket item that stuck in my head was just how ridiculous the political process works in the Prequels. I’m not alone in this, because, there have been several articles written by qualified individuals on the topic. And, objectively, none of it makes any sense at all. I’m not aiming to do an in-depth analysis with references to political theory, I’d just like to point out a few things that made me chuckle.
In The Phantom Menace, a foreign queen is sent to the Galactic Senate to resolve a dispute that has no overall bearing or meaning to Galactic politics. Or, if it does, the audience is never let in on the details. She’s then manipulated into bringing down the Chancellor, which a non-member of the Galactic Senate can apparently do just by announcing a vote of no confidence.
She announces a vote of no confidence, and the freshman senators are all like, “Alright, I guess we’ll vote on it.”
“There’s no vote, dude. That’s all it takes. He’s done.”
“Wait, just one asshole with a vote of no confidence can take down the Chancellor?”
“Dude, it’s in the Space Constitution. Maybe you should read it. I guess you hate Space
Imagine a world where every Senator -- or, I guess, just anyone who wanted to crash a session of the Senate -- could legally remove the President from office. Seems like that wouldn’t work out so well. But what do I know? I’m not a political scientist.
Next on my list of clown car politics is this whole emergency powers business. This is the moment where Jar Jar is utterly and completely dead to me. Because essentially, granting emergency powers to the newly-elected (whoa, they voted on something!?) Chancellor Palpatine led to the creation of the Empire. Regardless, it kinda seems like no one in the Senate should need emergency powers. From where I’m standing, it appears that each and every member of the Senate has unlimited powers already. They can just declare something and it happens. Jar Jar could have said, “We shall now renovate the planet Coruscant and turn it into a bowl of space jelly.” And I guess they’d just do that. More importantly, Jar Jar is also not a member of the Senate. He was standing in for Amidala, who does eventually become a member. How do random people have so much power in government? “What’s the weird rabbit thing saying? Just make him sit down, I’m late for my spa appointment. It’s a Space Constitution eye mask. Yeah, it’s sooooo relaxing. Really takes down those wrinkles and reinforces all those unlimited powers we have.”
Last but not least – and perhaps my biggest pet peeve with the entire series – is that no one has ever explained why it is that Leia is a princess. If you’re thinking, “Well, she’s a princess because her mother was a queen.” Sure, Amidala was a queen. But an elected queen with term limits. Do all the Queens of Naboo get to call all of their children princes and princesses into perpetuity? Wouldn’t there be a lot of hereditary titles with essentially no meaning in that case? Probably enough to make potential employees scoff. “It says here that you’re a princess of Naboo. Well isn’t that nice. I’ll just stick your details on my super secure pile of resume’s from Naboo princesses here in the garbage.” Not to mention, the whole point of giving Leia to Senator Organa was to hide her from her father. Nothing says “I’m your daughter,” quite like, Princess from Naboo.
The best that I could come up with is that Senator Organa’s wife is, in fact, a Queen of Alderaan in the Expanded Universe. That’s something I didn’t know until recently. But, they’ve also just axed the EU. If anyone knows whether or not that tidbit’s been made canon, feel free to let me know. Because I could live with that. Regardless, I’ve always thought that forcing stereotypical savings-of-princesses into wildly different science fiction world-building was a little odd. Certainly, Leia is a badass princess. But why must she be one at all? It’s nice to see that she’s now General Leia in The Force Awakens.
You may not think that gender equality is important in space. That’s just because we don’t live there yet. You just wait until you’re paying female space engineers 30% less than the male ones when they’re working on the structural integrity of your in-flight men’s rooms. The first time you get sucked out into space, junk-first, you’ll probably change your tune.