It’s been almost four decades since the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, but to this day, the beloved saga is still being examined, it seems not only by fans.
Now, a new book titled The World According to Star Wars has analyzed and broken down the real-life lessons to be had from the movies. Written by scholar, Harvard professor, and former Obama White House member Cass R. Sunstein, the new book released today takes a closer look at how the seven Star Wars films represents just about every societal issue in the world – from politics, to religion, to terrorism, to war.
If Sunstein’s credibility makes you doubtful, then it’s worth noting that he’s one of the country’s foremost legal scholars, with a string of other books in his resume including the New York Times bestseller Nudge.
Of course, any Star Wars fan knows that the saga isn’t just about the battle between good and evil, but Sunstein’s latest book actually analyzes in concrete detail the saga’s deeper meanings, including Star Wars’ parallelism to American politics.
Emperor Palpatine is able to rise to power only because of the ceaseless, pointless squabbling of legislative representatives in the Republic. He seizes authority as a direct result of that squabbling. (For some Americans in the twenty-first century, witnessing similar squabbling, that seizure of authority does not lack appeal.) Padme sees the problem: “I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in committee.” So does Anakin: “We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problem, agree what’s in the interest of all the people, and then do it,” Padme wonders: “What if they don’t?” Anakin: “Then they should be made to.”
In an email to MarketWatch about his new book, Sunstein said the movies’ main focus is “on the most essential feature of the human condition: freedom of choice amid a clouded future.” He adds that the sage is a perfect case study for behavioraI scientists when it comes to “showcasing overconfidence, unrealistic optimism, self-serving judgments and inertia.”
Asked about his favorite scene showcasing behavioral bias and what the best lesson is for non-Force wielders, Sunstein said:
The best behavioral bias scene is when Han Solo exclaims: “Never tell me the odds!” He suffers from, or benefits from, optimistic bias.
The best nudge? Obi-Wan to Luke: “You must do what you feel is right, of course.” That’s kind of brilliant, because Luke feels exactly what is right, and it’s to help Obi-Wan. (Runner-up: “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” But that’s a form of manipulation, and so not my preferred kind of nudge.)
The lesson for those of us without the Force: You always have freedom of choice, and you always can be redeemed. (Don’t forget that.)
Sunstein also revealed his favorite interpretation, which is that Star Wars is “(1)... a reworking of the New Testament. It is! Anakin is the Chosen One, and he restores balance to the Force, and he’s crucified, kind of, for the sake of his own son (and all children). (2) Freud. Anakin falls in love with a maternal figure — and she falls for him — and he gets to sleep with her!”
Asked about his thoughts on what should happen in Star Wars: Episode VIII, the behavioral scientist gave three options:
(a) Luke should go to the Dark Side, or at least should feel it inside of him. That would cast an interesting new light on Return of the Jedi, where he does go there, only to retreat at the crucial moment. (b) Darth Sidious should play a significant role. If you don’t know who he is, well, I feel really sorry for you. (3) Han Solo should not be dead!
I think every Star Wars fan can agree with the third one. Good thing Harrison Ford previously teased Han Solo’s appearance in the future. Whether that is as a Force ghost or not remains to be seen.
While it would seem that The World According to Star Wars is serious, the book also explores the other fun side to the saga, which consist of fan theories. This includes the Darth Jar Jar theory suggesting that the character is actually a Sith.
While we don’t need a book to tell us that we could learn a thing or two about Star Wars, The World According to Star Wars appears to be a good buy for padawans looking to learn more about the saga, as well as more experienced fans.