I just rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy and realised that maybe the Empire weren’t so bad after all. Sure, they ran a tight ship and didn’t tolerate incompetence or ill-discipline. But at least they weren’t as bad as the Rebel Alliance, right? Here are 6 reasons why the Empire aren’t the bad guys.
1. The Empire is more honest
The Empire could be pretty severe, but at least they were honest about it. Say what you will about Darth Vader, but he was a pillar of integrity: always open about his intentions, his opinions and his actions. When Vader turns up to kill you, he doesn’t pretend to be there for a tea party.
By contrast, the Rebels are a pack of charlatans. When caught red-handed fleeing an Imperial fleet with the Death Star blueprints at the beginning of “A New Hope“, Leia pretends brazenly to be on a diplomatic mission. And when interrogated about the whereabouts of the Rebel base, she diverts Grand Moff Tarkin to Dantooine. Dantooine! So how can we believe Leia when she claims Aldaraan is a peaceful planet with no weapons. Tarkin was right to distrust that feisty princess.
Obi-Wan Kenobi lied to poor Luke’s face about the fate of his father, Anakin Skywalker. Luke laboured under the impression his father was killed, when all along he was alive, right-hand to the Emperor, and just waiting to be reunited with his lost son. Vader did not deceive Luke and told him the truth right away in “The Empire Strikes Back“.
And as for Lando Calrissian, he betrayed his friends to the Empire for the sake of his business. A liar, a cheat and a stabber of backs, and the Rebels went and made him a general in “Return of the Jedi“. Shows how much stock the Rebels put in honesty.
2. Stormtroopers and Imperial pilots aren’t evil
All those Stormtroopers and Imperial pilots that the Rebels gun down throughout the three films – they were just doing their jobs. Sure, their armour looked a bit creepy, but they didn’t have Hugo Boss to design snazzy uniforms for them.
These are regular folk, not evil automatons. Think about where these guys come from. In “A New Hope”, Luke longs to join the academy and become a pilot like his friend Biggs. What kind of academy do you think this is? Clearly the place where Imperial pilots come from. Luke and Biggs could have ended up flying TIE fighters instead of X-Wings, and they were OK with that.
All those bodies filling out black and white plastic uniforms were just normal people – farmboys like our man Luke Skywalker. And they’re getting wiped out by the Rebel Alliance.
Sure, you can try to pretend that they’re just robots behind those ugly helmets, but their dialogue betrays their simple humanity.
When a Stormtrooper stuns Leia in “A New Hope”, he says “She’ll be all right”, indicating genuine care for her wellbeing. And when a squad mounts an assault on the Millennium Falcon before it takes off from Mos Eisley spaceport, the squad leader says “All right, men. Load your weapons!”, which suggests they typically carry their weapons unloaded – a far cry from the dangerous trigger-happy gunslingers of Rebel propaganda and more like a well-disciplined police force.
3. The Jedi abuse their powers
In “A New Hope”, Obi-Wan uses the Force to confuse the minds of patrolling Imperial Stormtroopers so that they can escape interrogation. In “Return of the Jedi”, Luke uses the Force to convince Jabba’s Twi’lek majordomo to let him into Jabba’s palace.
Mind-control is a blatant abuse of a Jedi’s powers, and unethical in the extreme. The sanctity and integrity of a person’s mind is sacred, and ought to be protected by a Jedi’s moral code. But these Jedi think nothing of probing and manipulating a person’s mind to get their own way.
Obi-Wan even says to Luke, “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.” He admits to taking advantage of the mentally impaired.
We can only imagine what such a duplicitous Jedi might do to win in a casino, or to have their way with a reluctant girl or boy.
4. The Jedi are uncaring
In “The Empire Strikes Back”, Yoda is happy for Luke’s friends to die so long as Luke finishes his training. Luke has a vision of Han and Leia in trouble on Cloud City and wants to save them, but Yoda cautions him against it. It’s fine for Yoda to say that, sitting there in his ivory tower (or swamp?), far from the clutches of the Empire. But Luke and his friends have to actually deal with these things. Luke can’t ignore it like Yoda can, so he rushes off in defiance to confront Darth Vader and save his friends.
Why is Yoda so uncaring? Because his Jedi code teaches him to suppress emotion and to forego relationships. His adherence to this code leaves Yoda unable to connect with Luke’s plight. If Yoda is unwilling to help prevent death and destruction for the sake of his Jedi code, we can assume that same code would prevent him from accomplishing all sorts of simple ethical tasks, like helping old ladies cross the street or serving in a soup kitchen. What a bastard.
5. The Rebels are at least as destructive as the Empire
Okay, so the Empire destroyed a planet. That’s pretty bad, and I’m sure Vader (stand-up guy that he is) would admit as much. But the Rebels blew up a whole Death Star – twice!
The Death Star was about as big as a small planet. It must have been crewed by millions of troopers, pilots, administrative personnel and civilian operators. All gone in the blink of an eye when a plucky Rebel pilot hit the reactor core.
Since we’ve already established that the majority of Imperial personnel aren’t evil, we have to recognise the destruction of each Death Star as an act of genocide. Rebel scum, indeed.
6. The Rebels are surprisingly racist
For all their talk about freedom, the Rebels seem quite happy to insult and oppress non-human species.
Trapped behind Chewbacca’s lumbering form in the corridors of the Millennium Falcon, a frustrated Leia shouts “Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?” Calling a Wookie a “walking carpet” is like calling an Asian person a “walking sweet and sour”. It’s totally beyond the pale, and Han should have called Leia on her obvious bigotry.
Then, on Endor, when the Ewoks mistake C3PO’s golden chassis for a god and begin to worship him, Luke, Han and Leia are happy to continue the charade so long as it gets them out of trouble. The Rebels take advantage of the Ewoks’ parochial naivety, making fun of their backward ways. There’s no room for pluralism in the Alliance.
So it’s equality, then, but like the pigs on Animal Farm some are more equal than others.
For the Empire!
So there we have it. The Rebels are a rag-tag bunch of lying, manipulative, uncaring, genocidal, racist scumbags. I’m guessing that when Admiral Ackbar screamed “It’s a trap!”, he had – in a moment of insight – foreseen the bleak future for his non-human species should the Alliance defeat the Empire.
The Empire seems positively cuddly in comparison.