Prologue: There Is No Why

Obi-Wan Kenobi “You can't win. But there are alternatives to fighting.”

— Obi-Wan Kenobi,
A New Hope

Back in July 2000 I launched this peculiar web site of mine, its inaugural centerpiece being a lengthy polemic entitled Why I Love The Phantom Menace. I wrote this defense of Episode I out of personal rage, fed up with all the hatred and ridicule directed at what I found to be an excellent film. The dissertation boiled out of me with a furious passion, and I posted it to the Internet to thumb my nose at the prevailing tidal wave of anti-prequel criticism.

I figured it was just a symbolic gesture of defiance, thinking how few people would visit my rinky-dink web site, and how few of those would have the patience to wade through a six-part tirade in praise of a movie everybody hates. I was wrong. Over the years since I published the piece, I have heard from hundreds of Star Wars fans thanking me for putting into words what they too admire about The Phantom Menace, and some telling me I persuaded them that it wasn't really so awful, with only a handful calling me a pathetic loser. The positive reaction continues to amaze and inspire me. From the beginning I promised to write similar tracts on the two remaining prequels, and my faithful readers have been asking for my analysis of Attack of the Clones since May 2002.

But events have transpired in the intervening years to make me a different person than I was when I wrote Why I Love The Phantom Menace. Principally, three months after Episode II premiered, my favorite female celebrity got her own television program. I was compelled to create a new web site devoted to that, which set me way behind schedule in composing my Attack of the Clones dissertation. But more than being merely a delay, that other project transformed my whole approach to pop culture analysis. You see, society at large was so vicious and hostile toward my beloved goddess — brutalizing her far more inhumanely than George Lucas has ever been treated — that something inside me broke. After emerging from a brief quagmire of depression and misanthropy, I resolved that I must not use my writings as a tool of anger and hatred, at least not in regard to the pop culture subjects I gravitate towards. Righteous fury might be called for in discussing urgent social and moral issues, but not for the question of whether people like a movie or not. I will write works of celebration and insight without attacking and destroying those who see differently.

So the first order of business for the Episode II analysis was renaming it. "Why I Love The Phantom Menace" was a title intended for shock value, analogous to proclaiming "Why I Love Dog Poop" or "Why I Love Hitler." I realized that I wanted nothing to do with a follow-up called "Why I Love Attack of the Clones." I no longer feel any drive to defend my tastes or to persuade anyone to my point of view. That engine has not only run out of gas, it has thrown a rod and burned down the garage. My admiration of this film is not a sideshow oddity and not something I should have to justify. I simply want to explore its meanings and help interested readers appreciate it, and I will not take the defensive posture of rationalizing why I love it. There is no why. I just do.

Writing this dissertation became a far more difficult task without the fuel of aggression and anger. Yoda was right: easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. But I chose to toss aside my lightsaber and confront the evil empire unarmed, refusing to engage in its ways. Consequently, this piece has taken a lot longer to complete than I expected, and at times it felt so impossible that I considered trashing the whole thing and giving up. Still I persevered, and I think the resulting work is much stronger and more sophisticated than it would have been had I chosen the quick and easy path.

But I'll leave that up to you readers to decide. This dissertation has the same structure as its predecessor, being composed of two trilogies: Parts I-III focus on plot and narrative events from a rational perspective, and Parts IV-VI explore theme and symbolism using an intuitive response. You can read the two halves in whichever order you choose. Please be advised that this dissertation contains absolutely no Episode III spoilers, beyond some light speculation and discussion of story developments we've known to be inevitable for many years now. Those things are not spoilers — they are part of Star Wars mythology.

To lend this dissertation a proper overture, I wish to present in its entirety the fabled Journal of the Whills prologue from the original 1976 novelization of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, ghostwritten for Lucas by Alan Dean Foster. It's obvious that Foster cribbed this passage closely from Lucas's sacred notebooks, since its account of Old Republic history has proven incredibly accurate and relevant to the episodes released more than twenty years later.

Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker Another galaxy, another time.

The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that... it was
the Republic.

Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match.

So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.

Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions.

But a small number of systems rebelled at these new outrages. Declaring themselves opposed to the New Order they began the great battle to restore the Old Republic.

From the beginning they were vastly outnumbered by the systems held in thrall by the Emperor. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples...

From the First Saga
Journal of the Whills

"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes."
— Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator

I. Only What You Take with You
A crash course in Star Wars history and mythology.

The Shroud of the Dark Side
Cinema