Art, Symbolism, and Missing the Point


Ty Benedict, Staff Writer

Art—in all its forms—is an unavoidable and crucial part of our lives. It has been one of the few practices that have survived centuries of human history, and it will likely continue for much longer. It makes us happy. It allows us to express our emotions and interpret the world around us. And most importantly, it is simply just fun to look at. But art is rarely without powerful subtext and commentary on the world it exists in. 

Even mainstream forms of media aren’t exempt from this. The mutant storyline in Marvel is an allegory for Black Americans in the civil rights movement, and George Lucas took inspiration from Nazi Germany and the Vietnam War to create the well-known struggle between the Empire and the Rebellion respectively. Now both of these examples are relatively apparent if you do look into these stories a little bit. A minority vilified by society as if they were inherently dangerous? Check. An authoritarian empire that is composed of a single race and is heavily militaristic? Check. 

However, in spite of all that, a fair amount of people seem to miss the point of these works of art all together, especially when it comes to political messages. 

To touch back on Star Wars, there has been somewhat of a schism recently in the fanbase about whether or not Star Wars is going in the right direction, and representation is bound to come into conversation. A lot of fans are saying that Star Wars has gone ‘woke’ (a derogatory term to describe progressive messaging that originated from AAVE) and that they wish that politics would be left out of the franchise. The only problem with that is that Star Wars has always been political. Not only was there the aforementioned political inspirations in the original trilogy, but the prequels and spin-off shows have been filled with political topics as well. The prequels follow the rise of Darth Sidious, and when he is given emergency powers by the Senate, Senator Padme says “so this is how democracy dies… with thunderous applause”. And ever since 2008, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show tackled the effects of war, the dangers of unregulated corporations, a corrupt political system, and much more. And that isn’t even including all of the other TV shows, comics, books, and other Star Wars media out there.

Once you look into the actual material of these shows and movies, it becomes clear that franchises like Star Wars have always had political undertones, which makes the claim that it has turned political fall flat.

Now keep in mind this isn’t limited to just Star Wars and Marvel. There are countless stories and entertainment with political messaging about almost any issue out there. You just have to look. But when people either don’t look into the message—or willfully ignore it—the valuable lessons that were sewn into these stories are lost and they are relegated to just mindless entertainment. And even if it is fun to consume, the depth of the message is dismissed, which is a disservice to every fan of fiction.