Comics / Cult Favorite

Stormtroppers: The Other White Meat


By Philip Schweier
Sep 28, 2007 - 21:34

At this year's Dragon-Con in Atlanta, a Star Wars panel featured an interesting observation by fan Shawn Rosado of Charleston, S.C. While debating the merits of various aspects of the movies, a question came up regarding the Ewoks.

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"About 3 years ago I'm watching Return of the Jedi," Rosado says. "Luke and Han captured by the Ewoks and they are on spits over a fire. Now as a child this never made me afraid. I knew they would survive, they are the heroes after all, so I never sensed they might be in danger. But then I thought about it - when we cook meat we rotisserie chickens and other various animals. Now, flash forward to the end of the movie. We have Billy Dee Williams with the guys, partying with the Ewoks. In front of them - giant platters of meat - and behind, we see storm trooper helmets in a row."

Rosado drew one reasonable conclusion: "Ewoks...eat...people."

Perhaps this was never the intention of George Lucas, but since the advent of the prequels, it's obvious to most Star Wars fans that there are certain gaps in his creativity.

Nevertheless, let's examine one aspect of the stormtroopers which may be equally as subtle. It is established in Episode II: Attack of the Clones that a great army of clones is being assembled. Rosado explains that with the death of Jango Fett in Episode II, the source of usable DNA material was lost, and the clone troopers had a limited lifespan. By the time Episode IV: A New Hope begins, Imperial stormtroopers consist of about 60 percent clones.

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The remaining 40 percent are comprised of humanoids conscripted from various worlds. Those who excel in service to the Empire then become candidates for the cloning program, adding to the ranks of the stormtroopers.

A clone is often viewed in Orwellian terms as an "unperson." As such, they, along with androids and robots, are often handy in science fiction stories as disposable people. In 1921, a play entitled RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Czechoslovakian Karl Capek premiered, and introduced the term "robot" into the the world lexicon. In the story, an industrialist has created artificial people, only to have his daughter lead a movement intended to emancipate the robots. Of course, to her father, such an idea is akin to liberating a washing machine or automobile.

Other authors have explored the notion of artificial life and its worth, creating entire races of robots, androids and clones to be subjugated, while genuine humans are elevated to a god-like status. Examples would be Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?, which was adapted to film in 1982 as Bladerunner starring Harrison Ford.

Which brings us back to George Lucas and the Star Wars saga. As clones, Lucas has created what may be interpreted as a disposable human, and if indeed most of the Imperial stormtroopers throughout all six films are clones, we have again an example of Lucas attempting to polish the image of his heroes. I beleive this undermines the scope of the Star Wars mythos, creating a pure hero with the liberty to slay his enemies without sullying his or her hands with any "real" person's blood.

Anakin's journey to Dark Side and back is all very well and good, but Han's is equally valid. In 1977, we first met Han Solo as a greedy, self-serving scoundrel. He shoots Greedo because he knows he's in a kill-or-be-killed situation, held at gunpoint and with only one option. At the end of the film he rescues Luke from being blown out the sky and enabling the rebels to win the day. In 1997, with the release of the special edition, Han's journey to being a better man is negated by having Greedo shoot first.

The argument could be made that killing stormtroopers isn't really killing at all. They are merely the next step up from the battle droids of Episode I. Some clone troopers inevitably hold higher ranks, thereby establishing that some clones are more equal than others. Ergo, by gifting those beings with sentient thinking and the ability to reason, we are elevating them above machine status, or animal to full-fledged human.

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Despite any perceived failings of Star Wars lore, the canon can be distilled down to the six movies and all that they impart, overtly and otherwise. Some may believe Han was always a good guy, as evidenced by him going along with Luke and Obi Wan on their damn-fool idealistic crusade. Others may prefer to resent the Ewoks for all their cuteness and fuzzy-wuzzy tendencies.

Now pass the bantha sauce. I'm hungry.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at philip@comicbookbin.com


Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014 - 14:15
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