The success of the Disney+ series Andor seems to be inspiring a pivot in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian S3 E3 (Chapter 19) made a jarring, seemingly non sequitur jump from the Mandalorian diaspora and the news of their home world to a couple of Moff Gideon’s minions, now part of an Amnesty Program on the former Imperial capital planet of Coruscant. Former Imperial functionaries, their names replaced by numbers, have the opportunity to do work for the benefit of the New Republic. They can make lives for themselves, if not rise to their previous status and importance. It’s not much, but it’s better than prison.
One detail that struck me: The administrative bureaucracy of the New Republic in The Mandalorian looks exactly like the administrative bureaucracy of the Empire in Andor. The same vast, open floor plan, the same cubicle pits, the same sense of a giant, soulless Panopticon. The rebellion shifted who’s in power, but life in the bureaucracy hasn’t changed much. In fact, the sense of paranoia and totalitarian surveillance is alive and well in the New Republic. It’s a scathing indictment of revolution. The high drama of Star Wars’s rebellion is over, and in The Mandalorian, people have a hard time fitting into the boring business of running a bureaucracy.
A friend reminded me of a real-world story following the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan:
“Some Taliban fighters are sick of the 9 to 5 grind, complaining they’ve been sucked into urban life by working desk jobs to run Afghanistan” in Business Insider
“The Taliban used to be free of restrictions, but now we sit in one place, behind a desk and a computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Huzaifa, a 24-year-old sniper now working at a police district in Kabul, told Samim. “Life’s become so wearisome; you do the same things every day.”Business Insider
It’s fascinating when an entertainment franchise is so long-lived, manages to look back at itself, and interrogates its own premises. I had qualms with how the sequel trilogy basically invalidated the gains of the Rebellion in the original trilogy. Sure, the Empire was rebranded as the First Order, but what really changed? We’re just doing the original trilogy over again, with new faces! The movies presented that idea largely without nuance, but The Mandalorian S3 E3–for all that it veers away from the story it was originally telling–is planting some seeds to validate that concept. The prequel trilogy showed us a totalitarian Empire arising from the fear of an invented enemy. S3E3 is showing us that the seeds of fascism and autocratic power can also lie in low-level resentment and grievance, thwarted ambition, and even boredom.
I wrote a thinly-veiled fan-fiction featuring a Leia Organa proxy, on the night that Ben Solo–the future Vader replacement–was conceived. It had similar sentiments as the Taliban fighters who had to work desk jobs after their Jihad was won.
Rebellion was different from nation-building, but Alie was cursed with a talent for both. General Okarna became High Counselor Okarna before the dead were even burned.“After We Won and Before It Went To Hell“
Much as “Alie Okarna” believed she had a talent for both rebellion and statecraft, the immediate gratification of adrenaline-fueled heroism of the former simply isn’t present in the latter. Nation-building requires a different temperament.
And the enemies are more hidden and insidious than Darth Sidious himself. If this is where a segment of Star Wars wants to do some deep dives, I’m enthusiastically here for it. The good-and-evil fantasy of my childhood is growing up.
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