Visions of Violence in Star Wars

Since I’ve been updating my page with some of my theological papers it’s about time I added something on my work on popular culture, particularly Star Wars.  This is the pre-edited and pre-published version of ‘”Wars Not Make One Great”:  Redeeming the Star Wars Mythos from Redemptive Violence’ , a paper that appeared in Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 22.1 (2010).  My thinking on the matter has developed and moved on a little since then, and my take on The Force Awakens suggests that there is a quite different political ideology operating there from the work of George Lucas.  star-wars.jpeg

“Recently George Lucas’ approved animation series, Clone Wars, has rekindled the imaginations of the youngest generation to immerse itself in not merely the excitement of the Lucas-inspired visual materials, the Star Wars saga, but also in the expensive consumption of a wide-range of merchandise. Aggressive lightsaber battles can again be seen taking place on the streets, and consequently concerns about the relation of this saga and violence are worth raising once more. This paper assumes that the pop philosophy of these particular movies possesses certain kinds of resources to be a multi-volume set of publicly ethical texts. Primarily it tackles populist approaches to issues of the cultural relation between this (largely American) saga and questions of violence, in particular attending to Star Wars'” possible performance of the so-called “myth of redemptive violence.” The contention is that the presentation of violence in the sets of narratives is not a simple one since this multi-part cultural artefact offers several forms of it. These range from something akin to a “holy violence,” through more a sense of “just war,” to an ethical philosophy approaching a full-blown redemptive “non-violence.” In fact, there may well be in the performance of the last theme vital potential for even subverting the very “myth of redemptive violence” itself and likewise its discourse of “a good war.” This paper’s reading aims to provoke not an indecision over meaning but rather an “undecision” over the grain of the most commonly heard connection of Star Wars with a mythically violent ethos, and this is done largely in order to open up a liberative reading of the saga.”

Available here at


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