Study Guide

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Politics

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When watching the film for the first time, a couple of words in the opening crawl may feel very anti-Star Wars to you. "Taxation," "congress," "trade routes"—what are these topics doing in a Star Wars film? This isn't a poli-sci class, is it?

Sure, politics may not be the obvious thematic choice for a Star Wars sequel, but the film has a political message to go along with the laser swords and space ships. The film paints the democratic political process as slow, complex, and open to corruption.

While it doesn't shy away from criticizing these qualities of democracy, through characters like Chancellor Valorum and Senator Palpatine, it's quick to point out that the alternative is worse. Gunray and Sidious, who act outside the democratic process, cause harm to many for their own gain and almost get away with it. Also, never try to filibuster a bill sponsored by a Wookie senator. Trust us: it's not wise to upset a Wookie.

Questions About Politics

  1. Which characters are most critical of political process, and which ones defend it? Why do you suppose this is, and what is the film's message through these characters?
  2. Several characters in the film point out the shortcomings of the democratic political process, yet all of the film's hero characters ultimately fight for democracy. Why do you suppose this is?
  3. Senator Palpatine eventually becomes the tyrant Emperor Palpatine. Why do you suppose Palpatine begins the story as a senator, and why is this important to this theme?

Chew on This

The Star Wars universe mixes modern day democratic republics with medieval fiefdoms. Padmé Amidala is queen of Naboo and doesn't seem to answer to any legislative or judicial branch, yet she was elected to serve a term as queen by the Naboo voters.

The true danger of the Trade Federation isn't its battle droids but its willingness to step outside the political system to accomplish its goals.

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