The Clone Wars: NOT the Best Political Cartoon on the Ballot

26 03 2010

I read an article on Wired.com this week that asked if The Clone Wars was the best political cartoon out there. Certainly with all of the recent political happenings in the GFFA (galaxy far, far away), The Clone Wars is no stranger to politics. A controversial war, pleas for neutrality, cloningterrorism, political assassinations…it’s like picking up a newspaper. But just because The Clone Wars IS a political cartoon, does that make it the BEST political cartoon? I think not.

If memory serves, one of the biggest complaints about the prequel trilogy was the over politicized story line. Gone were the days of good vs. evil, where everything was black and white. While I’m all for exploring gray areas and indulging in a good political thriller, politics were never one of the Star Wars saga’s strongest suites. The original trilogy resonated so universally because of the distinct line between good and evil. Bog that dichotomy down with the Trade Federation (one of many perceived grievances riddling the prequels) and you lose that sense of myth; it suddenly becomes too similar to real life. This is another topic altogether, but I think this is also a clear indictor (that has been successfully argued by writers before me) that the original trilogy is fantasy, while the prequel trilogy is science fiction.

The Clone Wars is a shining moment in Star Wars history. But the political centered episodes have been the weakest. Why? Politics blur the lines of good and evil. And the politics of Star Wars are not fleshed out enough to make this kind of political storytelling effective. Why does the Senate care about a small planet like Mandalore? What’s so bad about the Separatists anyway? It’s easy to see the Separatists as the villains – but once you throw all the politics into the mix, their “bad guy-ness” is thrown into question.

Star Wars should stick to what it knows. The “politics” of the original trilogy were sufficient – there was an evil empire that needed to be overthrown by the rebels. This universal theme launched Star Wars into the pop culture stratosphere. The prequels were less well-received, due in large part to their attempt at a heavily political plot – they bit off more than they could chew.

So what IS the best political cartoon? Gundam Wing. I’m not even a huge fan of anime, but this show masterfully balances intense sci-fi action with an intricate and engaging story line that thrives on political and corporate maneuverings. As a side note, it’s Gundam Wing’s inclusion of the political meddling of corporations that makes it so successful. Perhaps, if the “corporate” angle had been played up more, if the Trade Federation had been more like the Romefeller Foundation (the corporate baddie in Gundam Wing) and not portrayed as a joke, Star Wars: The Clone Wars could have successfully run for Best Political Cartoon.

What do you think? What’s the best political cartoon? Have you enjoyed the political episodes of The Clone Wars? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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4 responses

8 04 2010
Whit

Great breakdown of the Star Wars politics. I haven’t really enjoyed any of the more senate based episodes of the clone wars.

9 04 2010
Dustin

Yeah, they’re definitely the weaker ones. Pretty excited about the 3 Part Season Finale though! 🙂

8 12 2012
James

I think you got one thing wrong with gundam wing. It wasnt soulless corporations that made up the romefeller foundation, but a specific type of aristocracy from europe that felt tradition was essential in human life. True they were rich but its not like they simply wantedto fill the colonies with McDonalds. And even trez cush renada of OZ had left the foundation because it started to use mobile dolls instead of soldiers which most people in thefoundation didnt like. They truly did value humans and used the earth sphere alliances resources to try and returm to traditional values. War for the sake of profit was never their goal, if it was then they simply would just keep building weapons for the warmongering alliance. I suggest you go back and watch the show again.

10 12 2012
Dustin

Thanks for the comments, James! Very good insight into the perspective of the Foundation. It even proves further my point that Gundam Wing had far more complex political story lines than The Clone Wars! It’s one of my favorite animes, so I’m sure I’ll watch them again someday 🙂

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