Star Wars is not Science Fiction, but what is?

A mildly hectic weekend, so that is why there were in fact zero updates over the past two days. All apologies. I did come up with a pretty good topic on the way to the library however.

I have often argued that Star Wars is not a science fiction movie, but rather a fantasy movie with a space facade. If you’re aware of the Star Wars fan base, than you know how the reaction typically is. I have finally articulated a way to express why this is so in the most succinct and all-encompassing way possible. I have set up two hard and fast rules as to what makes a movie a Science Fiction movie, but they also splinter off into footnotes.

  1. Science must play a crucial role in the piece of work, be it movies, television, literature, plays, or anything else.
  2. The piece of work must deal with the implications of whatever scientific process that it is using at large. Meaning, the crux of the work isn’t simply about the individuals directly involved, rather it is a reflection of what society is now or what it is heading towards.

To elaborate on the first part, the science must be important because it’s in the name for Christ’s sakes! And because it shouldn’t be able to be substituted for magic or be put in a ‘Tolkien” universe unless you’re arguing with someone so anal retentive that they can boil down everything said into many, many mental gymnastics. In Star Wars, if you replaced the ships with dragons and the Death Star to a fortress, how much about the story would legitimately change? You could still have all your characters have virtually the same plot progressions, character development and even the same dialogue. There is nothing within the story or universe at large that absolutely needs to be in space and wouldn’t take a dramatic fallout (except for aesthetically of course) if changed to a fantasy movie.

Now, before I go on to an example of what I consider something fitting my two rules. I must first address this: Just because Star Wars takes place ‘in the past’ doesn’t rule it out of being Science Fiction (rather what I just explained does). A movie could be set in an alternate past, present, or future and still be a word within Science Fiction. Take for example the Steampunk sub-genre of Science Fiction, it is largely set within either an alternative past or present where people continued to use steam as their technological devices and achievements. Steamboy, which I have an entry about, does just that. The use of steam is crucial to the story as well has a dramatic impact on the world at large. The central (philosophical) conflict within the movie is ‘What is and should be the use of science?’ Granted you could take mental leaps to exchange magic, however that isn’t particularly worth the conversation.

The prime example and my favorite universe is that of Ghost in the Shell. The Science is important because it is essential in presenting the question of what it means to be human via cyborg enhancements going as far as to even replace an entire body and only having a ‘consious’ as well as intelligent life progressing enough to match human’s mental and emotion capacities. That fits the first part. The second part fits because we are currently on our way to designing more and more intelligent artificial intelligence.  Granted most of these is masked by action scenes and detective/police work within the Ghost in the Shell universe, but these crucial questions and events shape the characters decisions throughout all the movies, tv series, manga, and books.

Also, an important element of Science Fiction, that differentiates it from Fantasy, is the importance of the conclusion. In most good, great, and fantastical Science Fiction works, the climatic end isn’t particularly all that important when contrasted against a Fantasy work. What I mean is that, there would be no point in Star Wars if Luke did not in fact defeat Darth Vader. All would be unimportant and lost if this in fact did not happen. While Huxley’s Brave New World it isn’t of all that importance about how the characters end. Whether they die, conform, or the leave the society isn’t really all that important. Granted any decent writer will have his characters respond in a way that is in line with who they’ve been established as being and the reader would like some comfort by the end. However, the crux of Brave New World isn’t what the characters do, it’s the readers reaction to the world. Would they rather live a ‘happy’ life on drugs until their death or would they rather live their life through the peaks and valleys? That is what is important. Addressing the concerns within the reader/viewer is the very heart of Science Fiction outside of the fantastic or dredful veneers.

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About panamaenrique

Afro-Latino film lover in NYC. I love blues, jazz, soul, funk, and everything else under the sun. Any questions, comments, or concerns about anything I say, feel free to hit me up. My contact info is there and I'll be sure to give you a lengthy response about what I said and why I said it.
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One Response to Star Wars is not Science Fiction, but what is?

  1. Merlin Manor says:

    So you want say it’s not a sci-fi but a fantasy one. You are putting millions of dollars of the producers down the drain putting reasons for saying that. 🙂

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