Conway Hall ethical Society has chosen a fascinating topic for discussion under their 'London Thinks' programme featuring Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou; cultural historian, Sound of Cinema presenter & Free Thinker, Dr Matthew Sweet; Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson and chaired by the journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed.
One has always been aware of the theological parallels in the Star Wars films, the idea of a greater unseen mystical force of good and the temptation of darkness/evil. Fear, hate, anger and strong Christian dogma. Samira Ahmed who chaired the event had wanted to call it 'is Han Solo a humanist?'
At the start we are treated to scenes from the film, but due to the fact that the event was streamed live online, and rights issues, we could only have sections of the script read out to scenes created (By Ahmed) using Lego...and wonderfully so!
This discussion covered such a vast number of points that it would bore everyone if I named them all, so I thought I would flag some of the interesting points made during the discussion for anyone interested to think about or discussed amongst friends.
The Force consider by a lot of people in New Hope as an old belief system of nonsense, despite actual proof that Darth Vader has tangible and realistic powers.
Han Solo's cynicism which eventually leads to skepticism and by 'The Force Awakens' becomes acceptance, but too late.
Kylo Ren can be made comparable to young men being self -radicalised under their parent's noses.
Obi wan Kenobi, the most immoral character in Star Wars? The argument here was that Kenobi is a bad as the Emperor in that he recruits a young man, is economical with the truth and weaponises him for his own ends. In contrast with the usually hated Lando Calrissian who gives up his friend's, yes, but only to save the lives of Millions of people on Cloud city. When he sees a chance to help his friends he does, and then he immediately joined the rebellion. Is Lando possibly the most ethical character in the film?
Is The Empire as Monotheistic power with a vengeful Emperor/God in parallel with Christian theology?
Here's a thought. R2D2 and BB8 are the only characters impervious to the force and other mystical manipulation. If everyone is controlled by 'destiny', then the AI in the films are the only people with free agency. R2 always makes comments, always has the "map" (key?) and always has his mission to find the "divine" leader. Obi, Luke etc. And a parallel is made with Moses going into the wilderness. This was one of the most intriguing elements to the night's discussion.
If the force needs balance (like in Genesis in the Bible i.e. Chaos from order, dark and light, Good and evil, Lucifer as initially a product of good) then there can only be an existence of the force that includes someone like Darth Vader. Ergo peace is non-existent. Darth Vader is in conflict with himself, a spiritualist trapped inside this strange consumerist, machine with no real connection to the almighty and mystical power of the force.
We were also treated to a discussion on the deleted scenes and the character Jer Jerrod's dilemma, where he was compared to the "good" Nazi, someone who is caught up in something they don't actually believe in. The panel discuss a scene in which Jer is told to by the Emperor to destroy Endor with the Death Star and he voices concern about the 700 troops they have left on the planet but the Emperor demands that he go ahead and blow-up the planet, here follows an insightful debate on the moral implications involved and the parallels with WWII Nazism.
Then followed a debate on the differences of democracy and faith in Star Trek and Star Wars. Start Trek being a compliant universe and perhaps one more favoured by scientists?...but this went into even deeper territory....
It was a fascinating talk with a mixture of the expected OTT Star Wars fans and people genuinely interested in the ethical, theological, humanist and moral themes in this enduring films.
This was a one off, but there was a live stream and Conway Hall has many more up and coming events.