When the first Star Wars prequel came out 15 years ago viewers noticed some suspiciously-named characters.
Episode One: The Phantom Menace's devious and deceitful Trade Federation leaders were Nute Gunray and Lott Dod. To some ears that sounded a lot like prominent Republican politicians at the time - then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and recently-deposed House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
That was far from the only political turn of newer Star Wars films. Series mastermind George Lucas has contributed heavily to Democratic candidates and causes, and is an outspoken supporter of gun control, among other issues.
Consider the third Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, which portrayed series protagonist Anakin Skywalker - who would become the evil Darth Vadar - in George W. Bush mode. Released in 2005, fascist-leaning Anakin growls at one point, "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy."
To some that echoed Bush's address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001 - nine days after the terror attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives - when the president said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
New Film Series Coming
It's too early to say whether the new Star Wars films will include such political overtones. Star Wars Episode VII is scheduled for release on Dec. 18, 2015. It forms the first part of the planned third trilogy of Star Wars films, following chronologically in the series 30 years after 1983's Return of the Jedi. It will be the first Star Wars film produced since Disney acquired ownership of Lucasfilm.
There's some reason to think the films won't be so overtly political. After all, Lucas is no longer in control. J. J. Abrams of recent Star Trek film fame is directing Episode VII. It's based on a screenplay written by himself and Lawrence Kasdan, who acted as co-writer on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It appears likely that original cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will reprise their roles from Episodes IV, V, and VI.
Politics as Long-Running Theme
Of course the Star Wars prequels weren't the first to carry political themes. The beloved original series brought out ideas familiar to political junkies and political history buffs. As Boulder-Colo.-based writer Richard Carriero put it in a 2007 Yahoo essay, the three movies "Tell a story about war and peace, love and hate, betrayal and redemption, revenge and hope."
"Lucas patterned the Galactic Empire after the Nazi Reich," Carriero wrote. "The rows of identical foot soldiers and grim, uniformed officers are all emblematic of the fascist war machine created by Hitler."
"The imperial soldiers and officers are all white men with British accents; while there are all different types of aliens depicted in Star Wars - both neutral and fighting for the Rebel Alliance - you never see any aliens fighting for the Empire. Further you never see people of any other race fighting in Imperial uniforms. This frightening uniformity is further reminder of the racism at the heart of most fascist regimes - particularly the Nazis."