Mob Rule

This is another short musing.

It may seem odd, but I usually reflect on mob rule during this time of year. It’s something that has struck me as a curiously consistent aspect of all cultures over time, but especially poignant as we all track the trajectory of our common humanity.

It predates the rise of social media, too. There’s no need to worry that I’m going to go off on a rant about that. Besides, a lot of people rant about that all the time and everyone just accepts that it’s never going to change.

Mob rule comes into focus for me during this time of year because the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ comes into heavy focus for Christians. To assuage casual or accidental viewers, you don’t need to worry that I’m here to proselytize or convert with this entry. I’m focusing on an aspect of the account that stands out apart from the religious aspect.

If you’re not familiar, Jesus was welcomed into the city and hailed as a hero. About a week later He was given a show trial, beaten, and then killed. People had cheered and adored him.

Then they pivoted and called death within days. Someone who’d been hailed and cheered, killed in part thanks to a manipulated opinion designed to steer the crowd toward that end.

The play Les Miserables is full of romanticized lies about the revolutionaries, overlooking the fact that they turned into bloodthirsty animals.
Even if you don’t like the allusion to the inherently religious tale of Christ, the French Revolution is chock full of good examples of when the crowd turned from righteous to terrible.

Don’t Be a Tool

I’m reminded of the old saying, “A person is smart; People are dumb.” Mob rule is a fearsome thing because fervor turns too quickly to blood lust.

Even if you remove the religious significance of the story of Jesus, it’s a powerful reminder of this lesson. Sadly, it’s a lesson that people seem to keep forgetting. As they rush to jump on a hashtag wave, fall all over themselves for hot takes during world events, or call for a person’s ouster for the temerity to disagree on an issue, people allow themselves to pursue only their own exercise authority through the power of the crowd. They rarely stop to question the motivations of those who move it.

The crowd has always been fickle. The crowd will always be fickle. When the crowd wants blood, it will get it.

We’ve all been swept up in the powerful wave of popular sentiment. It’s easy, it feels good in the moment, and only in the aftermath do you realize that a little rational, individual thought would go a long way. Mercy would often go even farther.

May we all remember the dangers of being a part of the crowd.

Anakin’s Divine Origin

Strap yourselves in, we’re about to make the jump back into deep Star Wars territory. But it’s really, really, really interesting stuff to consider.

If you’re a geek.

Not so long ago, I tossed out a random thought that prequel haters who reject Anakin’s divine birth while at the same time accepting the concept of the Force are somewhat hypocritical. Jar Jar Hater in specific jumped into the fray, stating

JJH: “Having faith is not tied to one religion.”

kj: Nor is the concept of divine birth/lineage.

Let me further clarify my own response: I do understand that the Virgin Birth is very much related to Jesus Christ/Christianity. As someone who subscribes to that faith, it was also the first thought that popped in my head. I remember the collective gasp at the midnight showing when Qui–Gon received that explanation from Shmi.

Naturally, like ripples in a pond, the impact of this plot point was felt on every shore of fandom. Lucas had brought in religious notes to the Most Revered Original Trilogy, and we all spent the majority of our lives pretending we were intellectually versed on the Heroic Monomyth because he kept referencing Campbell’s seminal work in interviews about the conception points for Star Wars concepts.

Specificity

But a Virgin Birth wasn’t some fuzzy concept drawn from Eastern beliefs for which we had no proper context as children of Western culture. So I want to examine this question: Why would Lucas tie it, in the eyes of people like Jar Jar Hater, to such an easily–identifiable point of belief for a substantial portion of the planet’s population?

Or Did He?

Lucas has given numerous interviews wherein he copped to being spiritual without being religious. Now, unless he was trying to go against that basic personality trait and proselytize to the entire fanbase, we’re left to puzzle why he used such an “easily–recognizable” plot point.

My own conclusion is that it was an easy shorthand for the audience, using the presumption that they know the connotations of a virgin birth, which is safe. So it’s not so much tying to one religion as it is using a story shortcut. He wanted to communicate the idea that this kid was a child whose birth was foretold by a prophecy, and divine birth is a really, really easy way to do that.

So yes, he used an easy shortcut and relied on that shortcut to reinforce to the audience why this child was special. Is it possible that he placed it in there to shore up the idea of prophesied birth since midichlorians would be such a foreign concept to all but Scientologists?

Heck, it’s even possible he came up with the idea of midichlorians after the virgin birth part in order to try to divorce the plot point from the Christian connotations. Arguably, if this is the case, and I have no idea if it is, he did not succeed.

It’s Not a Virgin Birth Per Se

Lucas himself has said that it’s more a matter of a god/gods interacting at a base level with a human, the way Zeus used to run around knocking up Vestals all over the place. Considering the fact that there is a very strong allusion to the culture of Ancient Greece in how Anakin is raised, this would be consistent with the other elements.

In other words, some midichlorians got drunk one night and took advantage of Shmi when she was feeling a little lonesome.

Alternate Interpretations

Lucas himself opens up the interpretation of the truth of Shmi’s story in Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine makes reference to Darth Plagueis’s ability to create life by influencing the midichlorians. So even thought Shmi did not know explicitly that she had been manipulated into carrying a vessel of the Dark Side, there’s a sort of “Rosemary’s Baby” situation happening.

Of course, this relies on whether Palpatine is telling the truth. But even if he is, you’re left to wonder if Anakin was specifically conceived with the help of Darth Plagueis or if Palpatine is using a little bit of truth to get inside Anakin’s head. He would full well know Anakin’s supposed origins, and so he could tell the truth about Darth Plagueis’ abilities, even if Plagueis didn’t create Anakin on purpose.

In the book Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, James Luceno does a really terrific job of exploring the possibility while still leaving it open for people to read it how they want to read it. It’s that rare type of gem in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: worth reading, well written and leaves things open for your own interpretation without violating the text of the films.

Another interpretation is that Shmi was fibbing. This had popular support among the fanboys until Revenge of the Sith came around.

Conclusion

So really, this all goes toward saying that “I get it” about Jar Jar Hater’s complaint, I just don’t give it much weight. Lucas’ intent certainly wasn’t to make a clearly Christian reference. The worst you could accuse him of is using a lazy way to communicate Anakin’s importance.

I know full well who’ll jump all over that comment, but don’t care. Lucas has been many things, but intellectually lazy has never been one of them.