This Video Interrogates the Actual Ideology of the First Order in Star Wars

Kylo Ren, the angry posterchild of the First Order.
Kylo Ren, the angry posterchild of the First Order.
Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

Okay, we get they’re bad, but what do they actually believe? Beyond thinking that the Empire rules, I mean.

In an excellent video essay, creator Lindsay Ellis dives deep into that question, looking through the way the Star Wars films depict the fascist ideologies of the Empire and the First Order, interrogating if there’s any deeper ideology to be gleamed, and whether or not that actually even matters.

What I really admire about this video is the way it deftly mixes a real-world education on fascist ideology with a strong aesthetic primer on the way Star Wars draws inspiration from fascist art in depicting their baddies, and how it’s still broadly generous in its take on the franchise. It never gets into “and that’s bad,” territory, acknowledging that there can be space to question these depictions without necessarily condeming them. It’s smart, even-handed, fascinating criticism from one of YouTube’s best critics.


It’s worth the time, especially on a chill weekend. Check it out below.

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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Very well argued, even if I somewhat disagree with her skepticism that Disney might actually be purposefully emphasizing the First Order’s lack of coherent ideology in order to mirror Mussolini’s Fascists.

Well, okay, more like I think the directors were doing at least some of it on purpose. Say what you will about Abrams and Johnson, they’re both educated enough to know about this sort of thing - hell, I remember reading an interview with Johnson where he basically said that the Star Wars movies are fundamentally stories for kids about the dangers of fascism.

And yes, it does work brilliantly as a dodge for the corporate heads as well - keep it vague, and you keep the First Order more safely marketable. These things can work at multiple levels, pop culture has proven over and over again that it can be surprisingly smart and subversive, even the massive corporate stuff. There are, of course, solid critiques about how much that actually accomplishes vs. how much it just enslaves us that much more to our corporate overlords. But I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that JJ and Rian were thinking about more than just the bottom line.