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[Warning: This story contains plot details from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that could be considered spoilers. Read further at your own risk.]
The First Order does have a point about one thing: The Republic is disorganized.
When the evil General Hux stands up in front of his assembled troops to get his Nazi cosplay on, there is one good point amongst the multitude of bad ones spewing from his mouth: namely, the Republic is not doing a very good job of ruling the galaxy.
Proof of this can be found in the simple fact of the First Order’s massive Starkiller Base in the first place. The construction of a Death Star (or two, as it turned out) in the original trilogy could be met without objection because the Empire was the ruling force of the galaxy.
But the fact that an insurgent faction could not only build a weapon the size of a planet, but also, presumably, test it when said test involved extinguishing a sun without any Republic interference is, at best, a staggering oversight that suggests the Republic really doesn’t do a very good job of policing areas outside of its central hub at all.
For that matter, the suggestion in the crawl that the Republic would prefer to fund an underground resistance than address the First Order head-on, with an officially sanctioned army, should be a warning sign as to the strength of the Republic.
It’s not as if the First Order could appear to be attempting to appeal to the hearts and minds of the galaxy’s citizens — it is, after all, an organization that not only built a machine to destroy planets, but also kidnaps children to become soldiers for its cause — and yet, the Republic is apparently unable or unwilling to publicly stand up to this obvious and apparent threat.
Viewed through the lens of Star Wars mythology, it’s actually worth considering what purpose the Republic serves.
In the prequels, it is a ruling body that is, at best, ineffectual and easily corrupted from within by one of its senators. (It is also a group that has a seemingly awkward relationship with its primary peacekeeping force, the Jedi, but that’s neither here nor there; the Jedi Order is problematic in and of itself, after all.)
By the time of the original trilogy, the Republic is entirely absent, an ideal to fight for — and, in many ways, this is the most comfortable space for it within the entire series to date; when it doesn’t exist outside characters’ hopes for peace, it can remain an abstract with no problematic aspects whatsoever.
In many ways, the Republic of The Force Awakens might as well be the nonexistent ideal of the original trilogy; the audience sees no scene set within the Republic outside of shots of people reacting to giant death rays raining from the sky, and it’s unclear whether or not the planets destroyed were the entirety of the Republic, or merely a small section.
The Republic that exists in The Force Awakens is barely a presence at all; certainly one that matters far less than either the Resistance or the First Order in terms of importance to the story, and to the survival of the galaxy as everyone knows it. But that aim, in itself, becomes problematic because of the lack of Republic presence in the story. Why fight to maintain the status quo, if the status quo means supporting a Republic that isn’t seen to defend its citizens?
Fighting fascism — even space fascism — is a fine aim in and of itself, but judging by the evidence of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if the Resistance wants to truly help the galaxy out, it should be setting its sights on something better. Otherwise, who knows how many Starkiller Bases lie in everyone’s future?
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