Star Wars Glasses (or how we see the world through the lens of Star Wars).
This is a book review of Cass Sunstein’s The World According To Star Wars.
We all have many different lenses with which we look at life; they can come from from an infinity of different places, but they all serve the same purpose: to provide context for our experience in the world, allow us to perhaps articulate that experience more accurately to others, and in doing so cultivate empathy for them, their lenses, and their experiences. In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein invites us to take a dive through one of his (and my) favorite life lenses: the Star Wars franchise.
Regardless of your opinion of his politics, after reading this book you could not deny that Cass Sunstein loves Star Wars. While on a couple of occasions his references seem a little forced, his deep and abiding love for the Saga always shines through (especially when he describes how Star Wars has impacted his children). Sunstein uses Star Wars to examine many sociological phenomena, from theories on how fame and popularity are created and cultivated, to what causes ideological polarization and rebellion. When examining these more academic topics, Sunstein does a good job of remaining relatively objective, laying out the various viewpoints and theories in similar detail. (He still gives his opinion of course, but it is always plain where his description ends and his personal views begin.)
Sunstein also looks at Star Wars itself. He describes many ways in which people have interpreted Star Wars (many of them interesting, some of them just wrong). The most fascinating portion of the book to me was the examination of Lucas’s journey in creating A New Hope, it’s rousing success, and the creative process behind the original trilogy. At least some of what he discusses is common knowledge to devoted Star Wars fans, but Sunstein does an excellent job of showing how Lucas’s personal life, the sociopolitical environment of the time, certain sparks of genius, and a myriad of other factors intertwined to create Star Wars. Knowing the true uncertainties behind the details of all three original movies makes their paralleled greatness and success all the more astounding and awe inspiring.
In the later chapters or “Episodes”, Sunstein turns to more worldly topics, including an entire chapter devoted to Constitutional law as interpreted through Star Wars. Your enjoyment of these sections may have more to do with your sociopolitical predisposition than anything else. But, if you don’t mind possibly disagreeing with the author to greater or lesser degrees, they are still a complex and engaging read (even though his personal bias is slightly less obvious yet present in the last few chapters than the rest).
It is clear (and Sunstein freely admits) that this book was an accident, it was not originally intended to be written. It grew out of conversations with friends around a dinner table and is in large part one man’s journey to contextualize things that he cares about through a story he loves. In a way, it is an extended love letter to the Star Wars universe, both the one in the Milky Way, and the one in a galaxy far, far away; and I think at some point all hardcore Star Wars nerds have wished to be able to articulate in a similar manner how the Saga has affected their lives.
Cass Sunstein can be a politically polarizing figure, but regardless of what you think of his policy initiatives, if you love Star Wars, looking at the world in new and interesting ways, and animated discussions with friends, I recommend this book. I also recommend it to at least one of your friends who shares those interests, because I can almost guarantee that everyone you meet who’s read it will disagree with you on at least some aspect of it, and the conversations that arise will be most enjoyable. However, everyone you meet who’s read it will also have a deep appreciation for what Star Wars has brought to the world; and those are the kind of people I, for one, like hanging out with.
~ Bailey ScentPowered by Sidelines