Written By: Cass R. Sunstein
Published By: Dey St.
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
When I first read the description of Cass R Sunstein’s The World According to Star Wars, I thought it sounded cute. According to the description, the author discusses lessons learned from the Star Wars universe in relation to fatherhood, redemption, politics, etc. I asked for and received this book for my birthday. I couldn’t wait to read it. And then I chose the worst possible time to read it – while I was studying some rather heavy subjects. This book was not the lightest read I could have chosen at the time, but I stuck with it…and learned something along the way.
I should have realized that a Harvard professor, who is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy and also happened to work in the White House, would probably not write a light and airy book full of tongue in cheek references as to how Star Wars affects our every day lives. Instead, The World According to Star Wars is an in depth look at how one can relate the themes and characters of Star Wars in various happenings in our daily lives – the big and the small. I was surprised when the author discussed how Star Wars began and the many incarnations of the origin story George Lucas has told over the years. I also found myself nodding my head every time the author pointed out Lucas’ white lies when it came to how many films he had actually planned to make, how he had planned out the story of the Skywalkers and etc. I was finding common ground with this author as I have pointed out the same fibs over the years.
And then we got down to the nitty gritty. This wasn’t just a comparison as to how the Skywalkers’ relationships presented us with the dos and don’ts of fatherhood. No, this was much more than that. I found myself reading how you could look at Star Wars as a cautionary tale against technology, how the Jedi might have been Jihadists, how Star Wars is steeped in Christianity, how it is steeped in Buddhist teachings and more. We uncover predictable biases in the series and discuss why the bad guys are so likeable. We delve into the economic aspects of Star Wars. And, of course, we delve into the political aspects: the ways in which democracy can become so complicated as to beget rebellion and/or dictatorship…told you this book was heavy.
There are some lighter discussions, such as the Star Wars vs. Star Trek comparison, which is the best film out of the series, and in which order should the movies be watched. But for the most part, this is not a lighthearted read. No, this is a book for those thinkers in the Star Wars fandom who can see deeper into the storyline and come up with comparisons in our everyday lives, looking at our government’s actions, our family lives, the world’s economy and more and seeing meaning or a relationship to things that happen in the Star Wars films.
Not always an easy read to be sure, The World According to Star Wars is actually a refreshing one. It reminds us that most science fiction geeks are deep thinkers and can find scientific, sociological, philosophical, and psychological meaning in the Star Wars series we love so much. Not an easy read, but a great one in my opinion and one I will recommend to my fellow thinking Star Wars fans out there.