There are many annoying things about Star Wars fandom, and among them is the observance of May 4 as “Star Wars Day.” You see, when you say “May the Fourth be with you,” it kind of sounds like that line from the movies, so haha let’s all tweet about Star Wars all day. It’s bad enough out there when it’s just your garden-variety nerds and fanboys propping up this contrived nonsense, but when politicians get involved, things quickly spiral out of control.
The people who run likely 2016 candidate Scott Walker’s Twitter account noticed that when you mash the Wisconsin governor’s given name and surname together, it kind of looks and sounds like “Skywalker.” And so yesterday, they did what any awful political comms team would do, whipping up a terrible Photoshop to turn this silly pop-culture meme into a pro-Walker political statement.
There is nothing good about this tweet. It’s just terrible on every level.
First off, the message it sends is thoroughly confusing. The lines Team Walker quoted are spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost and Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back” as Luke Skywalker cuts short his Jedi training to rashly confront Darth Vader. Obi-Wan bemoans that Luke is probably going to get killed or be turned to the Dark Side and the Jedi will be screwed, and Yoda reminds him that they have another potential savior-in-waiting, Luke’s twin sister Leia.
The situation Team Walker has presented would seem to put the governor in the role of Leia. And that’s cool – Leia’s an ass-kicker in her own right. But that doesn’t make any sense politically. In Yoda’s mind, Leia was there as the backup to Luke. He wasn’t bringing her up as the person who would emerge as the hero at the end of the day, he was just trying to reassure his despairing ghost companion that they had a fallback in case Plan A went to shit, which certainly seemed to be happening at that point in the movie. So the message from Team Walker is that their guy is the last-resort candidate, the person Republicans will turn to only when their preferred candidate commits one too many gaffes or is dismembered by a lightsaber-wielding cyborg.
And that leads to another question: who is Luke in this scenario? Is it Jeb? Christie? Donald Trump? The use of “boy” would seem to exclude Carly Fiorina. I ask because despite Yoda’s and Obi-Wan’s concerns, Luke eventually does emerge triumphant. He defeats Vader, turns him from the Dark Side, and escapes the exploding Death Star with the emperor dead and the Galactic Empire in leaderless ruin. Plan A worked, so Plan B wasn’t needed. So while Jeb/Luke is saving the day, Walker/Leia will be off communing with Ewoks. Team Walker seems to have accidentally pegged the governor as a key player in the sub-plot.
Setting aside the tortured and incoherent analogy, the more grievous sin committed by Team Walker is the fact that this tweet is yet another clumsy and hastily slapped-together attempt by a political brand to hijack pop culture. Generally speaking, political campaigns are very bad at capitalizing on pop culture because they take something people have a real connection to, strip everything that’s fun or nuanced from it, and roughly graft bullshit talking points to its empty husk. “People love ‘Arrested Development,’ right? Well what if we took ‘Arrested Development’ quotes but made them about how Obama sucks? Hah! Brilliant! Youth outreach achieved!”
Campaigns do this all the time, and they invariably end up looking bad because they put no thought into what they’re doing and are quite transparently trying to steal someone else’s popularity and creativity. It’s lazy, it’s cynical, and people see right through it. One should be able to enjoy a movie or TV show irrespective of ideology or party affiliation. Turning that movie or TV show into a blunt weapon in the service of partisanship just breeds resentment among people who’d prefer not to have politics laid that thickly over every aspect of their lives.
That’s exactly what Team Walker did with this stupid Star Wars tweet. If you’re running for office, it’s fine to just let people know that you like the same things they like. Don’t try and force them to like you by crudely inserting yourself into their childhood memories.