Reagan’s Star Wars: The Force Was Strong With This One

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Mashable Deputy Editor Chris Taylor’s new book is titled How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, and it’s not just a clever title. The franchise has long permeated every nook and cranny of popular culture.

And not only that, it has even had a big impact on politics.

This part of the story happened a long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away; The 1980s. As Taylor told me during a recent interview:

“[Ronald} Reagan was the ‘Teflon’ president and Star Wars is sort of a Teflon franchise — you cannot use it…in a negative way.

“… It wasn’t actually Reagan or anyone on the right who used [the Star Wars name] first to apply it to [Strategic Defense Initiative], it was Teddy Kennedy. He came up with this metaphor, I think, the day after Reagan made the first TV address…so the Democrats go on the offensive, and Kennedy — on the front page of the next day’s Washington Post — has this line about how it’s a reckless Star Wars scheme.

Taylor continues,

“And then, I think…Kennedy realizes that was actually not the best metaphor to use, because Star Wars was so popular — so a ‘Star Wars scheme’ sounds pretty cool. And he starts talking about it then being a ‘supersonic Edsel’ — Reagan’s a Lone Ranger in the sky, shooting bullets out of the Soviet’s hands.

“And Reagan sort of very interestingly doesn’t refute it. He doesn’t even talk about the Star Wars connection, just allows that to become the nickname. Until 1985, until he safely won the re-election, that landslide election in ’84, and then he finally comes out in a speech and says, ‘Well, hey, some people have compared this to Star Wars, it’s actually about peace. And, if you pardon me borrowing a movie line, ‘The Force is with us.’

“… And, of course, he also made the Evil Empire reference, which was very shortly before the SDI speech. And he says — his speechwriter said that — he wasn’t intending it to apply to Star Wars. But that’s what everyone heard…”

Not to make too big a deal out of this, but essentially you have the association of a movie helping make SDI more popular with the American public. And, of course, some credit SDI with helping end the cold war … Ergo, Star Wars defeated Communism!

Ronald Reagan: The force was strong with this one.

Listen to my full conversation with Chris Taylor here and download the podcast on iTunes.

Tags : star wars
Matt K. Lewis