The Acolyte Bastardizes Star Wars


No critique of The Acolyte, the radical new Disney+ Star Wars knockoff, can surpass the Facebook wag who opined that “George Lucas is rolling over in his grave.” Explanation: Writer-producer-director and super-tech geek George Walton Lucas Jr., who made Star Wars in 1977 and then started the Industrial Light & Magic visual-effects facility and the THX audio-effects company, is very much alive at age 80 and worth a Forbes-reported $5.3 billion. But Lucas sold his most beloved property to Disney, submitting to its progressive political agenda. The Acolyte proselytizes a changeover from a patriarchal to a matriarchal world system, and that has got fanboys in a tizzy. To some, Lucas and all he once stood for, is as good as dead.

The Acolyte — the latest Star Wars prequel and an eight-part streaming series on Disney+ — is set a hundred years before the original Luke Skywalker saga. That’s where its female protagonist, Osha (biracial, “non-binary” actress Amandla Stenberg), is a space mechanic (meknek) who studied at the Jedi Temple as a Padawan (apprentice). She becomes embroiled in a crime investigation that uncovers her conflicted heritage and tests her allegiance to several Jedi masters, Indara (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Sol (Lee Jung-jae) — representing the gender and ethnic diversification of the franchise’s warriors.

That’s not so much a plot summary as an outline of the series’ easy-to-read political allegory. Show-runner Leslye Headland contrived The Acolyte using Star Wars ideas, figures, and lingo to replicate progressive pillars for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, the corporate bottom line said to prioritize “profit, people, planet” — this time in the interplanetary sense.

Headland’s past-world allegory presents a sci-fi social fantasy in which women rule. This includes not just Osha and her mysterious sister Mae (twins who are also hero/villain alter egos) but also Indara and Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith). The latter is a witch and the twins’ mother, who, like other females in the show, possesses Luke’s ability to use the Force. Promoting ESG and DIE (diversity, inclusion, equity), The Acolyte grooms Star Wars fans to accept a new political order. “This is not about good or bad. It’s about power, and who gets to wield it!” Aniseya instructs Osha — a major realignment, far from what made The Empire Strikes Back the most morally compelling of all Star Wars films.

Blame Lucas for starting this sci-fi fantasy-reformation mess with his Star Wars prequels — The Phantom Menace was set 32 years BBY. (That’s Before the Battle of Yavin, a.k.a. the Battle of the Death Star that pitted the Galactic Empire against the Rebel Alliance in the first Star Wars entry, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope.) Since then, other Disney + series such as Andor have been set before, in 5 BBY; and The Mandalorian series was set after, in 9 ABY.)

Now, these pseudo-religious dates (mocking the Christian calendar) recall the radical feminist worldview of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project and its “alternate facts,” remaking historical legend into a politicized, re-gendered fantasy. If progressives can’t get “change” one way, they’ll try another, and The Acolyte is the latest Hollywood ploy to that effect.

This outright feminization of Lucas’s Star Wars also bastardizes its boys’-adventure premise. The latest generation of fans is being persuaded to change their ethical and audience-reception values; they must pace their wonderment alongside the political correctness of ESG. And last week’s mixed reviews and contradictory audience responses (what Reddit calls being “brigaded”) are signs of cultural growing pains.

When Variety touts that The Acolyte “puts its own spin on hallowed lore,” it buys in to everything the ESG doctrine stands for. Hollywood Reporter condemns how the establishment-versus-feminists premise imposes “traditions on others with the full might of their institutional power.” Through The Acolyte, Stenberg, in her dual roles, and Headland separate themselves from Lucas’s Old Hollywood orthodoxy, selling new doctrine.

The thickets of political confusion evident in The Acolyte’s reviews and social-media commentary capture the gradual process of this cultural reformation — first the initial resistance, then docile acceptance. Zack Snyder attempts to reimagine and sexualize all this in Rebel Moon. Meanwhile, Headland keeps The Acolyte rather sexless, her subversion of Disney’s antiseptic, ultimately banal traditions.

For those who are disinclined to visit any of the dozens of Star Wars xeroxes, know this: The current controversy about The Acolyte, perfectly named for a commercial enterprise targeting a juvenile audience base, resembles the same brainwashing that ties some folk to legacy media. Roll over, George Lucas.