Star Wars: The Force Awakens created an enormous hype, perpetuating almost every aspect of culture, and seemingly life, before its release.
One’s trip to a supermarket did not even offer a recluse from the media bombardment as branded oranges were decorated with various related images. Largely, J.J. Abrams film lived up to furore, in that it did not disappoint – perhaps not as good as the original three, but lightyears (pun intended) ahead of the latest three.
Aside from the blockbuster, all action nature of this latest instalment exists an unexplored allegory. It juxtaposes sharply with the central purpose of the film, however. Primarily designed to entertain, J.J. Abrams, regardless of his intention, established a plot that stinks of antebellum America. Namely, there is a subtle metaphor behind Fin’s character: the escaping slave.
Briefly, America refused to relinquish their right to keep slaves after they had established independence from the British Empire in 1776. What followed was a divide in American politics; the North, on the whole, supporting the abolition of the slave trade, whilst the South propagated its continuation. During this period of enforced slavery, those with enough courage and daring sought to escape the brutal and inhumane plantations in pursuit of the North, to join the abolitionist movement.
Back to Star Wars. The opening scenes of the film focus on Finn, a character born into the First Order’s storm-trooper programme. Stripped of an identity, he exists as a possession, a weapon, serving no other purpose than to kill and conquer. Much like those subject to the slave trade, Finn’s life serves a singular purpose: essentially, work.
It becomes quickly apparent that Finn’s restless and disillusioned spirit is not in harmony with the philosophy of the Empire. He wants to leave his plantation. He then embarks upon a journey that reflects that of an escaped slave.
Whilst he does not perform it with the same subtlety that would be expected of an escape slave in America, Finn eventually throws off the shackles of the First Order, liberating himself.
Joining forces with Rey, their relationship lends even more credence to the escaped slave hypothesis. Hollywood films have a curious tendency to pair white protagonists with black characters; whether it is a ‘token’ gesture or something more symptomatic of a culture that seeks to use black actors as foils for white actors, it presents another intriguing comparison. Escaped black-men would often rely on the aid of white abolitionists to secure their safety. Indeed, Finn, the ‘escaped black slave’ relies upon the ‘white’ Rey to protect him from the chasing Empire.
Whilst Finn’s journey does not constitute the whole plot of the film, his astonishingly similar story of escape with that of those in 18/19th Century America is, once noticed, strikingly metaphorical.