Analysis

Taking the Politics Out of Six Popular Stories

Ambassadors gathered for the Khitomer Conference.

Politics, in *my* Star Trek? It's more likely than you think!

You know what I can’t stand about speculative storytelling? The politics. I know, it seems like I mostly object to poorly constructed plots, underdeveloped characters, toxic messages, and so on, but really it’s the politics. You just can’t have a good story if there’s politics involved. I don’t know who created that rule or even what it means, but I do know that it’s time to take the politics out of our favorite stories, thus unruining them forever.

1. Leia Compromises on Planetary Destruction

Tarkin staring down Leia while she closes her eyes in disgust.

The first Star Wars film is pretty good until we get to the Death Star plot, and then the whole thing goes off the rails. You might remember how after Tarkin annoys Leia by blowing up her home planet, she totally overreacts by ordering her forces to destroy the entire Death Star in a climactic showdown. Uh, wow, way to be hyper partisan about this, Princess. Did you even consider Tarkin’s point of view at all? Sure, blowing up Alderaan as part of a campaign of terror might seem bad, but what about the next time you want to blow up a planet as part of a campaign of terror?

If Star Wars were a true and good, unpolitical story, Leia would have negotiated with Tarkin over how many planets got destroyed. Maybe Tarkin wants to destroy 100 planets, and Leia bargains him down to 99 planets instead. See, that’s progress, and it didn’t require anyone to get uncivil by sending X-Wings on a trench run. Now, when Leia wants something from Tarkin, she can bring it up for a reasonable discussion. Tarkin won’t give it to her, of course – he is evil after all – but the important part is that they’re talking.

I know that some of you are objecting to this rewrite on the grounds that it’s less exciting, but sometimes that’s the price we pay for making unpolitical stories. There’s just no room for stories about scrappy rebels bringing down an evil empire anymore. From now on, we’ll have to watch the good guys mildly disapprove of the villains’ plans. I think we can all agree that it’s for the best.

2. Shepard Announces All Species Matter

Shepard talking to her squad mate from Mass Effect

With such a glorious and unanimously beloved ending, I bet you’re surprised to hear that Mass Effect 3 has a problem that must be addressed. This happens when the Reapers finally arrive. That’s great and all, but then Shepard goes to defend Earth specifically, just because that’s the one currently being attacked. Military command also calls in lots of reinforcements to defend Earth and only Earth. How political of them!

Look, I’ve got no problem with Earth. I’m sure it’s a lovely planet. But why is it getting all this special attention? What about all the other planets that aren’t currently being attacked by the Reapers? Do they not matter?! Apparently that’s what Shepard thinks, as she rushes to defend Earth with no consideration for anyone else’s homeworld.

Oh, and it gets worse! Later on, Thessia gets attacked, and suddenly that’s the planet we’re supposed to care about. Then it’s the Turians’ turn, and again, Shepard rushes off to defend them and only them. It’s really obvious that Bioware is playing favorites with whichever species is currently under threat from the genocidal AIs who wait beyond the galaxy. If Mass Effect were nonpolitical, like a proper game, Shepard would randomly choose a world to defend or maybe just not defend any of them. That way we’d know that all planets matter equally.

3. Sauron Is Uncanceled

Sauron reaching out with the One Ring from Lord of the Rings.

Look, even I have to admit that Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, has made some mistakes in his life. When he tried to enslave all of Middle-earth at the end of the Second Age, that wasn’t great. And when he tried again in the Third Age, I was the first to say it was a major violation of accepted norms. I still think that assembling an alliance of Elves and Men may have been a bit extreme as a reaction, but it’s clear that wrong was done on both sides.

That said, it is unforgivably political that a bunch of Hobbits then try to destroy Sauron’s legacy as one of Middle-earth’s greatest jewelers. Have you seen the beautiful golden rings he made? They’re just precious! He was kind enough to make three for the Elven-kings* under the sky, seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, and a whopping nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die. Sorry, that got a bit dark at the end, but the point is he only kept one single ring for himself.

Despite this generosity and beautiful craftsmanship, preachy SJWs like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee insist that we need to stop using these rings. They want to cast one into a volcano, if you can believe that, all because of some totally unrelated mistakes on Sauron’s part. Frodo even claims that using the rings gives Sauron power, saying “I wish the ring had never come to me.” Jeez, have they never heard of separating the art from the artist? If Lord of the Rings really wanted to be unpolitical, Frodo would put that ring in a place of honor. Like, my pocketses, perhaps.

4. Cylons Get the Right to Bear Nukes

Two Battlestars circling a damaged Base Star from Battlestar Galactica.

At the start of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, we learn that the Colonial Government has set up a powerful and intricate defense network to protect its planets from a sudden Cylon attack. In fact, the human system is so strong that the Cylons have to send an agent under deep cover in order to bypass it and rain nuclear fire down on the Twelve Colonies.

I think we can all agree that this is an obvious violation of the Cylons’ rights. I mean, who are the humans to say where their archenemy can and can’t bring a ship full of nukes? It’s Big Brother run amok, is what it is! What’s more, it’s an obvious political statement. If BSG wants to take away the Cylons’ nukes, what’s next? Soon they’ll be coming for our oddly octagonal money and our weird space basketball!

The only way for BSG to rid itself of this obvious political bias is to rewrite the early episodes so there are no restrictions on when and where the Cylons can bring their apocalyptic arsenal. That would prove that the show values freedom, a completely nonpolitical concept. In the next reboot, I expect to see raiders bringing nukes right up to Caprica without being bothered by Starbuck or any of her pesky Vipers. No one should have to seduce Gaius Baltar just to do a little genocide.

5. The Doctor Deregulates Time Travel

The Doctor and Rose in front of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is all about one man traveling across time and space entirely on his own volition. He wields this awesome power without any concern for what other people might think, and he certainly doesn’t let any government tell him what to do. More than once, the fate of the universe has rested entirely on his whim, which I think we can all agree is perfectly nonpolitical. He’s even a lord, apparently.

But if you watch enough episodes, a disturbing pattern emerges: the Doctor is always keeping other people (evil aliens) from using the TARDIS for their own purposes. He’s restricting their access to time travel, and what is a restriction if not a regulation? Oh my, suddenly it’s so very political in here! Who does the Doctor think he is, telling other aliens what they can and can’t do to the fabric of time?

Unless Doctor Who wants to come down on the side of Big Time Travel, the only option is for the Doctor to give out his TARDIS to anyone who asks. Only when the Daleks, Cybermen, and Slitheen can change the timeline at will, shall we all be free. Well, we won’t be free exactly. We’ll probably be enslaved or exterminated by Daleks, Cybermen, or Slitheen. But we’ll certainly be less political about it.

6. The Free Market Solves Assimilation

An assimilated Picard staring at the camera from The Next Generation.

The Borg are without a doubt Star Trek’s best villains, especially in their early appearances. It’s a terrifying sight when that titanic cube burns a path toward Earth in “The Best of Both Worlds,” and the tension reaches new highs once Picard is assimilated. You’re really on the edge of your seat wondering how Riker and the rest of the crew will save the people of Earth from sharing the captain’s fate.

But then you have to ask, should the Enterprise really be fighting to protect everyone on Earth? That sounds like some people would be getting something they didn’t earn, which is disgustingly political. In a story that wasn’t so obsessed with politics, there would be some arbitrary metric to determine which Federation citizens deserve to be saved. Perhaps, as a completely random example, it could be based on wealth, since having people pay for the right to live is a very unpolitical and neutral choice.

I can already hear your objections. “But, Oren,” you say, “the Federation doesn’t have money, so how can they enact this very rational plan?” Fortunately, there is a solution: they can pay in gold-pressed latinum. Just a few hundred bars, nothing too onerous. And for those who don’t have a bunch of latinum lying around? Well, they can just sell their vacuum-desiccated remains on the Ferengi exchange. I hear they offer very generous rates!


There we have it: all politics successfully removed from some of our favorite stories. It’s unsettling how many of them turned out to be so political in the first place, but I think we can all agree that they’re greatly improved now. But we must not rest, as there are so many other stories out there just chock full of politics. Next time, we’ll examine how Supernatural’s Sam and Dean should let the demons eat at least one child, as a treat.

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Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    Isn’t this twelve days early?

    But, yes, keep the politics out of stories!

  2. Star of Hope

    What’s next? Angel is a right wing libertarian with social darwinist leanings, who put an end to Jasmine mind-controlling spell, thus ending World Peace and emotionally hurting tons of people throughout the globe just to secure humanity’s freedom? Are we gonna pretend that this was a very questionable choice? I mean you people wrote an entire article about how we should ditch good and evil for more serious ditchonomies, like security vs freedom!!!

    • Uly

      Tell me, do you think Swift was really advocating for wholesale baby-eating when he made his modest proposal?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      I believe Star was attempting to continue the sarcasm jokes, though I could be wrong.

      • Star of Hope

        Yes it was, I mean who wants to have a fallen higher being mind-controlling us? Maybe I am too much into freedom, but I am not willing to sacrifice my own mind or others just to have an “benevolent” autocrat rule the world.

        • Uly

          Joke’s on me, then!

  3. Jeppsson

    Hahaha this was hilarious.

    Btw just watched Snyder’s four-hour long version of the Justice League. Early on, Wonder Woman takes down a terrorist group that consists of a bunch of ageing white men in suits, who want to blow shit up and make chaos with the ultimate goal of returning to “the good old days” (like, Arthurian times or so). The DCEU WW is millenia old herself, and still, she shows no respect for their views!

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Ugh, how *political* of Wonder Woman!

      • Jeppsson

        Not to mention Cyborg! He’s introduced as someone who’ll break the rules in order to help those less fortunate, and after he gets his powers, we see him stealing money from a bank and giving it to the poor! It’s like the movie tells us that poor losers don’t have to work to improve their lot; they’re entitled to a “hero” handing out cash for free!

        On a more serious note though, I thought it was refreshing to introduce a superhero more as a Robin Hood character than as a traditional crime fighter.

  4. SunlessNick

    Doctor Who is all about one man

    Was that part of the satire?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      The author of this article would no doubt consider Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor as deplorably political if he followed Doctor Who enough to remember who the current Doctor even is.

  5. Ace of Hearts

    Everyone knows that in fiction there are only two genders: male and political. There are also only two ethnicities: white and political. Also only two sexual identities…

    My own sarcasm aside, #2 and #6 are so clever. Hats off to you, Oren!

  6. Dave L

    I agree, of course

    In fact, I read Mythcreants PRECISELY because it’s a chance to get away from politics

    A totally “woke-free”, “SJW-free” site. Totally politically neutral

    Of course, I only skim most of the articles here. I may have missed one or two references…

  7. Bellis

    Pure Gold!
    I was gonna point out some of my favourite examples and phrases, but it’s all so good

    Suffice it to say, I support this message completely. Let’s have an anti-political campaign to get all politics out of storytelling! I’ll draw some un-banners with the phrase “ban all politics”!
    Stories might end up dull and unsettling, but at least we’ll be unpolitical about it.

  8. Grady Elliott

    Could you do The Expanse next?

    That’d be… interesting.

  9. wnat

    This is why I hate Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot. Every episode preaches some new woke ideology. Rod Serling never had episodes that preached tolerance, empathy, pacifism, altruism, acceptance, democracy, anti-authoritarianism, or equality.

  10. JXMcKie

    Quite fond of Sarcasm, aren´t we

  11. S.T. Ockenner

    Okay, this seems like a joke.

    • Julia M.

      It’s satire.

      • S.T. Ockenner

        Ah, I see that now. Thank you. It seemed to get more and more ridiculous the further I went through it.

  12. Michael

    People tend to only say this where it’s politics they dislike, of course. I’ll admit that with some media that has been my reaction as well, when the message is especially blatant (mostly right-wing). However, when the view is heavy-handed and detracts from the story, it can get annoying even with the ones I agree on. It’s especially silly when creators appear to think having a fictional story which makes a political point in some way “proves” they’re right. This is similar to the Real World Fallacy that has been written of on the site before. In any case, the examples where people get upset of course are far more nuanced than those used here. Few would disagree that the Empire is bad, though I have seen some (probably, I hope) Internet Poes claiming to defend them.

  13. Jeppsson

    Ugh. Just now, Antje Jackelén, archbishop of Sweden, withdrew from Twitter and other social media due to all the harrassment and threats. Another bishop wrote a piece on it in a newspaper, saying the stuff she’s endured would break anyone: B***, filth, terroristhugger, traitor of the nation and a threat to mankind were among the nicer things the haters called her.

    And when this piece pops up on social media, you see all these people commenting that ok, maybe it’s kind of bad to drown people in hate on Twitter, but still, she wouldn’t have been attacked like this unless she had been POLITICAL. An archbishop shouldn’t be POLITICAL. A church shouldn’t be POLITICAL. If she had been nicely non-political, none of this would have happened.

    Wtf is up with this present-day use of “political”?

    • Cay Reet

      Yeah, that’s a pretty shitty excuse for harassing someone online ‘they were political.’ It doesn’t matter who it is, everyone has a right to their opinion on everything, including politics. You can disagree with them on a factual level and tell them that. But that kind of thing is way off base and just not acceptable.

      Besides – for women, it’s already political to open their mouth in public, so there’s no way to be a woman on Twitter (or other social media) without being political, anyway.

      • Jeppsson

        I was mostly thinking of what Oren sarcastically wrote in the article, about ”freedom, a completely non-political value”. People use ”political” to mean ”progressive politics which I’m against” (usually, it doesn’t even have to be all that progressive), whereas they don’t see their own views as ”political”.

        I follow this priest and cartoonist on social media, who just posted a cartoon of a dude saying ”The church should be a politically neutral institution of traditional conservative values!” which kind of makes the same point.

        (One reason this blew up so much on Swedish social media, btw, is that their attacks on the archbishop and the church illustrates the increasing boldness of the altright…)

  14. AlgaeNymph

    Recently, in the Champions RPG forum, somebody said that superheroes are only supposed to fight major disasters and giant monsters, with modern writers just not *getting* it by having heroes fighting injustice. He also said that if comics were like the real world then Spider-Man couldn’t do his job because the Attorney General got Green Goblin off because he was helping BLM. I provided copious examples of how heroes have been for social justice since pretty much forever. He accused me of wanting a soapbox instead of an interesting discussion.

  15. Koeleria

    This was an entertaining takedown of people who complain about anything that challenges their exceedingly narrow view of how the world is supposed to be. But there are ways that putting politics into a story can make it worse. Regardless of what sort of politics they are.

    A common one is to insert a lecture about real world politics into a fantasy story. If your character is delivering monologues on economic theory, they should be an economist solving an economic problem. If the lecture can be removed without changing the story, it shouldn’t be there. If the lecture does belong, consider making it a discussion. It would sound more natural.

    Another common problem is to copy and paste modern world political concerns and alliances into an imaginary world. Why do the lizard people of Mars, in the year 3000, have exactly the same problems as us today? Today’s hot button issues could be irrelevant 10 years from now, let alone 1000 years from now. And why are the lizard people’s politics divided into modern America’s left and right wings? Political factions are formed through alliances of convenience and accidents of history and culture. With a different history, culture, and issues, the political alliances will be different.

    A lot of speculative fiction is commentary on the modern world. So setting up parallels to modern politics works in that sort of story. But good worldbuilding should be internally consistent. And having contrasts to modern politics can also serve as commentary on the modern world.

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