349/366 – The Tried And True Rebellion In Cinema
Rogue One coming out this week and into the weekend means that once again we’re being treated to a old yet reliable/enjoyable trope in cinema – that of the plucky, courageous rebellion fighting against an oppressive and intolerant empire. While Star Wars, the universe in which this movie is set in, seemed to help pioneer this sort of likeable story, it’s nevertheless one that I think people keep coming back to in movies because of a lot of reasons.
One of these is the idea that change is possible even in the midst of it not seeming to be that way. Rebellions in many movies are all about introducing some level of upheaval or change in power, oftentimes in the face of overwhelming opposition. The fact that in many of these movies, the success of the heroes means that something new and fresh is born is one that is appealing to many people who watch them. Status quo has been good on some level but has become to lot of people glacial and boring on others. This is especially true when said status quo features some pretty unsavory behavior, making the rebels immediate sympathetic characters despite their penchant for disruption and pushback against the current order of things. That’s why a lot of people get invested in these types of stories – they want to see something different and for the rebels to introduce that difference into its fictional setting.
Another is definitely for the fact that characterization of rebellions have always had noble or idealistic goals in mind. Sure, there’s the occasional morally questionable rebellion story, or questions asked about whether or not the rebels replace one set of oppression with another, but for the most part, the rebels are in the right from an ethics and moral standpoint. This means that it’s easy for them to be cheered and appreciated, because every victory they achieve is a victory that is one for good in the world. Most people have a good idea of moral right and wrong and it’s nice to imagine themselves in a place where they are doing good in the world while at the same time fighting against what’s perceived to be evil.
But the thing that I think is most appealing about the rebellion storyline is the fact that it highlights the idea that even in the face of such oppression and power, even when an opponent or force seems to be overwhelming or superior to someone, that there’s always a chance, under the right circumstances and the right actions and help, that they can be toppled or otherwise defeated. That there are times in which it can be not only right but worthwhile and successful to take up a cause that is counter to one that is massively pervasive is appealing to many people. People like to envision themselves being able to do something about something in their life that they feel is like an immovable object that is keeping them from doing what they want. That they can see a story play out, even if it’s just on the movie screen, of that kind of force being actually pushed aside in favor of an underdog is satisfying and interesting, especially if it seems to reflect a similar situation in life. It’s probably the reason why people cherish the Star Wars story, that they will cherish this offshoot of it in Rogue One, and why the trope succeeds more often than it fails. More than anything, it fuels possibility, which is the great equalizer to many of the things in life that might seem to be impossible to deal with.