If you’ve been following our blog for some time now (or since yesterday), you’ll notice that we do a lot of “These Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs!” or “These Christmas movies aren’t Christmas movies” type of stuff. This is going to be another one of those times. Strap in.
Except, this time I’m not talking about Christmas. This semester I took a writing seminar that involved writing about western films. So, naturally, we got into a heated discussion about Star Wars. For the longest time, Star Wars (particularly Episode IV) has been regarded as a “space western”, or just a western. Today, I am here to argue that Stars Wars is not a western. Maybe it’s a space western. First off, let’s figure out what that is.
Wikipedia says it’s a "subgenre of science fiction which uses the themes and tropes of Westerns within science fiction stories”. Okay, fine. Star Wars definitely has some western tropes: it partially takes place in a desert setting, some of its heroes display “loner” characteristics etc. I think to say that Star Wars implements some western genre elements is totally fair and accurate. And I’ll even go as far as to say that that puts it in the subgenre of space westerns. But I don’t think that makes it a western.
Han and Leia have comedic romantic banter but you don’t hear anyone saying that Star Wars is a space rom com. That’s because it isn’t. It’s a science fiction film with some romantic-comedic elements. Just like how it has western elements. Yet, for some reason, some feel the need to say it’s a western.
Moreover, Luke is definitely not a western hero. And, while there are many supporting characters in Star Wars, he is no doubt the hero or film lead. And for that reason alone, I don’t think it’s accurate to label it a western. Luke is a nice boy who loves his family. A western hero is hard. mean, and independent. That sounds a lot more like Han, but he isn’t the film’s hero.
In conclusion: Star Wars does indeed have some notable tropes of the western genre. For that reason, it is feasibly a “space western” as it is defined as a subgenre. However, it is not a western. If you think it is, your opinion is stupid and wrong. Simple as that. (jk)