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Why Star Wars isn’t Science Fiction

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

If there’s one thing that’ll never change about Star Wars, it’s the fact that the franchise’s fans are always fighting (pardon me, ‘discussing’) over every little aspect of the series. One big topic that many writers before me have tackled is the question: should Star Wars be classified as Sci-Fi or Fantasy? 

First, science fiction is a form of fiction that deals mainly with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals. It relies heavily on scientific facts, theories, and principles as support for its settings, characters, themes and plot-lines. These are the elements that make it distinct from fantasy. 

Of course, there are some essentials: spaceships? Check. Aliens? Check. Futuristic technologies? Check. Cool characters doing even cooler things? Check. While all of that can be linked to Star Wars, it’s not clear-cut enough due to these basic elements appearing in many shows, even in the CW’s Supergirl, a show no onw would classify as sci-fi.

Instead of taking a look in the mirror to expose humanity’s weaknesses, Star Wars takes audiences to a galaxy far, far away with its own laws of physics. There’s plenty of futuristic tech in the movie’s groundbreaking “used future” production design, but it all blends into the background as a part of everyday life in this universe. With Luke, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader all using the Force, Star Wars embraces magical realism. It’s not a movie about astronauts or computer hackers; it’s a movie about wizards and monsters. The Force is just straight-up magic 一 nothing more, nothing less. The only reason “midi-chlorians” came into play was because Lucas wanted to distance the saga from the more fantastical elements and add some pseudoscience into the mix. If you look at the original films and then analyze the Disney trilogy, the Jedi’s abilities are practically the same as any wizard’s  from your favorite fantasy novels.

Despite skewing fantasy more than sci-fi, Star Wars does share one key trait with science fiction. Like District 9’s recreation of apartheid with aliens and Children of Men’s study of humanity’s ugliest sides in the context of a dystopian future, Star Wars filters social commentary through a genre story. George Lucas conceived the Rebels’ struggle against the Empire as an allegory for the Vietnam War, which had ended just two years earlier (and was still ongoing when he started writing). Since Star Wars hit theaters and inspired a new generation of filmmakers, more socially conscious fantasy movies have been popping up. 

Despite these observations, Star Wars is not merely about how humanity deals with changes in technology or science. Instead, it works more like a space mythology, and therefore, is completely fantasy. The only reason we connect it to sci-fi at all is that the setting of the movie is mostly in space, and traveling between planets is an essential characteristic of many popular sci-fi movies. Aesthetically, it looks and feels like a sci-fi film, despite not meeting much of the technical requirements of the genre. In the end, the decision to view Star Wars as science fiction is up to the fans. View the films as you wish and enjoy them no matter what genre they belong to.

Hey there! I’m Alexandra, your local mythology nerd. Currently double majoring in English Lit and Accounting in the UPR.