Star Wars: Andor and its commentary on Colonialism

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

In its first four episodes, Andor has not only proven to be an excellent show, but it has also presented very overt commentary on the issue of colonialism.

In Episodes 1-3, we see Cassian as a young boy on Kenari. He is in a tight-knit group of adolescents, all of whom are played by persons of color. In universe, this group is shown as speaking a native language instead of Basic. They wear more traditional clothing and wield blow darts instead of blasters.

Even before the events of the flashback begin, Cassian’s planet has been exploited by the galactic power. Seemingly, all of the adults are gone. In addition, we see the aftermath of the planet being strip mined by the Republic, or whatever corporate entity, before they abandoned it. When the kids reach the crashed ship, it is presented as foreign or alien to group. It is clear that they have been largely insulated from outside world.

Eventually, Cassian makes his way onto the ship and encounters Maarva. Maarva realizes that Cassian is in trouble, and makes the snap decision to take him away. Although it is a decision of necessity, and potentially saves Cassian’s life, it is not without consequence. He is ripped from his people, and his sister. He has to change his name and shed his cultural identity. Maarva’s decision isn’t without consequence.

The exploitation of Ferrix by the Corporate Authority could fill its own article. So, I won’t get into it here. However, it is filled with themes of class struggle, police violence, and racism.

Fast forward to Episode 4, Cassian is brought to Aldhani by Luthen for a new mission. He is brought into a new group of freedom fighters, there to steal from the Imperial garrison. As Cassian spends the day walking to their encampment, they pass through ruins, and he learns of the fate of the Aldhani people.

The planet was determined to be a prime location as a distribution point for the Empire. So, they displaced the indigenous people, driving them into their cities. This type of action is very reminiscent to the experience of the Native American or First Nations people, as they were pushed into reserves and indoctrinated via residential schools. Just like the indigenous population in the Americas, they were required to integrate into Imperial Society or suffer the consequences.

One thing that should not be ignored, is that this type of behavior is not just a product of the Empire. Everyone watching Star Wars understands that the Empire is evil. However, the Galactic Republic is supposed to be the good guys, yet they came for the resources on Cassian’s home planet. In a time of greater political awareness, it is important that those in colonialist societies come to terms with this notion. Countries that we have been taught to understand as “the good guys” exploited the resources and people of rest of the world.

Themes of colonialism are not just contained within Andor. The High Republic has made several references to it. In A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, the main protagonist Vernestra Rwoh makes a comment on the morality of settling on a inhabited planet versus a previously inhabited one. There is also discussion of the Outer Rim versus the Core worlds in terms of resources and wealth. These comparisons are likely to only get more intense in Phase II, as we enter an era of exploration via the pathfinders.

Star Wars has always been political. A New Hope was largely inspired by the events of the Vietnam War. Now, in our current age, the stories told in a galaxy far, far away draw on new and important themes to those making it.