United States: Book Review: The World According To Star Wars

It was right after our selfie with Minion Captain America that we saw it. We were marching up and down the aisles, dodging empire storm troopers. Bright lights and backbone-rattling sounds shot out of the Nickelodeon and Star Trek pavilions. A tractor beam pulled us toward a booth hawking books on manga, the Golden and Silver Ages of DC Comics, the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series on BBC ... and a modest-looking blue book authored by our Constitutional Law professor. We waited for a phalanx of zombies to pass by so that we could move in for a closer look. What was a law text doing at Comic Con? (Maybe we are in no position to ask that question. After all, we spurned the long lines for the Hall H and Ballroom 20 Warner Bros. and Simpsons panels for a discussion by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on "Sex, Violence, and the Law." Verily, we were a nerd among nerds.)

It is a bit hard to believe that someone is compiling statistics on law professor citations. Was it Kissinger who said that academic disputes are so vicious precisely because they are so trivial? In any event, Cass Sunstein leads the legal citation league standings by light years. When we took his class, he was a relatively humane practitioner of the Socratic method. He was considered one of the few liberals on the Chicago faculty, though that is a gross oversimplification both of his views and of those supposedly sitting on the other side of the spectrum. (Is Posner really a conservative?) Sunstein later went to his alma mater, Harvard Law School (aka the Death Star). He also worked for a while in the Obama administration. His mission was to make regulations more rational. Sunstein was well-suited for this mission, because he had been noodling over ways in which behavioral economics could inform the law. He was co-author of a somewhat controversial book, Nudge. That work explores how laws and regulations can steer people in better directions while preserving freedom of choice. It is a kind of Jedi mind trick. And now Sunstein has given us a charming little (under 200 pages) book, The World According to Star Wars.

The book is clearly a labor of love. Sunstein has always been a busy guy, but fatherhood afforded him an opportunity to catch up on the Star Wars saga. He dedicated the book to his son. Much of the book supplies interesting back-stories to Star Wars, and how so much of it was accidental. For example, if George Lucas's father had his way, his son would never have gone into anything as frivolous as the film business. We never would have heard of Lucas, or certainly of Luke Skywalker.

Sunstein divided the book up into ten episodes (E.g., Episode I: I am Your Father- The Heroic Journey of George Lucas; Episode II: The Movie No One Liked: An Expected Flop Becomes the Defining Work of Our Time"). Oddly, Sunstein's explanation of how the film series came to be omits our little contribution to the origin story. There is as much enthusiasm as analysis in the book. Some of it is shockingly wrong-headed. He submits an "Objective, Authoritative Ranking of Star Wars Movies," and somehow places both Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith ahead of The Force Awakens. That sort of thing can make one doubt the rigor of the 30-plus years of Sunstein's scholarship.

But there is much of substance and value in Sunstein's Star Wars book. He explains how network effects and cascades work. He discusses how democracy can descend into dictatorship, and how populations can polarize. Anyone who has watched a mock jury deliberate will appreciate how group dynamics can lead to outcomes more extreme than any one individual would have proposed. Best of all, Sunstein ties the Star Wars films into his theory of judicial interpretation. Perhaps it is an understatement to point out that Sunstein is not an originalist, at least not in the sense that Justice Scalia (whom Sunstein says he liked and admired) was. Sunstein is sure that the original intent of the founders was that original intent should not govern. Instead, constitutional interpretation is a process of creation, whereby judges arrive at fair results that seem right for our times and can be (mostly) squared with precedent. He gives examples of judicial innovations that could not possibly be grounded in original intent, such as extending the first amendment to commercial speech, finding private rights in the second amendment, and the various doctrinal meanderings through affirmative action, religious liberties, and sexual and gender issues. Rather, those rulings, whether you like them or not, are like the latest chapters in a chain novel in which the author is trying to write the best possible story. It is hard to decide whether to call Sunstein's approach a variant of legal realism or legal fantasy.

The Star Wars example that Sunstein uses to illustrate his theory of judicial interpretation is from the best moment of the best movie, The Empire Strikes Back. It is shocking and thrilling when Darth Vader announces to Luke that "I am your father." (You can go onto YouTube and see videos that parents made of their kids reacting as that moment plays across a tv screen.) Luke denies it, but Darth Vader tells him to search his feelings to know that it is true. Except it isn't true. Or it wasn't. In the first Star Wars movie that Lucas made, now called Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi tells Luke that Vader killed Luke's father. Thus, after the revelation in Empire, Obi Wan, or Obi Wan's ghost, has some 'splainin' to do. Obi Wan tells Luke that Anakin Skywalker was seduced by the dark side, became Darth Vader, and essentially destroyed the man he had been. So, according to Obi Wan, what he had earlier told Luke was true, "from a certain point of view." Sunstein does not think that Lucas's original intent was that Luke would be Vader's son, or that Luke and Leia would be twins, but those elements later became so right, added such impact and depth, that he wrote later stories that went in those directions. That "from a certain point of view" was like all the rationalization that we see in judicial opinions explaining how the court is following, not flouting, precedent. It is a necessary fiction in service of a bigger cause.

Now you may not agree with this theory and/or you may not like it. We think there is a lot of truth to it. We just wish that the tales spun by judges didn't so often come out like The Phantom Menace and not so often like The Empire Strikes Back. In any event, The World According to Star Wars is an enjoyable, accessible approach to one of America's most vibrant thinkers.

One last point. The cover of The World According to Star Wars shows an empire storm trooper bending down, ready to scoop up a toddler storm trooper with affection. It is a cute image. It is also pertinent. Sunstein says that the main themes of the Star Wars movies are fatherhood, redemption, and freedom. Those themes intertwine. Fathers can be harsh authority figures. They lay down the law. Love and repression coexist uneasily. Children eventually, perhaps too soon, get their way and break away. Meanwhile, fathers trade freedom for mind-forged manacles. In the sometimes mean business of getting a living, one can start to look like a harsh, dark father. Sunstein writes that, "At the decisive moment, children save their parents." As we wandered around the Comic Con exhibition space, seeing the wall-to-wall silliness, seeing the children who were there and thinking about a couple who weren't, the prospect of such salvation seemed far from silly.

This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.