15He’s based on Nixon

Senator Palpatine from the Star Wars prequels

Yes, Tricky Dick Nixon himself served as the inspiration for one of the most evil characters in cinematic history. Casual viewers often assume that George Lucas actually based the Empire on the Nazis, and ergo, the Emperor became an analog of Hitler. While the Empire certainly does bear

similarities to the Nazi regime, keen viewers will also note that the Rebels have their share of fascist imagery too. For example, the awards ceremony at the end of A New Hope appears to take inspiration from the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. Critic Pauline Kael pointed out as much in her original Star Wars review, and never warmed to the series as a result.

But back to the Emperor. Lucas wrote Star Wars in the 1970s, at the height of the Watergate scandal. A staunch liberal, he based the Emperor and his rise to power on Richard Nixon. Like the former president, the Emperor rises to power as a demagogue in the midst of an orchestrated war (Clone Wars/Vietnam). Like Nixon, the Emperor curtailed freedoms and attacked enemies through shady—and illegal—dealings. The Galactic Civil War between the Rebels and the Empire mirrors the culture war that erupted in the United States during Nixon’s presidency.

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