Why ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ Raises the Bar for Animation

Sure, everyone's hyped over the films, but this smart series has much to offer

Drama was never really the purview of animated films until Pixar came along, and rarely had anything animated on television aspired to much beyond irreverent or sophomoric humor or content overtly directed at kids.

However, “Star Wars: Rebels” has upped the ante for all animated television. Not only is it very well-executed, with exceptional storytelling, but it delivers solid conservative values to audiences of all ages. “Rebels” never stoops. It isn’t intended as goof-off entertainment but as a true half-hour animated drama, albeit with plenty of story and character-driven humor.

“Rebels” follows a diverse group of individuals in their fight against the Galactic Empire, during the period between Episodes III and IV of the “Star Wars” film saga. The main thrust of the narrative champions freedom and individual sovereignty over the power of the State, much as we’ve seen in the films.

Yet the individual episodes examine this theme far more closely than one would ever expect from a Disney Channel TV series, much less an animated one. There are real stakes here. Families have been killed. Planets have been wiped out. The main characters come from several different planets, all of which are subjugated under the boots of the Empire. Each character has real emotional ties to their homeland — not unlike those who were forced to flee their countries as the Nazis invaded.

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The series, which just returned on Saturday, imparts surprisingly mature conservative themes on its audience.

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Conservatives continue to battle the culture war here in America, and the same significance of culture is frequently tackled in “Rebels.” Meaningful cultural and spiritual relics have been destroyed or stolen by the Empire, because its minions know the power that culture has over a people. Many episodes somehow involve the Empire imposing its will, or corrupting, some cultural elements of some planet. It is a wonderfully subversive approach to storytelling — use animation to bring in younger audiences, provide mature storylines, and use the Left’s own messaging against it. Why can’t the Empire just leave species that are different to be who and what they are?

Of greatest significance in that regard is the ongoing battle between the Light and Dark Side of The Force — itself a vital cultural element, represented by the nearly extinct Jedi. The parable here is of tremendous value to audiences. Not only does it thoughtfully deepen the mythology of the “Star Wars” universe, and propel the stories and character journeys, The Force is the ultimate representation of the importance of culture and faith.

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Jedi culture, relics, sacred locations, temples — these are hallmarks of the series. Just as the State seeks to stamp out any form of faith or spirituality, the Empire has been trying to extinguish all trace of the Jedi. The biggest obstacle to total control is faith, after all.

In addition, the Sith are very powerful at this point in the saga, and the desire to corrupt the Force and to use it for evil is no different that the Left’s attempt to mock and delegitimize Christianity in this country.

The writers place the characters in jeopardy and force them to make very difficult choices.

The Force has always been a representation of both faith and the spiritual ever since the original film. This is where the real power lies, for both the Rebellion and the Empire. Whether one chooses to embrace faith and its power for good, or the “Dark Side” (i.e. satanic power) for evil is an ongoing thematic statement about free will. Indeed, the main character is a young man named Ezra, whose parents were outspoken critics of the Empire and taken prisoner. He is tapped into the Force and faces frequent challenges from the Dark Side as he strives to determine the best course of action when so much is at stake from one episode to the next. The survival of the Jedi culture depends a lot on him, his mentor Kanan, and the few scattered Jedi that remain.

All this, from an animated series!

There are plenty of other thematically relevant episodes for conservatives. In one episode, several Imperial pilots wish to defect to the Rebellion. There is plenty of danger here, because if they or our heroes are caught, the consequences will be severe. This is yet another universal parable concerning life during wartime. At what point does one’s conscience require a foot soldier to abandon the relative safety of the overwhelming favorite to join the underdog, and risk his life?

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Perhaps the single greatest achievement of each episode is that the writers place the characters in jeopardy and force them to make very difficult choices, the kinds of choices one is forced to make during wartime — and by extension, in life. The decision is not always a clean one.

While liberal snowflakes cry over not getting trophies, “Star Wars: Rebels” are off fighting real battles, and demonstrating what real character is, and why it’s important.

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