Rebels in the Sky is a perfectly timed punk rock anthem against the rise and power of fascism. At first glance, you may equate this to a simple parody with clever references to one of the world’s most iconic series. However, Chris Bramante’s ballad is much more complex, melding the politics of Star Wars with our current political strife. Rebels in the Sky is a call for unity, a call to rise up against a never receding oppressor. A stark reminder of how the world of Star Wars is not unfamiliar enough to our own, however far far away.
Some of you may recognize Chris from his previous video Hufflepuff Puff Pass, which made it was around the internet last year hitting io9, Nerdist and many others. I expect nothing less from this latest video.
Since Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases today, the fandom is at an absolute fever-pitch. Combine that with current events such as tax reform, the newly announced death of Net Neutrality and the all too close election in Alabama, and you have the recipe for a real hit. The people are hungry for action and this brilliantly crafted song uses precisely selected pop-culture references to signal everyone to keep fighting “We’re the Rebels in the Sky, Rise Up, Resist, Join the Fight”
Let's break down some what this song is really saying
“When the Republic fell, many people looked the other way
They ignored the pain while the Emperor reigned as long as they could go about their day
Then the Death Star came and we thought we saved the day
then another one came and we thought we saved the day
then the third one came, but they changed its name”
This first section of the chorus is referencing the Death Star in Episode IV, VI and more recently Starkiller Base in Episode VII. Star Wars has always used this as a commentary on how history repeats itself. The series faced harsh criticisms for the introduction of Starkiller Base and how similar it made Episode VII to Episode IV. Art imitates life, and in many ways, the predictability of yet another super weapon should have come as no surprise. When you consider the Death Star to its real-world counterpart the Nuclear bomb, the construction of a more powerful version in Starkiller Base seems apt after our arms race to the creation of Hydrogen bombs like the Tsar Bomb.
“Now the streets are filled again with Imperial Parades”
If you’re outside of the Star Wars fandom then you may be unaware of the Alt-Rights distaste for Star Wars framing of the First Order and all things anti-nazi. With actual nazi sympathetic groups marching in our streets, our own rebellion seems all too real. These stormtroopers may wield tiki torches, but their hate is not to be ignored or underestimated. We as a people have pushed back against events like Charlottesville, but we are still fighting this fight and seeing these groups continue to feel emboldened. There is a very clear through line between this lyric and the sentiment being expressed about our current cultural crisis.
“They want you to…
Forget about the lies, forget about the cost
Forget the million innocents on Alderaan we lost
How can you stand aside and refuse to join the cause
while liberty dies with the thunderous applause?”
This next section right before the chorus has a multitude of prescribable meanings in terms of both star wars lore and our shared history.
The first two lines share a double meaning. First an innocuous reference to the Jedi mind-altering abilities seen in the series, one of the less subtle nods but appreciated all the same. The secondary way you should be reading into this line deals with our ability to make excuses.
The Empire was built on the strength of a peaceful and democratic republic. The galaxy was not taken over by a foreign power, it was their own willful ignorance that created and propped up the authoritarian regime.
The peace shared by the republic is why systems within the Senate refused to take the calls to action against the Separatists seriously in time. Although bureaucracy was slow it was democratic, and effective over the last 1000 years. Senator Palatine used this moment to begin the erosion the democratic systems that served the galaxy for so long.
Ultimately, after ousting Chancellor Valorum and with continued chaos in the galaxy, Palpatine is elected Supreme Chancellor, and continues to dismantle the power of the Senate; granting himself unlimited power in the end and becoming the Emperor.
During his rise, various systems which had yet to be pulled into conflict went along with his plans, if it meant isolating conflict away from their home-worlds. Rather than get involved, many systems ignored the calls and pleas by those who saw the unraveling of millennia of peace and prosperity because they could either sit-outside the conflict safely or possibly profit from it.
When the Emperor is given his power, many in the Senate were clapping, and cheering for this man; not heeding the calls against the regime and threat authoritarianism. The continued ignorance and sidelining by these systems would go on for another 19 years until the Senate is completely dissolved and the Emperor has finished the construction of the Death Star.
These are not simple questions, these are the inner ravings of a man begging his people to see how fragile our own democracy is. The political climate in the United States is in full crisis mode. We have an electorate that is not representing the will of its population. Regardless of the overwhelming action taken against the repeal of Net Neutrality today, we saw it’s undoing. Add to this the over 2 million falsified signatures in support of it repealing Net Neutrality and the FCC’s decision to ignore this fact. These constant lies and abuses of power are undermining our government.
This doesn’t even step into the say in which the current FCC Chair Ajit Pai makes jokes about his actions, and how his small but powerful constituents clap and laugh about their actions. You can look at the recent tax reform the Senate pushed through in the exact same vein. This is all without touching on the abuses of power our President has continued to attempt. Between the power grabs, lack of representation, and even probing into Russian hacking I would be putting lightly to say we are in a very pivotal moment of history.
"So, we FLY FLY FLY
We’re the Rebels in the Sky
When the Empire strikes,
We unite, We ignite
We Fly Fly Fly
We’re the Rebels in the Sky
Rise Up, Resist, Join the Fight"
The chorus is a calling card to everyone. Rise up, resist and unite. Simple, effective and powerful. It perfectly represents the struggle of the early Rebel army, The Resistance and the disenfranchised.
"Supreme Leader Snoke can’t take away our hope
You cannot control us, we are not your clones
Got no saber of light, Never was a Jedi Knight
I don’t sense it in the Force, I see it with my eyes"
This lyric is important because the usage of Supreme Leader Snoke places the song in the most current chronology. By fixing the song to a specific time, the narratives constructed now have more leverage. There is a clear narrator who is now speaking to us.
The next two lines reference the original minions of the Emperor and his clone army. Something that the First Order has yet to utilize. This section of the song is all about creating a bridge to connect with the audience. Not only do we have a time and place for the current events, but we also know the singer that is asking you to join the fight isn’t even a Jedi. He has no abilities that the audience doesn’t hold either. Which is why when he claims he can “see it with my eyes” we can assume he is talking about not just what the people of Star Wars see on screen, but what we have bared witness to every day. He is telling everyone to open their eyes, look at what is happening.
"There’s a dark side rising
A phantom menace
There's an AT-AT horizon
There are spies in the Senate
We won’t lay down defenseless
When the troopers turn against us
They'll face the consequences
Like Palpatine’s apprentice"
This next section has a great mix of pop-culture and real-world implications alternating one another. There’s a dark side rising, a phantom menace is both about the rise in modern-day nazism as well as a direct reference to Episode I. The line "spies in the Senate" points to Palpatine and his Gríma Wormtongue tongue ability to manipulate his way to power through the cloak of darkness and the ongoing Russian hacking probes.
The second half is a bit more direct to the series' events, as well as other themes already covered in this breakdown. The specific line about the troopers turning against us could also easily be attributed to Americans clashing against one another, hitting again on the tragedy of Charlottesville. This section ends before going back to the chorus with a reminder of the looming justice that we are all eagerly awaiting those whom have harmed our democracy and the people it is meant to serve. It could also be linked to the revolving door that has been the White House, a similar discarding of former assets in the same vein Darth Maul was to Emperor Palpatine.
“See how they lead us
Like Gungans to the slaughter
They can’t deceive us
We’re not their bantha fodder
More immoral than a Tatooine gangster
We’ll break their chains, fear won’t lead to anger
We stand tall, never bow to your sovereign
You’ll fall like them all, roll call Rogue Squadron
Never surrender, forever we will fly
To these ends, we pledge our property, our honor, and our lives.”
This final section hits hard. Not only does it break down into a spoken rap but the call suddenly feels more dire and real. The sections reference one of the more climactic points in the series. At the end of Episode I, the Gungan Army was lead by Jar Jar Binks against the massive Droid Army. Their job was to hold off the droids from reaching Naboo. They were outnumbered, outgunned and outmatched. Regardless, the Gungans united with the Naboo and worked together to help defeat an enemy and overcome insurmountable odds. A great example of how to unite and win.
The next line about bantha fodder is an effective Star Wars appropriate way of saying “we won’t be fooled, and we are not stupid shit, regardless if that’s how we are treated.” Continuing this theme he calls for us to break through whatever limitations are set, and overcome the shackles put on our society. We won’t get into the mud, but we will rise above it, echoing sentiments shared by Michelle Obama. Chris is telling us that when they go low, we go high. If history repeats itself and evil rises, then goodness will overcome. It won’t be easy, but if we come together and put ourselves on the line, we can win. A call to activism parallel to the struggle the good guys have always faced in Star Wars.
"There is no try, do or die
Rebels in the Sky"
One of Star Wars most famous lines, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Yoda says this to Luke when he is attempting to lift his X-Wing from the swamp on Dagobah. Luke is struggling with his inability to quickly overcome the tests set before him. Yoda expresses an important sentiment, instead of consoling Luke he puts the trials and consequences before him in perspective.
The perfect end to a song that correctly and effectively parallels the emotions of a country in crisis with the universe of Star Wars. If we act, we will win, a fight may be lost today, but the war is not yet over. Star Wars is a series of cyclical evils, champions, and political conflicts. It resonates with so many of us because of the real villains and heroes we face every day.