Trump or Vader?

Trump or Vader? November 17, 2016

In my course on religion and science fiction, I actually asked students recently who was worse, Donald Trump or Darth Vader.

I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that a poll back in 2014 had millennials preferring Vader to Trump.

The reason for asking this question was to highlight the discrepancy between what we sometimes claim to value, and our real-life attitudes.

Even before we got his backstory, and a deeper glimpse of his humanity, Star Wars fans were willing to accept that Darth Vader could find his way back to goodness in the end – and more than that, that Luke was right to seek to redeem his father rather than merely kill him. The prequels added to this, depicting someone who wasn’t simply a cardboard cut-out villain, but someone who was willing to follow a selfish path, as people are prone to, but also one that fought for stability at the expense of freedom – again, as people are prone to in real life.

In short, unless we can understand why someone would admire Darth Vader, then we will have little chance of understanding those who vote differently than ourselves.

And if we think that it is OK for Darth Vader to be redeemed, but cannot hope for the redemption of Donald Trump, then we’re not really fans either of Star Wars or of Christianity. I’m disappointed that I hear lots of people responding to Trump’s hateful speech with hateful speech of their own, but few asking how we might convince Trump and his supporters to turn in a different direction.

This was just one small piece of the class. Most of the class was focused on the question of whether a Taoist or a Zoroastrian approach to Star Wars makes better sense of the idea of the dark side and light side of the Force. That’s a topic I write about in my recent book, Theology and Science Fiction.

There are lots of Donald Trump Darth Vader memes and political cartoons. Here are just a few:

Trump Vader Dark Side Trump Vader hair helmet Darth Trump action figure

Trump Empire Strikes Back

Trump Anakin



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  • jh

    Vader’s a fictional character. Of course I would rather have him than a real-life Trump.

    In later books, there were clues that not all people in the Empire were happy to join the rebels. They were content with the Empire. In fact – from what I recall from my dubious memory, at least a third of the star systems chose to voluntarily stay in the Empire. (From the Timothy Zahn Thrawn trilogy.)

  • Matthew

    I like the redemption theme. Thanks.

  • David Evans

    “….few asking how we might convince Trump and his supporters to turn in a different direction.”

    That may be because we sense that he doesn’t listen to any words, or any people, he doesn’t want to hear. Without light-sabers* it’s hard to compel him to listen.

    * or maybe the Force.

  • gimel

    The question we should ask is: if Donald ‘Joffrey’ Trump is a stand-in for Empire’s 2nd in command… Who is the Emperor?

  • Michael Wilson

    Wow, Darth Vader apparently is spot on here, Trump’s chief strategist praiused Vader, Cheny, and Satan in an interview.

  • Trump’s supporters change? Sure. But since I am 99% certain from his actions that Trump is a narcissist, it leads us into sticky places … while I know it doesn’t necessarily square with Christian theology, people with full-fledged NPD, as Trump appears to have, are incapable of change. If they do, it is temporal and for manipulative purposes: generally, to elicit more positive attention for their coreless selves; to assuage their egos; or if they are pragmatic enough to see that even if they don’t get WHY their behavior is wrong, they may realize that the OUTCOMES of what they’re doing have become unpleasant enough to merit a more conciliatory, different course of action.
    However, they are just as likely to burn all bridges and cut people who offend them out of their lives/consideration, as Trump already did when he blasted the Republicans who didn’t support him and declared them “worse than Crooked Hillary!” Of course, when he actually won and realized that he needed their help to wield his executive power, it was right back to working with them; and when Hillary was no longer a threat, he could not care less about prosecuting her. This is all trademark NPD.
    It’s the difference between a dynamic and static character, too, except that this static “character” will soon have nuclear codes, and I’d rather NOT have a real-life “Death Star” situation.