Fictional universes can have devoted following. People of all demographics end up being fans.
Political alliances, especially as they relate to demographics can shift and change. Fictional universes, with modern IP law, can stay under a single owner for a long time.
However, this does not mean those fictional universes are do not have clear political messages. The people who manage the IP are sometimes blamed for not being “politically neutral”. However, those people, if they manage the IP with any sort of authenticity, cannot manage it neutrally.
Marvel Cinematic Universe¶
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the latest reimagining of the original Marvel Comic-Book Universe.
Marvel has always made it clear that most of their comic books happen in the same universe (616). There have been other famous universes (the Ultimate universe, the OG Spider-Girl Universe from the early 2000, and more), but those were always offshoots.
Captain America, one of the earliest titles, precedes the name Marvel comics as well as the entry of the US into World War II. At that point in US politics, the official US position was neutrality about the war in Europe.
Captain America fighting Nazis was not just an abstract political statement, in the sense that all statements about what a country should do are political. At the time, it was a controversial political statement.
Originally, the X-men were not invented as a political statement, but as a way to avoid inventing ad-hoc origin stories: “mutant” was all the justification Stan Lee needed for any superpowers he wanted. Shortly into the X-men series, however, it started exploring issues of bigotry and prejudice.
Marvel is not some magical pro-LGBT pro-civil-rights entity. It is a commerical company that tried to make money, went bankrupt, got acquired by private equity, and flipped to be resold to Disney+ for a nice profit.
However, from the beginning, Marvel took a clear position on politics. Stories depicted characters fighting against white supremacism, racism, homophobia, and anti-semitism.
The 20th century had many political entities struggle with many issues of equal rights and inclusion for people of different races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, and more. Marvel has been writing stories throughout that time.
Not all of the stories have been written in the most sensitive way. But throughout, the stories have shown a clear theme.
Marvel stories are not politicallly neutral. The MCU has kept the same political theme.
It is to Disney’s credit, not blame, that they still uphold the same themes. Upholding adherance to the ethical and political principles behind the MCU from the people involved is consistent with this.
Star Wars Canon¶
The Star Wars Canon has been written and adjusted many times. The original Extended Universe, for example, has now been rebranded as “Legends”: based on true stories, but potentially with incorrect details.
The central part of the canon, and enough for this analysis, is the original trilogy: Episodes IV, V, and VI. (As an aside, there are purists who reject even that, as well as the renaming of Episode IV to “A New Hope”, and only consider the original release of Episode IV, “Star Wars”, as canon. This can be safely ignored.)
One of the first things that happens in Episode IV is that the Emperor “disbands the Senate”. In context, this seems to be the final confirmation that a once-democratic system no longer even considers the pretense of democracy to be useful.
The rebels, then, are fighting to overthrow an illegitimate leader. It is safe to assume that, as these things usually go, the Emperor rose to power originally by being elected and then started dismantling those institutions which would keep checks and balances on him.
This kind of dynamic has happened in real life often enough. Hungary and Turkey are just two recent examples.
The movies are told from the perspective of the rebels overthrowing the empire. The Jedi are the good guys working to protect people.
Recently, prominent GOP leaders have praised Hungary as an example of “good leadership”. Princess Lei, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker would disagree.
Expecting the Star Wars franchise to be politically neutral is not reasonable. It is built around specific political statements for how to organize political entities.
Once again, Disney should be lauded for keeping those political themes authentic to the original stories. Upholding the people involved in creating these stories to these ethical standards is consistent.
Disney is a corporation, designed to maximize profits. Much of their business model could be described as “monetizing nostalgia”.
Because of that, as an organization that manages valuable IP, Disney respects the integrity of that IP. This integrity is crucial for the nostalgia to be properly monetized.
When the original themes include stories with political aspects the modern re-tellings and sequels keep the those same aspects, to keep the nostalgia alive. In protecting these aspects, Disney is clear with the people involved with the modern takes on the stories that their public persona should be compatible with the stories.
This is no less reasonable than a political party firing a spokesperson if they publically make statement incompatible with the party’s positions.