Princeton University’s class of 2012 planned its five-year reunion party around a Star Wars theme, calling it “Revenge of the Fifth.” According to HeatStreet, the alumni planned to dress in costume and many purchased stormtrooper costumes for the event. In late February, however, the Reunion Committee sent an email banning this particular costume — because it might remind some people of Nazis.
“A few of our classmates reached out expressing concerns over our choice to use Stormtroopers as our costume inspiration,” the email said. “We have since been informed of the origin of this word and its connections to early- to mid-20th century Germany. This is something neither we nor anyone on your Reunion Committee was aware of, but something we take very seriously. Tonight we made the unanimous decision to remove these costumes.”
This was a veiled reference to the Nazi Sturmabteilung, the National Socialist storm troops originally used to protect party meetings and later used as a paramilitary wing. The formation of “storm troops” actually traces back to World War I, as StarWars.com pointed out.
The Nazi storm troopers featured prominently in German propaganda leading up to World War II, and the image of jackbooted storm troopers “became one of the iconic images of fascism and inspired the iconic stormtroopers of Star Wars,” the site admitted.
But the idea that Star Wars stormtroopers — which are iconic in their own right — would evoke Nazi stormtroopers in the 21st century is absurd. While inspired by Nazi images, these stormtroopers have taken up a cultural life of their own.
Indeed, the single largest costuming group of Star Wars fans is the 501st Legion, as StarWars.com pointed out. This “legion” is almost entirely stormtroopers, and it named after the World War II 501st Infantry Regiment — part of the famed 101st Airborne Division. This regiment consisted of Americans, fighting against the Nazis.
In other words, while the stormtroopers in Star Wars were inspired by the Nazis, the largest group of fans dressing up like these stormtroopers were actually inspired by the Americans fighting against the Nazis. So, if stormtroopers today evokes imagery from World War II, a case could be made that these troopers conjure Americans just as much as they conjure Nazi soldiers.
In any case, any tie between a pop culture reference which clearly stands on its own and a historical artifact at all connected to oppression calls for a ban, according to Social Justice Warrior (SJW) code. It is their mission in life to take the fun out of everything. At the very least, alumni who ordered stormtrooper costumes through the reunion committee will receive “more appropriate” costumes.
Interestingly, this is not the first time Star Wars has become entangled in politically-charged debates about Nazi Germany. Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidential election last November, Rogue One (2016) writer Chris Weitz tweeted, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.”
While Weitz deleted that tweet, he kept the sentiment alive in a follow-up: “Star Wars against hate. Spread it.” This tweet included the symbol of the rebellion in Star Wars, with a safety pin symbolizing a “safe space” for supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Star Wars against hate. Spread it. pic.twitter.com/Dtf5uqpxba
— Chris Weitz (@chrisweitz) November 11, 2016