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Creation Date

2015

Description

This poster analyzes and critiques the Orientalist depiction of Jabba the Hutt and his palace in Episode VI: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Jabba himself is a thinly veiled stereotype of a Middle Eastern sultan, from his hookah pipe to his harem of slave girls. In particular, Jabba and his palace denizens most closely resemble the powerful Ottoman Empire that threatened Europe over many years. Similar to the Ottomans' use of corsairs to raid and pillage across the Mediterranean, Jabba has a fleet of pirate-like ships at his disposal, most notably his huge sail barge with its corsair-like red sails. The pirate imagery in ROTJ continues with Luke "walking the plank" and engaging in swashbuckling. Jabba's Palace, meanwhile, resembles the Hagia Sophia in its architecture, featuring minarets and lettered archways just like the famous Byzantine church that was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans.

Jabba's keeping of Princess Leia as a slave can be contrasted with the actual lives of slave girls in the Ottoman Empire, such as the life of Roxelana, slave and later free wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. Whereas Leia is chained up and silenced during her ordeal as Jabba's slave, Roxelana and other slave women were actually able to attain some level of power and prestige in the Ottoman imperial harem. The Orientalist fantasy of Jabba's court is further embellished via the trapdoor with which he disposes of disobedient slave girls and enemies. European gossip was that the Ottoman sultan disposed of harem women in a similar way, dumping them into a sack and then dropping them through a trapdoor into the Bosphorus.

Finally, one can also compare views of race in Star Wars and the Ottoman Empire. In the Ottoman Empire, the most prize slaves were the Circassian beauties, who were captured by slave raiders in the Northern Caucacus. In Star Wars the most prized race of slaves are Twi'leks, just as famous as the Circassians for their beauty. Furthermore, just as black and white eunuchs had specific roles in the Ottoman Empire, it seems that Bib Fortuna, a white Twi'lek, acts very much like a eunuch in Jabba’s Palace. In the Ottoman Empire, eunuchs would prevent entry to the sultan's harem and also obtain and discipline slave girls. Bib Fortuna seems to take on similar duties, in that he tries to prevent people from entering Jabba's throne room, procures slave girls such as the Twi'lek Oola for Jabba, and holds Leia in front of his master on the sail barge.

Recognizing how Return of the Jedi offers up a distorted Orientalist view of the Ottomans is important, since Orientalism continues to affect how Western nations view and engage with the Middle East.

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