Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate

Picture: Andres Rueda, Flickr (CC)

Though there are hundreds of Star Wars books and comics, somebody might have a hard time finding anyone in the Galaxy writing or reading one themselves. This would explain why everything is done via droids and holograms, libraries are made up of ‘holocrons’, and why the political reality of the Jedi become mythical legends in a single generation. As Ryan Britt of Tor.com points out, with the exception of the Jedi and some Imperial officers, it doesn’t seem like those denizens Far, Far Away have any interest in the written word. And even those that do don’t seem ready to follow on ‘some damn fool idealistic crusade’ for literacy.

Via Tor.com:

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?

If you simply stick to the Star Wars films, there is no news media of any kind. Despite the fact that we see cameras circling around Queen/Senator Amidala in the Senate, they don’t seem to be actually feeding this information anywhere. Are they security cameras, like the ones that recorded Anakin killing little tiny Jedi kiddies? This theory achieves a little more weight when you consider that the conversation in The Phantom Menace Senate scene is all about how Queen Amidala can’t verify the existence of a coming invasion. She’s got no pictures, and stranger still, no reputable news source has even written about the blockade of Naboo. Even if we put forth that cameras in Star Wars are only for security and not for news, that still leaves the question of why there are no journalists. A possible answer: it’s because most people don’t read, which means that over time most people in this universe don’t ever learn to read.

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  • TomVou

    I can’t believe I actually read this.

  • TomVou

    I can’t believe I actually read this.

    • http://twitter.com/mattstaggs Matt Staggs

      I can’t believe you actually took the time to comment, afterward. ;)

    • http://twitter.com/mattstaggs Matt Staggs

      I can’t believe you actually took the time to comment, afterward. ;)

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      See, those special classes are really starting to pay off.

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      See, those special classes are really starting to pay off.

    • Ted Heistman

       Good job man, looks like hooked on Phonics worked 4 U!

    • Ted Heistman

       Good job man, looks like hooked on Phonics worked 4 U!

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    I would let a droid do the comments but (1). There are no droids in existence, (2). If droids did exist, it probably couldn’t get past the Captchas. :)

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    I would let a droid do the comments but (1). There are no droids in existence, (2). If droids did exist, it probably couldn’t get past the Captchas. :)

  • Ted Heistman

    …of course people on sitcoms don’t spend any time sitting in front of the t.v. either…just sayin’

  • Ted Heistman

    …of course people on sitcoms don’t spend any time sitting in front of the t.v. either…just sayin’

    • howiebledsoe

      Hey, Even Al Bundy spent most of his free time reading the sports section of the local paper.

    • howiebledsoe

      Hey, Even Al Bundy spent most of his free time reading the sports section of the local paper.

  • http://twitter.com/Iomian Jeffery Dodds

    The reason, in my opinion, that there is no journalism in Star Wars, is because the stories are supposed to be myths.  In mythic storytelling in general there is no level of meta-commentary.  Introducing journalism would push the audience out of the mythic head-space into a more modern literal head-space.  The stories are not to be taken as equivalent of actual events that took place, and upon examination they cannot (regardless of the science fiction element) because it is necessary for characters to act archetypally instead of resaonably.  Resonability will always destroy archetypal subtext.

  • http://twitter.com/Iomian Jeffery Dodds

    The reason, in my opinion, that there is no journalism in Star Wars, is because the stories are supposed to be myths.  In mythic storytelling in general there is no level of meta-commentary.  Introducing journalism would push the audience out of the mythic head-space into a more modern literal head-space.  The stories are not to be taken as equivalent of actual events that took place, and upon examination they cannot (regardless of the science fiction element) because it is necessary for characters to act archetypally instead of resaonably.  Resonability will always destroy archetypal subtext.

    • Ted Heistman

      Tolkein had runes and maps and songs and shit though. Lots of layers, and meta narratives. But no real religion. So that makes sense if it is a Spiritual allegory, though he didn’t like that term.

      I think you are onto something about the archetypal qualities of the characters. I have seen interviews of Lucas saying how Luke was supposed to be an “everyman” and C3po was supposed to have no expression on his face so that emotions would be projected onto him by the audience.

  • rus Archer

    stupidthey don’t read because they’re ACTION storieswe never see anyone urinate or defecate, either

    there is writing ALL over the place in the movies if you pay attention

    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Aurebesh

  • rus Archer

    stupidthey don’t read because they’re ACTION storieswe never see anyone urinate or defecate, either

    there is writing ALL over the place in the movies if you pay attention

    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Aurebesh

    • I_abide

      So you’re saying that Jedi don’t poop?  How can I become one of these non-pooping Jedi.

      Side not I never thought I’d get to use the phrase non-pooping.

    • I_abide

      So you’re saying that Jedi don’t poop?  How can I become one of these non-pooping Jedi.

      Side not I never thought I’d get to use the phrase non-pooping.

  • Scootyberle

    The original version of A New Hope…, had actual English print in it…when Obi Wan is de-activating the tractor beam…it has since been changed.

  • Scootyberle

    The original version of A New Hope…, had actual English print in it…when Obi Wan is de-activating the tractor beam…it has since been changed.

  • Simiantongue

    I’m wondering if I were traveling the streets of Coruscant how useful would a billboard would be if it were written in one of the languages of thousands of species that roam the planet?

    I think that advertisers, damn their PR pumping hearts, would figure out a way to make an advert appeal to species from a very large cross section of the population.

    Literacy is a high priority in a closed cultural situation where reading a specific shared language or languages is the primary way to gather information. Perhaps in the Star Wars universe they have moved beyond literacy in passing information, to more eclectic methods to overcome problems arising from a large diversity of species.

  • Simiantongue

    I’m wondering if I were traveling the streets of Coruscant how useful would a billboard would be if it were written in one of the languages of thousands of species that roam the planet?

    I think that advertisers, damn their PR pumping hearts, would figure out a way to make an advert appeal to species from a very large cross section of the population.

    Literacy is a high priority in a closed cultural situation where reading a specific shared language or languages is the primary way to gather information. Perhaps in the Star Wars universe they have moved beyond literacy in passing information, to more eclectic methods to overcome problems arising from a large diversity of species.

  • Lamont Foghill

    As one of the founding members of the Church Of Yoda I don’t even know where to begin on this. Yoda, like the Buddha, and the millennium old Jedi Master tradition, comprises knowledge of both pre-literate, i.e. oral culture, and written format– usually in the form of programmable glyphs. This makes sense and follows humanoid watersheds for similar events. Calling up from from my basement aerie, my mother, whose laundry and grocery-shopping skills have indebted this Jedi over the years, concurs without let my train of reasoning on this important yet subtle topic.
    Thanks to all,
    Lamont Foghill, Archdeacon and Ronin, Church Of Yoda, Modesto Ca.  Plato’s Cave i.e. cyberspace. 

  • Lamont Foghill

    As one of the founding members of the Church Of Yoda I don’t even know where to begin on this. Yoda, like the Buddha, and the millennium old Jedi Master tradition, comprises knowledge of both pre-literate, i.e. oral culture, and written format– usually in the form of programmable glyphs. This makes sense and follows humanoid watersheds for similar events. Calling up from from my basement aerie, my mother, whose laundry and grocery-shopping skills have indebted this Jedi over the years, concurs without let my train of reasoning on this important yet subtle topic.
    Thanks to all,
    Lamont Foghill, Archdeacon and Ronin, Church Of Yoda, Modesto Ca.  Plato’s Cave i.e. cyberspace. 

  • DrDavidKelly

    Yeah … and who do you think would win a fight between Superman and The Hulk?

  • DrDavidKelly

    Yeah … and who do you think would win a fight between Superman and The Hulk?

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      Seriously?

      That could never really happen because one is in the Marvel Universe and the other is in the D.C. Universe.

      However, I really enjoyed the Hulk Vs Wolverine conflict in “Old Man Logan”.

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      Seriously?

      That could never really happen because one is in the Marvel Universe and the other is in the D.C. Universe.

      However, I really enjoyed the Hulk Vs Wolverine conflict in “Old Man Logan”.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Humans have been on Earth for about 1 million years
    human writing systems are less than 5000 old
    wide-spread literacy is less than 200 years old
    but
    there can be no empire without fast & accurate media to contain the information

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Humans have been on Earth for about 1 million years
    human writing systems are less than 5000 old
    wide-spread literacy is less than 200 years old
    but
    there can be no empire without fast & accurate media to contain the information

  • alizardx

    How does one know if a package contains ammo, rat poison, or food without a printed label? Pictures and symbols go only so far, and we can be certain that the future will contain far more interesting industrial chemicals and food for multiple species… one species’ food will be another species’ industrial chemical. 

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Anyone interested in the Star Wars Universe is likely to enjoy Red Letter Media’s “Mr. Plinkett review of ‘Phantom Menace'”. It is a serious critique of the movie, clothed in the dark comedic perspective of the deranged serial killer, Mr. Plinkett.

    http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/star-wars-episode-1-the-phantom-menace/

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Anyone interested in the Star Wars Universe is likely to enjoy Red Letter Media’s “Mr. Plinkett review of ‘Phantom Menace'”. It is a serious critique of the movie, clothed in the dark comedic perspective of the deranged serial killer, Mr. Plinkett.

    http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/star-wars-episode-1-the-phantom-menace/

  • Bruteloop

    Sheesh, am I fed up with Star Wars. They were films. Not all of them that good. Really, for kids. But they ushered in the creeping infantilism of adults that continued with Harry Potter and the endless over analysis of bloody superhero movies today. Some people need to lock their inner child in the attic. 

  • Bruteloop

    Sheesh, am I fed up with Star Wars. They were films. Not all of them that good. Really, for kids. But they ushered in the creeping infantilism of adults that continued with Harry Potter and the endless over analysis of bloody superhero movies today. Some people need to lock their inner child in the attic. 

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