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Andor: A wonderfully honest depiction of regular people resisting state repression

November 28, 2022

“Don’t you want to fight these bastard for real?” (What Stellan Skarsgard’s character says to Diego Luna’s character in an early episode of Andor.)

I don’t usually write about entertainment-based media, even though GRIID has done numerous movie studies (the last was in 2015) and we used to do a regular deconstruction of TV commercials, in a segment we called Media Bites. 

However, I finished Season 1 of the Star Wars show, Andor. The show was so good, I felt compelled to write about it.

The character development is phenomenal, the production value is high quality and the story line makes Andor the very best show that has come out of the Star Wars universe. There are several reasons why I think Andor is the best Star Wars show to ever be produced, but the primary reason is because the show demonstrates how regular people engage in resistance to repression and systems of oppression.

Ever since Star Wars came out in the late 1970s, it was clear that the dominant theme of the franchise has pitted those involved in a rebellion against The Empire. Ever since Star Wars became a cultural force in the world, fans have reveled in the courage and defiance of the rebellion, told primarily through the lives of those who are part of the Jedi Order. Now, I don’t think that was a bad decision on the part of the Star Wars producers, specifically George Lucas. However, the problem with making the films and many of the shows centered around people with Jedi powers diminishes the contributions of regular people, which are generally the people that make up resistance movements in the real world.

With Andor, we are introduced to people who orphans, workers, those who run small businesses, prisoners, even those who are part of the Imperial government. For those of us who have studied resistance movements and have participated in resistance movements, the fact that Andor communicates the idea that no matter what your skill level is, the resistance welcomes whatever part you can play. 

So, in Andor, we have a member of the Imperial government, who somewhat attempts to influence policy, but her real role is to direct or re-direct funds to support the rebellion. We have one of the resistance movement leaders, who runs an antiques business, but spend a great deal of time coordinating strategic aspects of the resistance, along with recruiting new members. Then there are numerous people who are part of the working class, people who have jobs, yet play a critical role in daily forms of resistance. 

Then there are those who are active members of the armed resistance, which engage in actions to destroy Imperial outposts and to infiltrate the military system of The Empire. However, the show doesn’t overly romanticize their role and doesn’t make them out to be people who are more committed to the resistance. In real resistance movements, it is common to over emphasize or romanticize those who are seen as being on the “front lines of the resistance.” 

Another powerful aspect of Andor, is the use of moments, particularly moments where people are experiencing oppression, and how these lived experiences often lead to acts of rebellion. For example, when a security detail comes to Ferrix in search of Cassian (Diego Luna), people who have a relationship with Cassian step up to assist him in avoiding the security detail that was dispatched to arrest him. 

A second example of movement moments is when Cassian is sent to a work prison, which it turns out is a place that is making parts for the Death Star. In the work prison, the level of repression is significant, but when one of the workers die, people realize that no matter how many days people had until their sentence was over, no one was going to leave. A work prison rebellion begins and overtakes the guards, with hundreds of prisoners gaining their freedom.

A third example of movement moments, is in the season finale, where a funeral was taking place for the person who raised Cassian. In this moment, hundreds participated in a funeral procession, which included musicians, women who were part of the Daughters of Ferrix, a bell tower person and numerous members of the working class who converged onto the streets. There was a military garrison dispatched to Ferrix and they demonstrated even greater repressive tactics in the moments leading up to the funeral. The state repression of those who came to publicly mourn one of their own, was the catalyst for people to rise up and fight back, especially after a digital image/message from Maarva was broadcast as part of the funeral. Maarva’s message was not only a powerful and moving love letter, it was a call to arms! The collective act of defiance/resistance not only demonstrated the incredible courage of people, it conveyed the powerful message that people can and will resist state repression, even though the state has more military power and weaponry.

Having spent a great deal of time working with people who were part of resistance movement in Latin America, specifically, El Salvador, Guatemala and Chiapas (Mexico), I can tell you that Andor is fairly spot on in their depiction of resistance movements and how they work. In the case of the countries I did solidarity and accompaniment work, The Empire in those circumstance was the US government. Yes, it is true that each of the national governments in the countries I was working in, was doing the primary dirty work of state repression, but the US government was always providing military assistance, training, weapons, intelligence, along with imposing a larger imperial policy that these governments had to adopt in order to continue reap the benefits of said imperial policies. 

In Andor, the state repression was reflected in the constant military presence in all aspects of life. In every episode we see military reach with check points, with limitation of movement by people, constant surveillance, the prison industrial complex, the judicial system, the use of spies and other intelligence gather resources, the use of torture and the attempt by The Empire to control the public narratives about what was happening. Andor even includes meetings between those in charge of intelligence gathering and those who oversee military sectors, meetings which reflect very honest conversation about how to adjust and plan for further state repression. Most of these meetings were a direct response to the increased activities of those involved in the resistance movement, which is exactly how is has worked in the real world.

All of these elements make Andor one of the best media productions in recent years, specifically when it comes depicting movements resisting state repression. The show is an important mechanism to have robust conversations about the existing and potential resistance movements for our time, particularly in the US, which is The Empire. I can’t wait to see what Season 2 will have in store for us. 

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