Carl Sagan’s Star Wars criticisms

I am a huge Carl Sagan fan, of course, so my Carl Alarm went off when an old clip went viral this week: Carl Sagan chatting with Johnny Carson about Star Wars. The video is just 90-seconds, embedded in a tweet, short and sweet: Carl is impressively and entertainingly progressive in his commentary, framing the whiteness of the characters in a scientific way (of course), and punctuating with a wisecrack about the injustice of Chewbacca not getting a medal. Here’s the whole transcript:

Carl Sagan: ‘Star Wars’ starts out saying it’s in some other galaxy, and then you see there’s people. Starting in scene one there’s a problem because human beings are the result of a unique evolutionary sequence based upon so many individually unlikely random events on the earth. In fact, I think most evolve biologists would agree that if you started the earth out again and just let those random factors operate you might wind up with beings that are as smart as us, and as ethical and artistic and all the rest, but they would not be human beings. That’s for the Earth. So another planet, different environment, very unlikely to have human beings.

Johnny Carson: Are you saying on another galaxy, it’s not possible that there could be…

Sagan: It’s extremely unlikely that there would be creatures as similar to us as the dominant ones in ‘Star Wars.’ And there’s a whole bunch of other things; they’re all white. The skin of all the humans in Star Wars, oddly enough, is sort of like this. And not even the other colours represented on the Earth are present, much less greens and blues and purples and oranges.

Carson: They did have a scene in Star Wars with a a lot of strange characters

Sagan: Yeah, but none of them seem to be in charge of the galaxy. Everyone in charge of the galaxy seemed to look like us. [laughter] I thought there was a large amount of human chauvinism in it. Also, I felt very bad at the end, the Wookie didn’t get a medal also. All the people got medals, and the Wookie who’d been in there fighting all the time, he didn’t get any medal, and I thought that was an example of anti-Wookie discrimination.

A few notes about this: