Over at New Scientist, a fascinating article on a fascinating Tate Gallery, London, exhibition about the effect of pop culture–particularly Star Wars–on the late Saddam Hussein. At first, you chuckle. Then you hear some of the parallels–and you may still chuckle.
Saddam had an unpublished fantasy novel (which I’m dying to read now! Can you imagine that hitting the market–a Fantasy novel by Saddam Hussein??) and a few more than coincidental leanings towards the dark figure. However, from the article in New Scientist, the threads are thin. I would have loved seeing more than a few stretches of metaphorical underpinnings to Saddam’s tactics and beliefs. While the helmets are a nice touch; as they prove to be Vaderish, so are WW2 gasmasks…. and we aren’t making Hitler/Darth connections (though I would say that Darth was modeled after Hitler, obviously— Brown Shirts and Stormtroopers, no stretch there). Since the Darth mask was most probably modeled on a gasmask, I think the Gallery is taking a bit of liberty to say that Saddam had a Darth-fetish.
Consider this point the author, Jessica Griggs, makes:
Could this all be coincidence? Perhaps, but you’ll be convinced otherwise once you’ve read about Sadaam’s private militia’s uniform. Before his son, Uday, handed over control of the Fedayeen Sadaam (translation: “Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice”) to his younger brother he wanted to give his father something to remember his work by. So he presented Saddam with their new uniform: black shirt, black trousers and a ski-mask over which a strikingly Darth Vader-esque helmet was placed.
It seems more likely that Uday had a Star Wars ideal in mind for his father–since there are few other instances of Star Warsian artifacts. The upraised swords is, at best, coincidental, made more science fiction-y by the artist who makes the swords into light sabers. The “lurid” fantasy posters are from a different genre of literature. The fact that the artist is a friend of the person who designed the poster for Star Wars is called a streeeeetch. The paintings in Saddam’s “Safe House” were both by a fantasy artist. The link here.
It is not unbelievable that science fiction pop culture might have an influence on dictators. Certainly their heroes have a powerful pull on the Western World; couldn’t their powerful dictators be enamored by fellow dictators? Since few of them survive in Science fiction past their novel series, I don’t think ANYONE would want to model an empire on them.
Unless, of course, you can make sure that you have no plucky twins, rescued and hidden at birth, lurking somewhere in the galaxy, ready and waiting to upset your glorious domination.
Now, I want to see the article on Saddam Hussein’s fantasy novel.