The Resistance

Star Wars: When Politics meets cosplay

Dressing up as a Jedi or Sith serves a higher purpose in these photos from political demonstrations.

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In 2014, "Darth Vader" ran for president of Ukraine.

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He ran under the Internet Party of Ukraine. While the campaign was mostly a publicity stunt, it reached countless people, like this young fan.

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Other Star Wars characters showed up to "campaign."

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But when Vader himself appeared at a Ukrainian polling place to cast his vote, he was turned away for lack of photo ID.

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Darth Vader is now such a political icon in Ukraine that this statue in Odessa, formerly a statue Lenin, was given a Sith makeover. But he's far from the only Star Wars character to show up in a political context.

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Star Wars is the ultimate story of good vs. evil.

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It's a classic tale of the power of people to topple a fascist state. Adopting the same imagery communicates a message of righteous rebellion.

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It immediately incites sympathy, no matter the cause.

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Star Wars defies language. So when protesters look to make a global statement, the solution just might be cosplay.

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These photos show how this global phenomenon translates into a political statement no matter the language, country, or cause.

A stormtrooper at the 1980 People's Convention

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Barbara Alper/Archive Photos/Getty Images

This anti-nuclear protester decked out her stormtrooper helmet with biohazard symbols. Even just two months after the Empire Strikes Back came out, its iconography was in the real world.

Darth Vader in Paris, France

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MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

Darth Vader is one of the most popular choices at protests. Maybe it's because he's a ubiquitous Halloween costume.

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This French sign protesting the retirement system roughly translates to "your lack of faith in point retirement is disturbing."

Yoda at the UN Climate Change conference

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THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Yoda's unique speech is used here to pose environmental slogans as if they're ancient Jedi wisdom.

Darth Vader in Berlin, Germany

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Animal rights activists often dress as animals to humanize them, but this protester is equating the humans involved in meat production with the Empire.

Princess Leia in New York City

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Ira L. Black - Corbis/Corbis News/Getty Images

Princess Leia was destined to become a feminist icon and was a frequent sight at the Women's March and other protests.

Darth Vader outside Los Angeles City Hall

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Sometimes the cosplay is the protest. This Darth Vader was promoting the rights of character impersonators.

Princess Leia in Minsk, Belarus

Natalia Fedosenko/TASS/Getty Images

Natalia Fedosenko/TASS/Getty Images

Standing next to Princess Leia, this protester paints the Belarusian president as evil, stating "Darth Vader, I recognized you!"

Darth Vader in Madrid, Spain

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Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty Images

A mask can also keep you anonymous, like this Spanish protester fighting for the right to vape.

Darth Maul in Paris, France

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CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

This protester wears a Guy Fawkes mask painted with the French flag....

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... as well yellow high-vis vest or "gilet jaune," the calling card of 2018 French protesters. This look is all topped off with Sith robes and Maul's double-bladed lightsaber.

Palpatine in Paris, France

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STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Even Palpatine gets involved in protests. This hooded figure is giving a speech against Apple's alleged tax evasion in France.

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Palpatine is often evoked when calling out corrupt politicians, as he supposedly "loved democracy" only to stage a coup.

Darth Vader in Melbourne, Australia

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Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

In September 2020, this Melbourne protester picked a Darth Vader mask to protest lockdown measures.

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Many have equated strict lockdown measures to the fascist Empire, but galactic domination and preventing disease spread are very different goals.

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Sometimes, the best way to get across a story is to evoke a universally known one, like the Rebel fighters of Star Wars. Seeing yourself and your struggle in Star Wars can enrich your own fight for justice, on and off the streets.

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