Star Wars: A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away?

There are no humans in Star Wars.

This should be obvious from the title card.  We’re a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  Human beings evolved on this planet, Sol 3, over the last sixty million years or so depending on how you count.  If we don’t want to go all “Chariots of the Gods?” we have to throw out the notion that the people represented by human actors in Star Wars movies are in fact human.  They’re something else.

Why represent them as human?  Let’s assume that the Star Wars movies are dramatizations of real history: that Luke, Leia, Han et. al. actually existed in a galaxy long, long ago (etc.), and that George Lucas accessed this history via the Force and wanted to represent it on film.  Star Wars tells the story of a dominant-species empire arising from a pluralistic society, then being overthrown by courageous rebels and warrior monks.  Lucas had to cast this drama with human actors, and the obvious choice was to use unmodified humans to represent the most common species.

While convenient, this approach does present one problem: watching the Original Trilogy, we assume that the ‘humans’ of the GFFA (Galaxy Far Far Away) are biologically and sociologically identical to Sol 3 humans.  When obviously they’re not!  In fact, I think a few important context clues present a very different picture of the dominant race of the Original Trilogy.

Gender is the most important clue.  The Original Trilogy has a shortage of women when considered by the standards of a two-sexed mammalian species.  Leia is the most prominent female, and the only one to feature in all three movies.  Aunt Beru and Mon Mothma also have named speaking roles.  Aside from these three, I can’t think of another definitely-female-definitely-‘human’ in the series.  In RotJ Leia describes her mother, who is obviously a queen.  These females all possess at least local political and social authority.

Family is a second important clue—or, rather, the absence of family.  With one notable exception, people in the series don’t talk much about parentage.  No non-Force sensitive male ever describes his family, if I recall correctly.  Han, Lando, Wedge, Biggs, Tarkin, Dodonna, and so forth, all might as well have sprung from the brows of their ships.  In six+hours of film about war, I would expect to see someone to drop at least a single reference to parents of some sort.  The lack of strong family ties suggests that parenting relationships are much less close for most GFFA ‘humans’ than for Sol 3 humans—which in turn suggests large brood sizes, short gestation periods, young ages of maturity, or all of the above.

So we’re looking for an organism with large brood sizes, young ages of maturity, short gestation periods, and relatively few fertile females who naturally assume positions of social and organizational authority.

Here is my modest theory: the GFFA’s ‘humans’ are in fact sentient hive insects, organized around a single queen, a handful of fertile males, and a horde of infertile female soldiers.  For parsimony’s sake, let’s assume that Force sensitivity in this species is possessed by fertile males and females, and that male actors used to represent non-Force sensitive characters are actually representing infertile females.

This explains a few things:

  • The Emperor’s Reproductive and Political Strategy.  The Emperor, a fertile male, has  replaced the old Queen, substituting the use of clone warriors for ‘normal’ biological reproduction.
  • The Horror of the Clone Wars.  The true horror of the Clone Wars thus becomes clear.  They’re not just wars in which cloning technology is used.  They’re wars in which the fundamental structure of the ‘human’ species is inverted: wars in which queens are killed, hives consolidated, and clones take the place of biological reproduction.  Wars about the use of clones instead of queens.
  • The Deal with Jabba’s Humanoid Slaves.  Doesn’t it seem weird that a presumably hermaphroditic gastropod should be so fascinated by displaying captive females of another phylum in bikinis?  The Hive Insect theory makes this habit a clear and calculated display of dominance, communicating to ‘human’ visitors that Jabba is to ‘human’ queens as queens are to drones and soldiers.  (This also suggests that Jabba’s interested in twi’lek girls because they look like ‘humans,’ but may be easier to come by—giving his character a bit of extra complexity, since he wants to communicate dominance to his followers in this way but isn’t able to do more than pretend until Leia comes along.)
  • Why Kill the Jedi?  I mean, sure, kill the old ones, but wouldn’t it be easier to convert younglings than wipe them out?  Well, drones in the absence of a queen naturally rear fertilized eggs into new queens.  If Palpatine is trying to destroy queen-dom, he cannot permit the existence of any drones who are not perfectly loyal to his New Order.  Conversion is apparently a brutal process.  Vader survived it; Luke might survive it.  Perhaps no one else did.
  • What’s with all the Death Stars?  It isn’t hard to annihilate all life on a planet from orbit.  If you’re in orbit, you’ve already done the hard part—just tractor some rocks into the surface.  Obviously a superweapon is nice to have, but why not build just the weapon and the shielding system?  That would be cheaper, certainly.  It seems that the superweapon is only part of the purpose of the Death Star—the Star is in fact an artificial hive, built as the perfect environment for the Emperor’s new clone-based society.

Admittedly, this doesn’t explain what’s going on between Leia and Han.  It’s possible that Han is in fact a drone and doesn’t know it—he is phenomenally lucky, after all, which suggests Force sensitivity.  On the other hand, it seems reasonable, given the importance of queens, that some sort of queen-soldier pairbonding could occur.  This may even be the sort of relationship that the Emperor is intending to replicate with Vader.

So that’s a theory.  I mean, what’s more likely—a Galaxy Far Far Away full of psychic alien super-bees, or one in which you can cross thirty solar systems and run into three women with speaking parts?

DISCLAIMER: I love Star Wars.  It rocks.  And precisely because of this, it’s fun to tweak.  Obviously, the above argument only refers to the OT; the EU features a much broader range of characters and situations, and I don’t want to be responsible for creating a consistent interpretation of the prequel trilogies.  (Though just off the top of my head, Naboo-‘humans’ do seem to fit with Hive Insect theory.)

30 Responses to “Star Wars: A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away?”

  1. Geonn Cannon (@GeonnCannon)

    George Lucas is kicking himself right now thinking, “Do you have any idea how many toys I could have sold if they’d all just been CGI bees?!”

  2. max

    It’s true! It could have been the space-bee Guardians of Ga’Hoole!

  3. David Wohlreich (@wallrike)

    I never expected to read a unified insectoid theory of Star Wars. My life is better for it.

  4. Aster

    …*goes to Tumblr to hopefully raise a fanfiction army to make this so*

  5. Matthew Petersen

    What about Yoda?

  6. max

    Like the other aliens, Yoda isn’t necessarily a hive creature. He’s obviously not ‘human’, and since we never see any others of his species, I don’t see any obvious conclusions to draw about their social-biological makeup. Do you?

  7. Links 12 – 24/10/13 | Alastair's Adversaria

    […] Star Wars: A Long Time Ago, in a Hive Far Far Away – An ingenious explanation for Star Wars’ poor performance on the Bechdel […]

  8. » One Year behind the Keyboard max gladstone

    […] also wrote a number of blog posts, including this one about how the humans of Star Wars are actually ginormous bees.  I even received threats of fanfic written in Giant Bee Star Wars Universe.  No such fanfic has […]

  9. Mackenzie Couch

    I looked you up because I thought your world pitch for Storium sounded amazing and I found this. I’m so much more excited now.

  10. Max Gladstone and the Giant Space Bees of Star Wars | Nothing But the Rain

    […] depicted in the Star Wars franchise are in fact, not at all human. The post originally appeared on Max’s blog, and you can read the full text below. Max’s third novel, FULL FATHOM FIVE, will be available […]

  11. Dear Star Wars — some suggestions, after the new cast announcement

    […] is the Male: Female ratio is something like 3720:1? Does it have something to do with evolution? (People have theorized about this.) Does passing the Bechdel Test disrupts the Midichlorians? If so, this would be just one more […]

  12. AngusM

    Does the fact that Amidala dies after giving birth to Luke and Leia shed any light on this theory? Mayflies die shortly after reproducing. It’s possible that post-partum mortality is normal for the species (also compare and contrast non-insectoid species such as some octopuses, where the female starves to death while nurturing the eggs she has laid). That might also account for the rarity of females. It might also explain why a technological civilization that has talking robots and faster-than-light starships can’t prevent a healthy young adult female from dying in childbirth.

    Amidala’s death is presented as if it were an exceptional event, but Anakin is not the most reliable guide here. His other actions suggest that he is at least a little deranged, so it’s quite possible that he would react hysterically to something that is in fact part of the natural order of things.

  13. Aaron B. Pryor

    This is either illuminating to or complicates the matter that Han Solo helps Ender Wiggins put an end to those pesky Formics in Ender’s Game.

  14. Why are there so few women in the GFFA? | Club Jade

    […] Why are there so few women in the galaxy far, far away? One (batshit) in-universe theory. […]

  15. May the Fourth be With You – But also some hard truths | Simon McNeil

    […] There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the recent casting announcement recently. Adam Shaftoe has an excellent take on the issue over at Page of Reviews, and for something a little more light-hearted check out Max Gladstone’s blog. […]

  16. Extras! 05 May 2014 | Welcome to The Movies

    […] All these people making all this fuss about Star Wars’ lack of racial and gender diversity clearly just haven’t realized that there are in fact no humans in that universe, and that all the white males are just part of a race of sentient hive insects living under a single queen. […]

  17. Frank Cacciutto

    To bee or not to bee . . .

  18. Uni

    …in the bee version, John Belushi could have played Luke.

  19. Marc Robinson

    You’re thinking about it too much. Certainly more than Lucas did.

  20. Zo0tie

    The Star Warsians are obviously not human. They have much faster reflexes and more acute senses that human beings. That includes even the non-Jedis. Otherwise the extensive use of aircraft and flying cars and land speeders with only rudimentary radar systems at best would be absolute suicide. That being said I can’t understand why they are such lousy shots!

  21. Does ‘Star Wars’ have a woman problem? Leia, meet Rey. - The Washington Post

    […] at. There are so few female faces in “Star Wars” that someone, half-jokingly, proposed a Hive theory where females are rare and precious and regarded as queens – or else why would there be so few of […]

  22. Hdjs

    I hate to be rude but the empire half ended the clone project and started enlisting people

  23. Dunebat

    This “humans as insects” theory might also explain some aspects of the Highlander franchise. “There can be only one” = in insect hives, mortal combat occurs between infant queens until only one remains. Perhaps we humans share some incredibly distant evolutionary connection to insects, and the existence of immortals is some peculiar evolutionary holdover?

    Sorry; just a bit of cross-franchise extrapolation from your idea. Pay no mind. 🙂

  24. tellyoursisteryouwereright

    If we can accept that Han, having a fair bit of luck and excellent reflexes (characteristics of attunement to the Living Force) was a fertile drone, that brings Jango Fett (another human) and his clone son Boba as part of the same category. The Palpatine Man-Queen would have chosen the traits of a strong drone, and then excise their fertility to create his new asexually produced clone army.

  25. The Case For Rey Palpatine | Ferrett Steinmetz

    […] – Alas, it has to be her father/grandfather and not her mother, as Star Wars takes place in an alternate-universe scenario where the lead roles are actually sentient i….  Don’t blame me for this theory, blame Max […]

  26. Interesting Links for 29-01-2016 | Made from Truth and Lies

    […] What if all of the people in Star Wars are…insects […]

  27. conspiritusRadical

    The minute I heard this theory I knew it: Star Wars is a remake of a Beforan/Alternian classic. You may now hit me for bringing Homestuck into this. Srsly tho is anyone else now re-imagining the movies with one of the other Bug-species (Formics, Trolls, Irkans) as the main characters?


Leave a Reply