A world in the far reaches of the galaxy’s Outer Rim, the planet Lothal and the streets of the Imperial-occupied world’s Capital City serve as the action-packed arena for Star Wars Rebels very first Act. Introduced first to the “loth-rat” Ezra Bridger, a teenage orphan, “Spark of Rebellion” – the title for the very first two episodes of the animated series – gives viewers immediate action when Bridger observes three individuals attack an Imperial detachment seeking to commandeer the storage containers the Empire is transporting. Jumping into the action, Bridger steals a speeder bike with two of the containers and the Rebels, having captured the other cargo, must pursue the teen to re-acquire the goods. Eventually escaping with one of the containers by fleeing the city and losing his pursuers, Bridger never-the-less finds himself saved by the Rebels moments later. Fleeing on board their ship, The Ghost, it is only then that Bridger learns that the container he stole contains Imperial blasters. However, as we and Bridger soon learn, weapons are not the only goods the Rebels were stealing from the Empire.
As The Ghost flees Imperial pursuit by heading into hyperspace, Bridger demands to be returned to Lothal. He is surprised to learn that this is exactly the plan, the captain of the vessel, Hera Syndulla, explaining to him that the job on Lothal is not yet finished. Landing on a small hill in a remote location on Lothal, Bridger is told to “pull his weight” by grabbing one of the stolen crates and joining two members of the crew as they descend the hill and enter the ram-shack village at its base. Known as Tarkintown, Bridger soon learns that it is home to displaced citizens of Lothal, citizens who had been kicked off their farms by the Empire. Arriving in the town center, it is only now that Ezra learns that the contents of the other crates the Rebels had stolen, the crates he and his companions have brought into Tarkintown, are filled with food. And, as the Rebel Zeb Orrelios announces there is “free grub” for the citizens, Bridger is taken-aback by the thanks he receives from citizens who are grateful for the generosity of the Rebels.
While the entire scene lasts but a moment, and Bridger and company move on from Tarkintown shortly afterwards, I have never-the-less always felt that the act of feeding those in need was a profound way to establish the moral and ethical compass of this band of Rebels. It is conceivable, given the way the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” unfolds – the attack on the Empire, Bridger stealing a crate, the Rebels saving the teen – that the show-runners could have moved the plot along without a trip to feed the hungry. However, showing that they were not just stealing weapons but also food, food that they were willing to share freely with the less fortunate, was a simple and effective way of showing that these Rebels are driven not only by a sense of justice, but also by compassion and humanitarianism.
On this point, it is worth noting that this act of humanitarianism stuns Bridger. Caught unaware by the fact that he is delivering food to Tarkintown’s inhabitants, and even more surprised when he is thanked by a hungry towns-person for the assistance, Bridger will retreat back to the hillside where he will sit and look down upon the village in silence. I cannot help but wonder if Bridger’s thoughts carried him back to the events from earlier in the day when we first met him on the streets of Capital City in the shows first few moments. Then, before his encounter with the Rebels, he had helped a food vendor who had been accosted by the Empire and then, taking advantage of the situation, cheekily stole some of the merchant’s jogan fruit. “A kids gotta eat” Bridger declares to justify his blatant robbery, a true statement but hardly grounds for the action, especially after the vendor freely offered him a jogan fruit as thanks for the teens assistance. Having just helped to deliver food to the hungry inhabitants of Tarkintown, it is worth asking: does Bridger now feel sorrow for selfishly stealing the food from vendor, especially since there are others who are worse off than he?
Granted, this is merely speculation. We do not know, nor can we know, what Bridger is thinking in his moment of silence, and one can certainly imagine that many separate thoughts were running through his mind. But putting Ezra’s hypothetical musings aside, it is equally worth noting that the entire opening Act of “Spark of Rebellion” is bookended by 1) Bridger’s relationship to others and; 2) food/hunger. At the beginning of the Act, Ezra purposefully helps another (the vendor) but takes food for himself because he “needs to eat.” At the end of the Act, he shares food with others who are themselves hungry even though, to his own admission, he “didn’t do anything” purposeful to help them. And nestled within those two bookends are the selfless actions of a Rebel cell that attacks the Empire so they can help others. In fact, it is worth noting that while the food is delivered to Tarkintown’s residents, the stolen weapons will be sold for money and, more importantly, information about a group of Wookiee slaves the Rebels desire to free from bondage. Once again, these Rebels – Bridger included – will embark on a humanitarian mission, risking their own lives by challenging the Empire so as to help those in need.
There are certainly other ways one could analyze the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” specifically and the episode as a whole more generally. However, I think it necessary and appropriate to end by noting that while the hungry citizens of Tarkintown are fictional, there are nearly 800 million people around the world dealing with undernourishment. That is 1 out of 9 people in the world! While Spark of Rebellion, and Star Wars Rebels, are a form of entertainment we can all enjoy, I hope that individuals who watch it – children and adults alike – are motivated to act selflessly (like the crew of The Ghost) and help our sisters and brothers who are struggling to find a meal.
For more information on world hunger and related issues, check out the links below. Oh, and I know you have time to check them out because you just spent like two minutes reading this Star Wars post. Seriously, if you could take the time to read this piece about make-believe Rebels who help make-believe citizens in Tarkintown, then you can take a few minutes to read about world hunger and discover ways that you can help alleviate the suffering of those who are undernourished or experiencing food insecurity. Here are the links, get to it…
The Hunger Site – There is a button on this page that says “Click Here to Give – it’s FREE” and every click is a donation to help those in need of a meal! GO CLICK THE BUTTON!
Feeding America – In the United States, 1 out of every 8 people struggle with food insecurity. Feeding America operates food banks nationwide to help tackle this problem. Check out the site for ways YOU can volunteer at a local food bank.
Hunger Notes – Be sure to “Take a Hunger Quiz” so you can learn more about issues related to hunger. Oh, and for every quiz that is taken, Hunger Notes makes a small donation to assist hungry people!
Meals on Wheels – Operating in nearly every American community, Meals on Wheels seeks to address senior hunger and isolation. Did you know that 1 out of every 6 seniors in the United States struggles with hunger? Or that 1 out of every 4 lives alone and in isolation? Explore the site to discover volunteer opportunities!
I thought this episode set a powerful tone for the series. Personally, I’m a little sad they haven’t stayed tighter to this issue – a small band of rebels who battle the Empire’s oppression to help those in need. We saw it off an on in Season One and Season Two opened with a great discussion between Kanan and Hera about whether or not they were soldiers in a war against the Empire or people looking to harass the Empire in the name of helping those they oppress. By and large, I think this theme has been lost to Jedi training, Force discussions, and Easter egging. Not that they show isn’t still fun…but I miss this social justice core.
I love that you have those links above too! We, as fans, will spend a ridiculous amount of time “shipping” Kanan and Hera or Ezra and Sabine or speculating about what part of the plot ties to what else in the Star Wars universe but, when it comes to trying to model the more important messages of the Saga, we tend to become easily distracted. Thanks for the easy access to action!
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I’m sad about that too. I still enjoy the series, but definitely not as much as I did throughout the first season. Once things moved off of Lothal, and the show took a distinct “Clone Wars” turn, I just started to lose interest in many ways. I can appreciate the need to create the foundation of the Rebellion, but I just think this show was really built on a foundation of localized action. With the crew flying all over the place doing things is just doesn’t have the same feel.