When Carl Sagan Called Out Star Wars for Being 'Racist' and 'Unscientific'

Carl Sagan wanted to be a galaxy far, far away from Star Wars.
Carl Sagan wanted to be a galaxy far, far away from Star Wars. / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Star Wars premiered in 1977 to near-universal acclaim, becoming the highest-grossing film up to that time, and spawning a vast multimedia universe that’s become closer to a religion than a franchise.

Carl Sagan wasn’t having it.

The astronomer appeared on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1978 to discuss all things science, and ripped into Star Wars practically from the moment he sunk into his seat.

You can see the entire appearance in the above video, but suffice to say that Sagan had some thoughts. He took issue with the idea that the evolutionary process on other planets would have resulted in a human race virtually indistinguishable from Earth’s and even picked up on the use of parsecs used as a measure of distance rather than time.

Some of Sagan’s critiques may be regarded as nitpicking—Carson argued Star Wars was simply a “Western in outer space”—but Sagan had problems that ran deeper.

“They’re all white,” Sagan said of the characters. “The skin of all humans in Star Wars is, oddly enough, like this,” looking down at his own hands.

When Carson pointed out there were aliens of various appearance, Sagan noted that “none of them seemed to be in charge of the galaxy. Everybody in charge of the galaxy seemed to look like us. I thought there was a large amount of human chauvinism.”

Sagan admitted he liked the picture—at least, the “11-year-old” in him did. But he felt the movie could have done a better job depicting scientific accuracy without compromising its entertainment value. “All you have to do is hire one impoverished graduate student to get all the facts right,” he said.

You can listen to Sagan’s take on a variety of subjects, including the search for extraterrestrial life, in the clip.

[h/t The Interrobang]