We’ve all seen The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t, then insert some not-so-thinly-veiled insult with regard to your utter ignorance of frivolous pop culture moving picture flicks and geek cultdom.
Anyway, we’ve all seen The Empire Strikes Back, and we all know its opening scene and its entire first act. Rebels have super-secret cool base on an arctic planet entirely covered by snow, the evil Imperials find the base and assault it with giant stop-motion walkers, and a lot of people die but a lot more get away safely. Sure, it shows us a blizzard, an ice cave, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker roughing it in the snow using some sort of mammal as a sleeping bag, but the truth is, none of these things accurately portray the reality of snow.
The truth is, snow hurts. It’s snowing all hell to holy Moses right now. I just shoveled for the second time today, removing six inches from pathways I’d already cleared a couple hours ago—pathways sheltered from direct snowfall because of my patio roof. The unsheltered pathways had almost a foot. The snowdrift in front of my carport had three additional feet I had to clear. I’m not looking forward to doing the rest of the driveway tomorrow, after this is supposed to have blown over finally. I didn’t finish the driveway because, well, I got tired. My priorities are elsewhere.
But what does Star Wars say about snow? Nothing.
While Han is gallivanting around with his carpet sidekick in the snow, children aren’t getting the education they need: how to shovel that stuff out of your way and the dangers associated with pulling muscles in your back through improper lifting methods, for instance. You never see the rebel base there conduct any investigations into their roof—no mention, for example, is made of how to combat ice damming, much less the issues associated with ice caves and the structural integrity of snow, to say nothing of its sheer weight and the problems that can occur when snow piles up on an inadequately reinforced structure. And what about the dangers of hypothermia, exposure, black ice, whiteout, traveling? What about snow drifts, avalanches? The cold?
Star Wars doesn’t really bother with any of that. It’s more interested in telling its fanciful fairytale, some kind of silly adventure story in which the dangers of things like hypothermia and exposure are trivialized into cheap plot-points to get the story moving. It’s more interested in its schlocky moralizing on a fictionalized take on good versus evil, when the real evil at work, the real problems that must be focused on, are purely environmental. The fact that the rebel base has no particular interest in explaining anything about the elements—just a few cheap references to ‘the elements’ and how it’s ‘too cold to go out there’ or something (snowsplaining, anyone?)—makes it clear how deeply problematic Star Wars’ approach to these serious contemporary issues really is.
You’ll find that this is a common theme across basically all media. Snowfall and winter in general is relegated to background noise, “setting”. At most, some sort of event is used to shift the direction of the narrative but, really, that’s always just a cheap cash-in on the dramatics. It has nothing to do with making us learn about the snow, how to handle it, how to manage it. It says nothing about the serious problems we face when a blizzard bares down upon us and ravages us deep into the heart of winter.
We need something to kick off this snow awareness. Not something like a charity. Something more like a hashtag. For this purpose I propose #SnowMatters. Do not let the voices of snow victims remain forever in isolation, alone, unheard—do not let celebrity skiers trapped beneath avalanches monopolize the tragedy of snow victimhood. Snow is dangerous. Winter is deadly. Ice kills.