An evil empire is a speculative fiction trope in which a major antagonist of the story is a technologically advanced nation, typically ruled by an evil emperor or empress, that aims to control the world or conquer some specific group. They are opposed by a hero from more common origins who uses their guile or the help of an underground resistance to fight them. Well-known examples are the Galactic Empire in Star Wars, which forms upon the collapse of the more benevolent Galactic Republic and is opposed by Luke Skywalker, as well as the Galactic Empire in Dune, whose Emperor plots the downfall of House Atreides, and is opposed by Paul Atreides. The theme also often appears in video games, such as the Final Fantasy series, starting with Final Fantasy II, which was inspired by Star Wars, and becoming a major part of Final Fantasy VI in the form of the Gestahl Empire.
Fantastical evil empires typically make heavy use of technology and mechanization, refusing to coexist with nature and destroying or exploiting it instead. The hero or heroes of the story often make use of these natural elements to fight the empire, such as the Ewoks of Endor or the Sandworms of Arrakis. When the empire is defeated, the world returns to its natural state. This is often a metaphor for modern environmental problems caused by the negligence of global superpowers.
Use in politics
The concept of an "evil empire" was appropriated from Star Wars by Ronald Reagan, who used it in his 1983 Evil Empire speech to describe the Soviet Union, dramatically raising the stakes in the arms race between it and the United States.
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