It's official: Darth Vader is no longer cool. He's a burger.
I'm not sure how we've reduced the Lord of the Sith to a couple of meat patties between an entirely unappetizing pair of blackened buns. As the American Film Institute's number 3 villain behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates, you'd think he would have a little more cred. But his reputation as galactic bad-ass seems to have deteriorated over the past years ten years or so. What happened to the days when Imperial officers went to work every morning afraid they were going to be Force-choked? What happened to the Vader who was the symbol of the Reagan-era Cold War when "Star Wars" meant the possibility of Russians and Americans duking it out in space?
My guess is that the Imperial march from feared tyrant to fast food probably had more to do with the prequel movies than anything preceding it. Audiences everywhere cringed and moaned through three films watching Anakin Skywalker's painful anti-hero journey. I propose that the culmination in our first look at the newborn Anakin turned Vader in 2005 set the tone for his subsequent wussification in pop culture.
Because when you come off the table like a Frankenstein monster and scream "Noooooooo!" you're in for the mocking of a lifetime.
Or perhaps you'd prefer the Chinese translation-retranslation of subtitles version that spawned the infamous "Do not want" meme:
Of course, there have been plenty of parodies and jokes before the prequels (see Spaceballs, 1987). But much of that happened before we knew about the origins of Vader. There was still mystery surrounding his life, and we were left to speculate why he was the person he was, given only the barest glimpses of his humanity in crucial moments in the original trilogy.
Now we know Vader was a reckless immaculate conception slave kid with anger issues, a swollen ego, and a mommy complex. And Lucas, in all his great wisdom, has decided to reissue the original trilogy and add that extra "Noooooooooo!" to the end of Return of the Jedi so that we can bookend the story between two hugely unappetizing pieces of crap.
Not unlike that burger, actually.
For your perusal:
Chad Vader, 2006
Darth Vader Dancing to "Can't Touch This", 2009
Robot Chicken Star Wars--Orientation Day on the Death Star, 2010
Volkswagen Commercial, 2011
Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) by Steven Sharp Nelson (see 2:05), 2011
Darth Vader for President (Rick Perry Strong Parody), 2011