(Note: The following is largely SPOILER-FREE, but does contain discussion of a few key characters in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and may therefore be considered to contain MILD PLOT-BASED SPOILERS, roughly equivalent to the watching of multiple trailers, or reading a SPOILER-FREE review...)
Now, whatever you might think of C-3PO and R2-D2 - and opinions vary from considering them to be modern day cinematic icons to hating their cutesy repartee with the fire of a thousand exploding Alderaans - it's impossible to deny that they were integral parts of the original Star Wars trilogy. After all, at any given moment in the movie's plot, there's a pretty good chance that Artoo and Threepio are either there, or caused everyone who is there to be there in the first place.
And yet, the Star Wars saga has always had a dark secret when it comes to our bleeping, blooping metal friends. Specifically:
Star Wars' Droids are Sentient Beings Who Have Been Enslaved on a Galaxy-Wide Scale
After all, from the very first time that Artoo and Threepio meet Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, all the way through to the closing moments of Revenge of the Sith, the droids are routinely treated as property by all those around them - because according to the laws of the Star Wars universe, they are. What's more, they're the lucky ones, seeing as many of their droid brethren end up being brutally mistreated and often murdered for parts - despite being demonstrably capable of intelligent thought and emotion.
They are, in short, more than machines, yet are treated like toasters.
The big question, then?
Has That Changed in 'Episode VII'?
Well, sort of.
Suffice to say - and I'm going to attempt to keep the following discussion as spoiler-free as possible - the basic understanding of droids as being sentient beings who are nonetheless an expendable, enslaveable sub-class is alive and well, at least on a certain desert planet.
The big difference from the Original Trilogy and the Prequels, however?
'Episode VII' Seems Very Aware of Just How Wrong the Galaxy's Treatment of Droids is
There are a number of scenes (an early one featuring Daisy Ridley's Rey, and a number featuring Oscar Isaac's Poe) that seem to highlight the fact that The Force Awakens' younger characters are more than aware that the way droids were treated in the past was wrong - while still retaining a solid dose of their parents' generation's mildly patronizing attitude.
In other words, the droids are being treated a little better than they used to be - but they're still a long way from truly being free (let alone equal).
Which, considering The Force Awakens was so noticeably interested in the topic, might just come back to bite the galaxy in the ass (or at least provoke an interesting conversation or two) in a future movie installment...