While there are numerous popular stories and series of epic proportions, none quite captures the imagination as Star Wars. The franchise is deeply embedded in the lives and culture of multi-generations around the globe. Even if you’re not a huge fan or have never seen the films in their entirety, Star Wars still manages to make a connection through rich and symbolic characters like Darth Vadar, Yoda, C3P0 and R2D2 (among others).
They are as familiar as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, and immediately recognized for who they are: personifications of evil (and redemption); whit and wisdom; and comedic duos. And the characters and story continue to get better with age. Even my wife, who is not a Star Wars geek or science-fiction fan, can find the humor in the endlessly fun Star Wars parodies, mash-ups and humorous homages:
And there is that sense of super-cool-awesome-wonder that speaks to our inner creativity, reflected in the things we build around us:
Star Wars’ success is due largely to its ability to draw heavily from myth, of beloved stories about morality, spirituality and good v. evil, light v. dark–tales that have been passed down and retold through the centuries (The Bible, Greek tragedies, the way of the Samurai, King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table, Shakespeare, westerns, crime noir, mystery, adventure, etc.) as American mythologist Joseph Campbell explains to Bill Moyers in the exquisite 1988 PBS series “The Power of Myth.”
And it has had a major impact on the many popular stories and films that have come in its wake. Without Star Wars there wouldn’t be J.J. Abrams’s LOST and Fringe; Russell T. Davies & Steven Moffat’s reboot of Doctor Who; Peter Jackson’s cinematic re-imagining of The Lord of the Rings; or Spielberg’s ET and Indiana Jones; the Wachowski’s The Matrix; the re-launch of Battlestar Galactica (BSG); Marvel and DC’s movie versions of Spider-Man, Iron-Man, The Avengers, Batman and Superman; Josh Whedon’s Buffy and Firefly; Pixar’s Toy Story, The Incredibles, Wall-E, and Up; JK Rowling’s Harry Potter; and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (and everything in between).
At its core Star Wars is a universal (and quite honestly a profound spiritual truth) about humanity and the meaning of life–of a journey of faith and transformation that forces us to look beyond ourselves and to the hope of something good for all in the here and now…and beyond.
Beneath all the stuff, the whimsy and the hip geek factor, is a desire to use our gifts, “our force” for good, to champion wrongs, to mock evil and to help redeem the things that have been lost to the side of the dark.
That is why Star Wars Day on May 4th is important even as we also remember the historical events that took place on this date.
May the Fourth be with you. And may goodness, imagination, love, peace and justice (albeit through non-violent, sacrificial means) come to the galaxy…