Star Wars remains a pop-culture force
OK, so maybe he was mixing his Star Wars and Star Trek references, but when U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of getting congressional leaders into a “Jedi mind meld” back in 2013, eight years after the last Star Wars movie had come out, he was displaying in one small way just how firmly the franchise had rooted itself in our popular culture.
Well, the new Star Wars is finally out. If you didn’t reserve a seat ahead of time, it may be a while before you get to see it, so here’s something to chew on while you’re waiting — 10 reasons Star Wars has retained its exalted position in the pop culture firmament: Just ask a science-fiction nerd. “I remember going with my wife and saying, ‘Look at these audiences!’” says Paul Levinson, sci-fi author and communications professor at Fordham University. “This franchise really brought science fiction, which had a cult following, into the mainstream in a huge way.” And in a way, too, that managed to resonate with little kids, grandparents and everyone in between. And we don’t mean up in space — we mean down here on Earth, in human shopping malls. The comics, the video games and, of course, the toys. “The films are the mother ship,” says Henry Jenkins, professor of communications, journalism and cinematic arts at the USC Annenberg School in Los Angeles. “Meanwhile, all these other forms are generating content. These integrated systems have become the norm for successful Hollywood franchises.” the early films, particularly from Han Solo (more on him soon) and, of course, C-3P0 and R2-D2. “Robots had never been funny before,” says Levinson. To many, the dashing young Ford’s embodiment of swashbuckling space cowboy Solo was the best thing in the original film — he seemed to be having way more fun and way less stress than everyone else. Well, he’s still dashing at 73. And he’s prominent in the new film. chise was how creator George Lucas mashed together film genres to create a multi-layered world. These included the western, the fantasy and science fiction. Jenkins also sees echoes of films such as The Wizard of Oz, and even Laurel and Hardy. “Everyone can have a corner of the universe that speaks to them,” he says. What Star Wars line is more iconic that “I am your father?” (And to satisfy purists out there, it’s “No, I am your father,” not the oft-quoted “Luke, I am your father.”) The father-son dynamic is “a motif that goes back to the ancient Greeks,” says Levinson. Fans will be happy to know the motif figures again in the new film. Quick, name a movie-related toy that’s had more staying power than the lightsaber. “I turned everything into a lightsaber as a kid — wrapping-paper rolls, flashlights,” says Gerry Canavan, a professor of English at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., who specializes in science fiction. Canavan was born after the first movie came out, but feels like he entered the world knowing the story — and the saber. “The noise, that hum — there’s something awesome about it,” he says. Call it cinnamon buns, bagels, doughnuts — we’re talking about that original Princess Leia hairstyle. Where the heck did it come from? Lucas told Time magazine in 2002 that he was looking “to create something different that wasn’t fashion” — he certainly got that right — and went with “a kind of southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look.” Whatever. It’s hard to forget.
The global phenonemon that is Star Wars saw costumed fans in Japan snapping up franchise-related toys on Friday.