Star Wars re­mains a pop-cul­ture force

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - ARTS & LIFE - By Jo­ce­lyn Noveck

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.

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