The year was 1977.
The world’s first all-in-one computer, the Commodore PET, is sold for the first time. As an aside, this alone is worth yapping on about, just look at how things have changed in 38 years!
Jimmy Carter becomes president. Roots begins on ABC, and I remember clearly the ruckus that show made among people at my school. The Soviet Union launches Soyuz 24 to dock with the Salyut 5 space station. The rings of Uranus are discovered (and obviously the hospital results were normal, or you wouldn’t still be here… sorry, couldn’t help it!). The Clash released its self-titled debut album in the UK. Alternative 3, a fake documentary that is embedded into the realm of conspiracy, is first in the UK. This is a curious project that I intend to explore at a later date. Close Encounters comes out. As did Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall, A Bridge Too Far, and The Spy Who Loved Me. And not to forget Airport 77, arguably one of the most watched movies ever even if no one wants to admit to it.
Star Wars was never a brainy film. It came out in a year when many good movies were released. There is nothing, really, to be learned from Star Wars, except that if you really stick with something, chances will fall on your side that you might succeed, as George Lucas went into debt, worked silly hours, and worked like a dog to get his dream into theatres. And I loved it. Adored it. So many of my hours were spent drawing all the characters and reading endless articles about the actors and how the movie was made. Thirty-eight years later I’ve gotten the chance to draw and paint cards that will be released with this new installment (if they are approved); you have no idea how happy I am about that. So, though much of this article is written tongue-in-cheek, be sure that I’m a fan. 🙂
But despite the fluffiness of the plot, the low-budget, and unknown actors (except for Sir Alec Guinness who was ashamed to be a part of it), none of that kept the movie from breaking records at the time, and joining those “special” movies, one of those experiences that would stay with innumerable people. Like Star Trek the original series (yes, I know, Star Trek was the smart one, and I agree!), the stories would inspire young and less-young alike to invent, explore, and create.
And THAT is what I love so much about fiction.
The fairy tale of Luke, Leia, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Han is not so far away from legend. As the countdown is on to the next trilogy (I have my tickets!), I wonder: Why? Why has this simple story stuck around so long? Were the scripts so outstandingly well-written? Was it the cast that mesmerized millions?
It’s fairly well-known that George Lucas was a very big fan of Joseph Campbell and his many works including The Power of Myth (worth reading). Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. He is responsible for the phrase “Follow your bliss”, a phrase often quoted by, well, pretty much everybody. A fun note on that phrase – apparently, during his later years when some students took Mr. Campbell to be encouraging hedonism, he is reported to have grumbled, “I should have said, ‘Follow your blisters.’ “
Now that I can relate to!
Books and more books have been written comparing the world of Star Wars to Campbell’s Hero’s Journey so I have no intention of rehashing all that here. The point I’m making is that there is something very universal (one could almost say “bland”) about the trope. Like it or not, it’s a formula that is repeated endlessly in fiction, be it fluffy or literary (and I mean “literary” with your little finger in the air, those stories that, truth be told, nobody really understands).
It’s repeated so often because it usually works. It sells, and inspires. No matter your worldview, you can identify with it. Working class beats “the man”. The greenhorn beats crooked expert. Good versus evil.
Yes indeed, it is founded in religion but like any well-worn pair of boots, it’s a religion generic enough to fit most feet well enough to carry you through the day until you can get your own boots.
So now, just over a month away from the opening of The Force Awakens, I’m really wondering where the story will go, if it can grow up into adulthood and still be inspiring and fun. George Lucas is not driving the Millennium Falcon anymore, and frankly, that might just be for the best. He did a fantastic job of creating the galaxy far, far away, but I think it’s time the ship’s wheel was passed on. I hope J. J. Abrams drives it well. And you know what? I’m confident he will do a great job. One thing is for sure – it’s gonna be fun!
Just like the very best chocolate chip cookies, it doesn’t really matter if it’s good for you or not, it’s comforting. For now at least.
PS: My tickets for The Force Awakens are safely tucked away, and I’ll be off to watch on December 18th with my two young adults who are well-versed in the Star Wars universe. On December 23rd I’ll be posting a spoiler-free review simply covering my overall response: orgasmic, or disappointment? Did it impress my offspring? As you all go see it, I’d like to know what you thought.