Yep. Star Wars Day is a thing. It’s unofficial, but it’s still a thing.
May 4th was chosen as Star Wars Day simply because of the easy pun, riffing on the classic Star Wars greeting “May the Force be with you.” The holiday came about due to a bunch of things, like the internet and social media, but mostly because – let’s face it – there are a lot of Star Wars nerds out there (and I’m one of them) and sooner or later, there was going to be a holiday for the franchise George Lucas started rolling all those years ago.
People most often choose to dress up as the characters from the films or books or video games, but people also have Star Wars movie marathons (perhaps in the ‘Machete Order’), or Netflix binge sessions of Clone Wars, or intense video game sessions of Star Wars: Battlefront. The sky is the limit, really. I mean, it’s a day for all things Star Wars. Pick your poison.
If you’ve read this blog at any point in the past, you know that I dress up as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode III. For me, Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my uncle was huge into Star Wars and had all the action figures. I used to play with them when I went to visit my grandparents, and I can still remember the pure joy of playing with the Yoda action figure in a pan of porkchop grease which, in my mind, had turned into the swamps of Dagobah. I’m sure he didn’t like me playing with his figures after that (come to think of it, I don’t think I ever was able to play with Yoda again after the porkchop grease incident) but I just couldn’t get enough of it.
When I became a certain age, I started to appreciate new things about the films. Actually, the older I got – the more nuance the films held for me. It was like my years were keys to unlocking new levels of excitement and appreciation for what Lucas had built. Star Wars was not stuffy, as I’d often seen Star Trek. Where Star Trek at times seemed to hold all the excitement for me of a math problem, Star Wars was accessible and appealed more to my sense of adventure. Sure, Spock was cool – but I wanted to see Han and Chewie tear things up in the Millennium Falcon.
When I was in high school, Lucas released the prequel trilogy. I had never been so hyped for an event. Let me just say that I was a bit disappointed when I went to see it. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, to this day, is the ONLY movie I’ve ever fallen asleep to in the theater. It started off pretty cool, with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan using lightsabers to melt through doors and using super speed and doing all these crazy flips. But then it basically turned into Fox News and I felt like I was watching NASCAR briefly peppered with right-wing politics debate. It was awful.
What I like most about Star Wars is that it’s not science fiction. It’s fantasy with science fiction trappings. It’s a space opera. It’s a goddamned adventure. However, I can break down what exactly I love about Star Wars and why.
1. STORY STRUCTURE
Star Wars, in my opinion, mostly became the success story it is due to the film’s adherence to the Hero’s Journey. If you don’t know what the Hero’s Journey is, it’s a formula used for thousands of years by successful storytellers to construct the ultimate epic tale of adventure. I posted a diagram of what that looks like right above so you can check it out for yourself.
Whether or not Lucas meant to use the formula or not, he did, and as a result – Star Wars has real lasting power. Star Wars can be cheesy, yes, but it can also be Shakespearean at times. Violence, politics, betrayal, family issues. These are all things that get our blood boiling. We are caught up in our own little dramas every day and experience those types of things on a much smaller scale (usually) so when we see them represented on screen it validates our own realities and experiences as being universal. Also, the way that the Hero’s Journey paces the story is just refreshing and feels natural.
The foundation is important on a good home, and Star Wars has a very good foundation with its story structure. This enabled the film to draw the viewers in, and even if there were annoying characters or moments, the foundation was solid and most people enjoyed its flow. (At least in the original trilogy, but I’ll get to the prequels later…)
Setting also played an important part in the film franchise’s success. When A New Hope begins, we’re in space. That’s pretty standard for a sci-fi film. But then we are also on Tatooine. We’re on Dagobah. We’re on Hoth. Bespin. Endor. There are so many cool planets in the Star Wars universe, and we’re able to see so much about them through the film’s lens.
The reason that most of the setting is great is because Lucas didn’t go over the top with much of the actual terrain. There were no crazy special effects (at least not in the originals) when Luke was on his uncle’s moisture farm on Tatooine. He was in a desert. It could have been any desert. Likewise with Endor being a forest – it could be the forest in our back yard (granted, I live in Maine, so I guess that might not be everyone’s reality). The worlds didn’t feel overly alien. They felt familiar. We knew how cold Han and Luke were on Hoth because we’ve all been in really bad blizzards.
Also, most of the equipment in the Star Wars universe was “used” and dirty and everything felt lived in. This was a big distinction when it came to the shiny, polished look of the prequel trilogy and the heavy CGI elements which took us out of the story and possibly why the prequels are derided as being inferior in almost every way.
The characters of the Star Wars universe are what seals the deal for me. Each character, even minor ones, appeal to so many different people. One person may love Princess Leia but hate Queen Amidala. One person may love Jar Jar but hate Chewie. There’s someone in the cast for everyone. My own favorite characters are Han Solo and Chewie, but I also like Obi-Wan Kenobi (as if that wasn’t obvious). None of the characters are too over the top and they all bring something relevant to the table. For example, Luke doesn’t always save the day by himself just because he has the powers of the Force – he needs help from his skilled friends.
When I was a young boy, I really identified with Luke Skywalker. He was a normal boy, having to help with work on his uncle’s farm. Life was boring for him and held little excitement. Then, out of nowhere, someone comes around and tells him that he’s special, that he can make a difference. We all want to be told we can make a difference, especially at a young age, so Luke’s entrance into the saga reflected my own personal desires. Deep down, I knew I was more than the sum of what people made me out to be.
Later on in life, when I was little older, I identified more with Han Solo. He was a rebel (in more ways than one) and he did things his own way. However, when Han befriends you – he’s loyal and he’ll put his life on the line for you. Plus, in the world of Jedi and lightsabers, Han relied on his blaster and was damned good with it, too.
Of course, not being female, I didn’t quite identify with Princess Leia as a young woman might have. To me, she was just the “princess” when I was younger. However, when I got older I began to not only appreciate her in a new light (as in, I fell in love with her because she was sexy and beautiful) but also see how she rounded out the three main human characters of Star Wars.
I mean, yeah – Leia has some cheesecake moments. The image above speaks for itself. But Leia was not brought down by any of those moments. She was defiant in the face of overwhelming odds. She was saved, but it was sort of by accident and when she escaped she returned and didn’t just hide or anything else. She went on to lead the rebellion. Not only that, but she held her own against the salty and abrasive Han Solo. As a major player in the Star Wars universe, Leia Organa has definitely earned respect.
So what have I been leading up to with all this? Well, for one thing – if for some reason you haven’t wanted to check out Star Wars, go give it a try. Not everyone can be into everything, but under everything else, Star Wars is a really well-crafted adventure story. The prequels sort of fell short on that front, but the main trilogy is not lessened in any way by the failings of the prequel trilogy. The setting will make you feel like you’re there with the characters of Star Wars, and in turn – you will identify with the characters because they are likable and believable as human in an otherwise alien civilization. Celebrate your love of the franchise in whatever way you see fit. We belong to a group of really cool and interesting people, who can sometimes go a little overboard in their love for all things Star Wars but who are ultimately just fans of this great fictional universe.
And if you’re not sure what you should do on Star Wars Day? Here are some suggestions:
- Watch A Star Wars Film – Or Hold A Star Wars Film Party. You could binge-watch both available trilogies in a marathon, or you could just watch one film. It doesn’t matter. You could even watch the Clone Wars or another animated series.
- Read A Star Wars Novel Or Comic Book. Yeah, most of the books are non-canon now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent Star Wars fix from them. If you’re not sure where to start, try Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn. Plus, Marvel Comics has been releasing several Star Wars titles since they got the license back from Dark Horse Comics.
- Play A Star Wars Video Game. There are multiple titles out there you could try for multiple systems. Plus, there tends to be a lot of online “May The 4th” game sales, too. I picked up Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II for my PS3 at the discount price of $7.00 and have been playing it all morning.
- Wear Star Wars Costumes/Clothing And Take Photos To Share Online. One of the funnest things about being a Star Wars fan is sharing the fun and enthusiasm with other Star Wars nerds. Take advantage of the day and go put on your Star Wars shirt for a photo.
- Have A Star Wars Costume Party. I think this one speaks for itself.
Whatever you choose to do, May the 4th be with you, always.