Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Star Wars Phenomenon (and Fisher a Goddess)

I was eleven when I saw Return of the Jedi. As a kid, I was all things Star Wars, had all the action figures and used to play with them for hours with them with my cousin. We built elaborate sets for using everything from the sandbox to house plants to furniture.

It was awesome.

I was also eleven the first time when I saw Princess Leia in a metal bikini. Raised in a conservative household, and generally behind my classmates when it came to the opposite sex, nonetheless I understood what I'd just witnessed. She was the first goddess I'd ever seen, though thanks to my shyness, I never did mention it or talk about her with my friends. She was beyond talking about.

How amazing, then, to find that years later, Fisher is probably the coolest of the remaining actors from the original series. She's just a bit off (in the right way), doesn't care what anyone thinks, and has a terrific sense of humour. She's brilliant. Truly. (Also, she is nothing like Leia, the character that made her famous.)

Check out this interview with Good Morning America:

Amazing, no? (And that dog!)

Cultural Phenomenon

To call Star Wars iconic is to actually downgrade its importance in the Western zeitgeist. Despite some of the grumblings about the second set of films, particularly the first one, the original trilogy has retained its cultural power forty years later. It is mind boggling. But why? Why does it still hold such sway all these years later. There are a few reasons.

1) When the original trilogy was released, no one had seen anything like it. The equivalent would be the release of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. (The novel, not the movie) No one had ever read such a thing, and it immediately tapped into something within the culture that was either waiting for it or needed it or both. Star Wars did the same thing, and changed movie making in the process. It (along with Jaws) gave us the era of the "Blockbuster," an era in which we are still living, and one that shows no sign of slowing. (This hasn't always been a good thing.)

2) The storytelling is both classic and simple, but it's extremely well done. There's a reason this Space Opera holds up after forty years. Let's be clear, Star Wars is not science fiction, it's fantasy in space. As such, it is far more accessible. I re-watched the original trilogy two months ago, and while there is no doubt nostalgia was attached to my viewing pleasure, the stories remain timeless and well executed.

3) The digital revolution has wrought a time where people hunger for fantasy and super heroes, For worlds that take them away from the fifteen second image speed trap we now live in. I wrote about this a few days ago, and within this type of pop culture, where comic book movies make $1 Billion at the box office, a franchise like Star Wars is bound to be popular.

4) It's a great world. My upcoming novels are set within a single world, though I tell many different stories within that setting. I love it, and feel lucky to have found it. Why? Every fantasist knows that even if your story is a bit weak, if you can create a world that people love, you'll find success. Star Wars is a world we know and love, and even if a film within that setting is bad (cough, number one, cough), we'll go back to it anyway.

5) It stands for something. The religion Lucas referenced in Star Wars is Taoism, but the movie isn't preachy, it's about doing the right thing. Caring for others. Diversity. Standing up for the weak. This is a message that all religions can celebrate. It is inclusive, enough that the strictest fundamentalist Christian and the most devout Muslim can both enjoy it. And in an increasingly divisive age, such a thing is welcomed by everyone. Now all stories "stand for something," they all have themes, but that doesn't mean they are all well executed. In particular, how many blockbusters have you seen lately where the hero wins by dropping his weapon and saying that "he won't fight." as Luke does in Return of the Jedi?


I've heard a few criticisms regarding the "lily white" nature of the original series. They aren't wrong, but only to an extent. I always felt like the aliens provided a great deal of diversity, that it was inherent within the world. Obviously, in the new one, they do try to correct that regarding their leads, but I still feel that criticism is disingenuous at best.

One of the reasons I liked fantasy as a kid, and ended up writing it, was because it was so different from the white world I grew up in. Even now, I still feel that fantasy is more inclusive than any other genre. And that includes Star Wars.

Once A Kid...

Star Wars has ruled pop culture for nearly forty years, and in the trusted hands of JJ Abrams, it is about to remind us just how much it matters. I'm excited for the new film. Excited to see the new characters and to hang out with some old favourites. I still remember playing with my action figures, still remember how much the story filled my life as a child. I may not play with action figures any more, but the story still fills my life, and I can't wait to see what happens next.