Star Wars Endures: May the 4th Be With You. Always.
The French have accused Hollywood -- and the United States by extension -- of culture imperialism from time to time but let's face it. You just can't keep good 'ol American pop culture in the armoire anymore. It has a tendency of going global -- and has been very many decades now. It's especially true when it comes to the Star Wars universe and the imagination and excitement it continues to inspire for millions -- if not billions -- around this blue planet we all call home. For that we say, "May the 4th Be With You."
Source: Headington Media Group
It turns out that the Iron Lady, Britain's first-ever female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had something to do with this special day for Star Wars fans. In 1979, two years after the original Star Wars was released, the London Evening News ran a half-page ad paid for by her Conservative Party saying "May the Fourth Be With You Maggie. Congratulations."
The phrase continued to be used but it really wasn't until just a few years ago with the help of the internet that fans fully embraced it in costume -- "cosplay" if you will -- in Toronto -- that it took off. Then when Disney bought the universe from Lucas film in late 2012, Star Wars was pushed it all the stores and theme parks. Just a year ago on May 4, Disney Parks had official fan celebrations and for 2014 had its stores offer exclusive collectibles and deals on merchandise.
I'll be honest. My brother and I had a beat-up millennium falcon, an At-At, the Hutt Palace with Salacious B. Crumb, a Boba Fett ship with Han Solo in carbonite, and untold numbers of trading cards with that slim stick of dry gum that came with it. We would set it up our sides for hours, often fighting over characters, making trades and choosing ships for a final battle that never quite came -- because it took so long to set-up.
I remember the shock and awe of watching the films -- right there at the little North Hollywood movie theater where Victory and Laurel Canyon meet in America's suburb, the San Fernando Valley. Even today, there is a Death Star pez dispenser, life-size Vader helmet and a three foot Darth Vader figurine in the HMG office. I have also been known to tell my business partner -- who actually believed her father was Darth Vader until the ripe old age of five -- to "Laugh it up, Fuzzball."
Star Wars matters because it opens up the imagination of everyone who sees it. Its characters dare us all to reach beyond the stars, from the young to the young-at-heart. Some simply love a great story while others who are fascinated -- perhaps slightly obsessed -- by the whole space opera of it all. It's the ultimate redemption story about Anakin Skywalker -- aka Darth Vader -- and spins a tale of good versus evil as old as humanity. And there are so many moving parts -- literally -- that it warrants repeat viewings and rouses legions of fans -- both the causal and purists alike.
To close with a French phrase, Star Wars has been the avant-garde of science fiction since it arrived in theaters this month way back in the early days of the Carter Administration. And in a little more than a year from now, the latest addition to the franchise will hit theaters with that famous John Williams score and memorable yellow screen crawl. Until then, "May the 4th Be With You." Always.