Why do we love Star Wars so goddamn much?
I haven't seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet.
And I don't plan on seeing it until it becomes the utmost uncool thing to do, which is presumably when another blockbuster is in theaters and/or the the next Star Wars movie is available for streaming.
See, for the first sixteen years old my life, the Star Wars movies were airing once a year on television, back when you had to watch the movies that were airing on television or leave your house to go to the video store. I couldn't separate them in my young mind from other eighties classics like the Indiana Jones movies or, let's say, Ghostbusters. And I don't believe it was that different for other people of my age. We missed the original Star Wars theater run and, in the pre-internet era, cultural significance was primarily dictated by mainstream media. We loved whatever they told us we should love.
It all changed in 1999, when George Lucas decided to squeeze another couple hundred millions from his characters and released another trilogy. People flocked to theaters like they did twenty-two years prior, expecting the same kind of thrills and they were utterly disappointed. These movies were basically an elaborate prequel to the old trilogy, featured different characters and shitty ideas from shitty, suit-wearing studio people. Something weird started happening then: people my age started worshiping the old movies for being infinitely superior. I was a cinematographic studies student back then and I bought the original trilogy on DVD and I have no idea why I did that.
Fast forward another twenty-two years, Star Wars culture has become prevalent. There's been three new movies over the last three years, there's a fourth one coming up next month and, I believe, another one coming up this December. And the demand doesn't seem to waver. The new Disney Star Wars movies are everything we've ever wanted out of Star Wars, but what is it we want out of these movies exactly?
Why do we love Star Wars so goddamn much? As someone who got over his Star Wars boner around 2011, I allowed myself to come up with theories.
It's really easy to tell who's the bad guy
Light versus dark. Good versus evil.
The rebels versus the empire.
Whichever Star Wars film you're watching, this is the gist of it. It's the story of an uprising against an oppressive political force. Unlikely partners band together in order to defeat tyrannical evil. We live in a social system that more or less dictates who we are and what role we should play, so it never stops being empowering to watch people rebel and triumph against a monolithic force. Especially that we have one in our world right now: corporatism. Arrogant suit-wearing men are our stormtroopers and skyscrapers are our Death Stars. The allegory is always valid because our social system hasn't really changed since 1977.
There's another perspective to consider: it's difficult to objectively be the good guy in our life. Everybody thinks they're the good one. Sure, we make enemies here and there, but quarrels often stem from differences in opinion, clashing egos or social factors that you have no control over. In Star Wars, the empire, the first order or whatever you want to call them are a totalitarian army. They want to colonize the universe and turn it to its image. Who was the last example of that in the real world? Nazis. And there are still movies about WWII made today because we all need someone to hate.
We watch Star Wars movies for the same reason we watch WWII movies.
Purging emotions is the oldest technique in the book in order to get an audience involved. If you provide catharsis by having a clear good guy triumph over a clear bad guy, your audience feels vindicated at the end of the movie. Viewers feel like their kicked some ass in a weird, perverse way.
It's the geek-chic thing to do
Many people who love Star Wars today simply didn't love it back then. They pretend they did, like they fancy themselves geeks, but who are we kidding? Not every mid-thirties douchebag dads who bring their unprepared 4 year old to a 3D Star Wars screening were geeks back in high school. Most of them were busy dunking geeks heads in the toilet and driving around inebriated. Going to Star Wars screening with your kid or with an unsuspecting date is a non-committal way to show that you're smart and sophisticated without sounding pretentious.
That's all, really. You just have to be enthusiastic about Star Wars. You don't even need to name 5 fucking planets in the universe. Because, of course, you fucking can't.
I can't even myself.
.... and that's it. I strike out.
A lot of the Star Wars love that translate into money in Disney executives' pockets is social norms going the work of God for them. They crafted an intricate, yet accessible and totally forgettable universe around a couple key characters: Rey, Finn, Kylo, Luke, etc. As long as you remember these guys, what's going doesn't matter as much as their individual storylines. Of course, there are many details to geek out over in the Star Wars universe, but these have migrated to the video games. That's where you'll find the real Star Wars geeks, these days. Obsessing over an MMO or a fucking iPhone game. Because being a geek is, at heart, not being cool. So, real geeks and not chic geeks shit on the movies on the internet and do things that aren't cool.
It's about people with superpowers and laser swords
This is an extension of my first point, really. The human condition can be a frustrating place. We're lazy, brittle, imperfect and we like to project ourselves into people that don't have any of these flaws. That is why we invest ourselves in professional athletes, but this is also why we invest ourselves in superheroes. And don't get technical with me, the Jedi are superheroes. They don't wear capes, but they have funny costumes, twirl around and have inexplicable powers over their peers, so they're superheroes in their own right. They just have... this sliver of humanity someone like Spider-Man doesn't have because he's not caught in a millennia-old intergalactic conflict.
One interesting quirk the Jedi have over Marvel or DC superheroes is that they actually earn their powers. They have to go through Jedi Academy, have someone mentor them and take ethical decisions not to fall to the dark side and let their destructive self take over. So, there's one less degree of separation between the audience and the Jedi. Someone with a big enough imagination could think he could become Jedi given the right cosmic circumstances, because it's something your morality and work ethic have an influence on and everyone has a morality and a worth ethic, as bad as it might be.
And you guys, why do you think we love Star Wars so goddamn much?