I promised on Facebook that one day I’d write a blog post about why I’m such a Star Wars geek.
Well, be careful what you promise on Facebook. 🙂
Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie saw my post and decided to use it for this week’s Spin Cycle prompt. This week we’re talking about what makes us geeky, and for me that’s definitely Star Wars. But why?
My students already know part of the answer to this. Every spring in my sixth grade reading class, we end the year with a fantasy/mythology unit that asks the big question: “What makes someone a hero?” And in this unit, we talk about how Joseph Campbell, a renowned anthropologist, studied the myths and tales of cultures around the world. After years of comparing what tales had been told century after century, he discovered that all cultures have hero stories, and those hero stories have a lot of similarities.
He came to the conclusion that all hero myths could basically be combined into one “super myth,” a monomyth that incorporates all the major events that have occurred in hero stories around the world for as long as stories have been told. Campbell then wrote about this theory in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In it, he describes the seventeen key elements that are in hero stories (although not all hero stories have all seventeen elements).
George Lucas had studied Campbell’s work and used it to create the plot of Star Wars. If you’d like to read about how Star Wars fits into Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, you can read my blog posts about it here, here, and here.
So part of why I’m such a big Star Wars geek is that I love a great hero story. I love hearing about a character who is brave enough to leave his own safe homeland in order to fight evil in a dangerous world far away. This also explains my love of Harry Potter, by the way.
However, I think there’s more to my Star Wars love than just the fact that it’s a great hero story. It’s also a story with great characters. I mean, who doesn’t love a feisty princess who can shoot a gun and handle a smart-alecky pilot? And who doesn’t love a smart-alecky pilot who also has a soft spot?
And what about the wookie? I mean, what is a wookie? I don’t know, but I love him! And I admit to liking Ewoks, too. I know some people thought the Ewoks were a bit childish, but I like ’em! They’re cute but tough.
And who can resist two droids who bicker all the time but are really best friends and would be lost without one another? (Does anyone else think Carson and Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey are a little like C-3PO and R2-D2? There was always something of the British butler about 3PO.)
And then there’s the setting! See, the trick about taking the old hero story and turning it into something new is finding a way to make it really fresh for the audience. Lucas accomplished this by making what is called a “space opera” or “space western.” He grew up in the age of cowboy movies, so to him, Star Wars was basically an old cowboy movie set in outer space.
But how great is that?!? Take what we’re really familiar with (a princess, a bad boy who’s really good, a good boy who tries but fails, and a villain clad in black with a mysterious past) and put them into a situation we’ve never seen before (space stations as big as planets) and with characters we’ve never met (alien creatures that can actually tug at our heart strings). This is what makes a winning story! This is why the same basic hero story can be told time and time again. As long as the writer does something new with it, the whole story feels new.
One last reason I’m a Star Wars geek: it’s a story with a lot of heart. I love stories that move me. I want to care about the characters. I want them to feel like friends I’ve known forever. I want to root for them when they’re down and cheer for them when they finally succeed. I think Lucas succeeded with this because he made the core of his story a family story. In the end, Star Wars is about a family–a father and his twin children, all mourning the death of the mother–who follow very different paths but wind up together in the end!
For those reasons, I’m completely geeking out over the new Star Wars movie that comes out in December. I’ve got pretty high hopes because director J.J. Abrams did a really nice job when he tackled the Star Trek franchise. He seems to be a big Star Wars fan, and from the glimpses I’ve seen it looks like he’s going to stick with the kind of storytelling that made us all fall in love with the original trilogy.
Also, he’s brought back a lot of the old cast. One of the reasons I think the Star Wars prequels that came out 15 years ago or so didn’t do so well is that we were missing out on the characters we had grown to love. C-3PO, R2-D2, and Yoda were the only characters tying us back to the originals. But in this new movie, we’re going to get Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca back again. It’s like getting to see old friends that you’ve been parted from for a long time!
How about you? Are you as excited about the new Star Wars movie as I am? Or is there something else you geek out about?
Find out what others are geeking out about on this week’s Spin Cycle. Click the link below to discover more geek stories.