Happy Star Wars Day!… er… Christmas Kick-off Day!… uh… Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving almost seems like an afterthought this year. Not sure why that’s true except that it’s not as infinitely marketable as Halloween or Christmas. It’s not a big candy holiday, professional football seems to be less a draw this year than in any other year in recent memory, and evidently the retailers are freaking out because of a recent poll showing nearly 70% of the public has no desire to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. But, for me, Thanksgiving isn’t about candy, football, or shopping. It’s the gateway celebration leading to and culminating in Christmas and the New Year. It’s about Star Wars, celebration, and food.
Star Wars originally screened on May 25, 1977. As a seven year old boy, I stood in line for more hours than I care to count during that summer vacation. I did it with my father, I did it with friends, I did it alone. Just to watch the movie, mesmerized, one more time. I must have watched that movie a dozen times that summer. And, I watched it countless more times during that original theater run.
The other movies, Empire, Jedi, and the Prequels were also originally screened in May of their respective release years. Which, I suppose makes good marketing sense if what you’re after is a ready made, youth audience with lots of time on their hands. But, how does that have anything to do with the holiday season? Very simply… it’s the story.
Thanksgiving is the traditional, American beginning to the Christmas season… at least in my lifetime. It’s been historically a time of slowing down, at the end of the year leading to Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, etc. It’s a time of reflection, of giving thanks for the bounty of the previous couple of seasons, and preparing for the new year ahead. As such, it is spiritual and renewing on any number of levels. And it is the time of year that I enjoy Star Wars the most.
Star Wars is the story of birth, growth, corruption and decline, redemption, death, and rebirth. It represents the cycle of nature. It is the story of life. George Lucas’ vision and plot was made superbly rich by a comprehensive back story and layer upon layer of creative civilization and timeline. The original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was at release, a stand alone product and story. Only after a few years of evolved exposure, did audiences realize how much more it was in Lucas’ mind. A New Hope started in the middle of the story… as we all do as individuals. It was a solid stand alone but, in comparison to the still unfolding entirety of the Star Wars universe, it was minuscule. In fact, it is so big in concept… it is Biblical in scope. And in message.
All great stories, be they oral tradition, written, or video, have these things in common. Because they have these elements, and because the ideas are so central to being human, it is easy to relate to them and they become classics, enjoyed and retold over and over, generation to generation. And, as humans, it is in our DNA to take the opportunity of the lull in the seasons to pause, with family and friends, around our version of the yule log, and retell and absorb tales that make us feel truly human.
At this point, Star Wars is so ingrained in our culture that there is a burgeoning “Fan Fiction” industry, as evidenced by the video attached above. People connect to the story on such a level that they are inspired to contribute to the main story itself and do so with such a reverence for the original story that it is truly a value add and not a dilution of the original. And, at this point, based on when the current “official” episodes in production are being released, it seems that even Disney Studios understands the relationship in season to story.
So, tonight, on this Thanksgiving, 2016, I will enjoy the feast of the season, in the company of those I love most, light the fireplace and enjoy one or more episodes of George Lucas’ version of the universal, human story.