Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Hit and Myth of STAR WARS

The Disney corporation now owns the STAR WARS franchise.  The upcoming new adventure, Star Wars:  The Force Awakens doesn't open until December 18th.  But Disney made September 4th it's Force Friday by putting film-related toys on sale.  Of course, there was a fan frenzy of Star Wars toy purchases.  A marketing score for Disney.
I come from a family of STAR WARS fans.  I was the first.  Star Wars premiered in 1977 when I had my first full time professional broadcast job after college graduation.  Because I did entertainment reports on an FM rock radio morning show, I got a pass for two to a preview of Star Wars before it opened.  I could not get a date to go with me even though there had been lots of buzz about this new sci-fi adventure.  Gay men are finicky that way.  They couldn't get pass the fact that I'm not physically Mr. Dream Date.  So I found a non-gay male date to go with me and we were thrilled.  The packed audience of that big Milwaukee movie theater gasped and broke out into gleeful cheers and wild applause as soon as we heard the now-familiar John Williams downbeat to the now-famous overture as we saw "Episode IV, A New Hope" appear onscreen.  Those words headed the legend that would crawl slowly up the screen.  This movie was going to be fun.
But Star Wars and its following two episodes would prove to be more than just fun.  In addition to becoming an international box office powerhouse, it created new movie characters that became part of our pop culture.  Iconic?  Yes, they and the movies are.  Star Wars was more than we movie audiences hoped it would be in 1977.  I was working in Milwaukee when it opened.  Mom and my younger brother were still in Los Angeles.  They waited in a long Hollywood line to see Star Wars.  They saw it more than once at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  To this day, when I talk to Mom and she senses that I have a worry or a big question mark in my soul about a situation, she says "Use the Force, Luke."  That's her way of telling me to have faith and let go.
Besides its plentiful action/adventure, the original trio of Stars Wars movies released also had a strong spiritual core.  There was something more going on that just special effects and outer space chase scenes of bad guys chasing the heroes.

In 1988, PBS had a special that made you fall in love with the Star Wars trilogy all over again.  Host/journalist Bill Moyers interviewed mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell.

Campbell enthusiastically talked about the mythology of Star Wars.  So wise and passionate was this conversation that it made you want to rent the three movies and watch them all over again.  Which I, for one, did.

Look and listen to this clip from the classic PBS special.

Years later, Bill Moyers interviewed Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas.  They discussed mythology and Joseph Campbell.  Listen to this clip.

The conversation between Bill Moyers and George Lucas is on DVD.

The Power of Myth interviews are also on DVD.  I highly recommend them to Star Wars fans.  Be reminded of the spiritual and philosophical center of the original movies before the whole franchise got turned into a mighty engine to drive toy sales.  I'm praying that Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives me the same kind of thrills and awe I got back in 1977.  I can't wait to see it.  I'm still a big fan.  May the Force be with you.

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