The Case for Celebrating Star Wars: May the Force Be With You!
May 4 is just around the corner, and for many that means it's time to celebrate the wonders of Star Wars. In case you aren't familiar with this particular piece of nerd esoterica, allow me to elucidate. Geeks love Star Wars — you knew this, right? — and geeks also love terrible puns. And one of the most famous lines in Star Wars is "May the Force be with you." Get it? May the Fourth? Yeah, it's pretty fucking dumb, but there it is. Over the past decade, May 4 has come to be widely recognized as the day to celebrate everyone's favorite saga of space wizards versus evil empires. As far as I know, it's the only geek franchise with its own holiday — but does it deserve it?
This question is as relevant as it's ever been (which, admittedly, not that relevant, but hey, geeks love endlessly debating stupid minutiae!) given the impending arrival of the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise. In just a few short months — more than a decade since the last film was released and almost three decades since the last halfway decent film was released — we get more new Star Wars. And geek culture has never been more popular or more mainstream (honestly, at this point most of geek culture is just pop culture, isn't it?).
As the flagbearer for much of geek culture, Star Wars continues to be the de facto baseline for the popular perception of geekiness: Ask thirty randoms the first thing they associate with geeks, and I'll bet you $50 that at least two-thirds of them answer Star Wars. But there are plenty of geeks who could take or leave Star Wars, and plenty more who flat-out hate it. Of course, there are plenty of people who hate The Beatles — but "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is still a great song. Truth is, if any geeky thing deserves a holiday, it's probably Star Wars. The only other thing that even comes close is Star Trek, and that series doesn't have a great pun to hang a holiday on, leaving us with something like Gene Roddenberry's birthday as our only alternative. Boring.
So Star Wars is the only reasonable possibility, but is that enough? Boil away all the cultural and economic impact around the franchise, and what are we left with? In the main body of work we have two great films, one very good but flawed film, two clunky but passable films and one contender for worst movie ever. (If you need to ask which is which, you need to go back to nerd school, which isn't actually a thing but maybe should be.) Outside of that, you have a whole shitload of pulp novels that were recently retconned out of canon, some kids' shows that are arguably decent but not amazing, some decent comics (also retconned out of official existence, I think, but who knows?) and what else? Oh, yeah, the toys — the glorious, glorious toys. Are the toys alone enough? Probably not, but they are fucking sweet.
Then again, it isn't really fair to consider the material in a vacuum, because it didn't exist in a vacuum. The cultural and economic impact of Star Wars is a big part of why I can say the words "geek culture" today and not be looked at like a man speaking in tongues. Star Wars didn't create the summer blockbuster (that'd be Jaws), but it sure blasted it into hyperdrive. And while merchandising was always a thing, only Star Wars had the muscle to turn characters that were onscreen for less than a minute into toys, and have people fighting over the last one in the shop. The truth is that geeks wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for Star Wars — and whether you like the films or not, that's something of value.
Despite my own troubled relationship with Star Wars, I think it deserve its own holiday. So on Monday, May 4, let's all come together to recognize what Star Wars means to us and the world of geeks at large. You can find several ways to celebrate in my May geek events list going live tomorrow, or you can just fire up the films and watch them at home. Or hell, bust out your lightsaber and go nuts fighting off a legion of Stormtroopers. Whatever you do, may the Force be with you.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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