I stood with an idiot grin on “Force Friday,” holding new Star Wars action figures at Target in Amherst.
If you don’t know, “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” hits theaters Dec. 17. I plan to spend all my money watching it on loop at Amherst Cinema and the Apollo in Oberlin. My imminently practical wife is apprehensive about the whole thing but has been warned she’ll be seeing it too on opening night.
Disney, which purchased the franchise from George Lucas in 2012, not only has a brand new trilogy planned (following the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, et al, plus new characters) but has announced one-a-year spin-offs through at least 2020.
I’ve been a Star Wars fan since age two. I can’t help but be excited. When my dad took me to see “Return of the Jedi” in its 1984 re-release at the drive-in, it was my very first movie on the big screen.
It’s no surprise the films have enthralled generations now. They tell a story of hope against the odds, of the little guy overcoming a seemingly unbeatable cosmic force led by Darth Vader. The tale of the Rebel Alliance fighting the Galactic Empire is also the story of King Arthur and his knights; the story of the American Revolution against Great Britain; the story of the Allies against the Third Reich; the story of David against Goliath; the story of man against machine.
It is a powerful myth, a comforting one.
Star Wars is an allegory for how we feel when the odds are against us. It suggests that an inner strength can help overcome feelings of helplessness — which rings true in a time when so many people feel at odds with the system.
We are in a day of deep, schismatic cultural divide. Just look to the Kim Davis case in Kentucky and you’ll find people who feel threatened on both sides of the gay marriage issue. We’ve seen the Occupy movement take to the streets to protest income inequality. We’ve dealt with feelings of hopelessness when it comes to police-community relations. We’ve fought multi-trillion-dollar wars against terrorists whose motivations we cannot understand. We’ve heard feelings of dismay over the impending closure of Golden Acres in Amherst Township, disarray in the Wellington Schools, and routing of the NEXUS gas line through Oberlin.
So long as there is change in the world, there will be uncertainty, which leads to fear.
And to quote one tiny, green Jedi master: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Star Wars is a modern-day myth. Like all myths, it tells us about ourselves.
It also has really cool spaceships and lightsabers, so what’s not to love?