Myths, Legends and Star Wars

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

May the 4th be with you. It’s a saying you hear people say or see on social media feeds. It’s one you probably heard recently, given last Monday was May 4th.

Unless you’re part of Mark Hamill’s circle, then you also heard May the 5th, 6th, up to 9th.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_5qCd5lAun/ accessed 11 May 2020.

Is it nerdy? Cheesy? Sure, but when’s the last time you heard someone say Thursday or March were nerdy? I’ll get to that in a second.

Anyone who is friends with a Star Wars fan, just say “Rise of Skywalker” or “Last Jedi” and you will garner one of three reactions: 😄😤😐.

The majority probably fall into one of the first two. Articles fill search engine feeds of all the hate, criticism and defense of the movies to have been created and released between 2017 and 2019.

As a Star Wars fan myself, I want to point out a few things before I get to the actual point of all of this. First, The Rise of Skywalker generated $177.3 million for its opening weekend. Going off just that number alone, with a fixed ticket price of $15, then nearly 12 million people saw the film during its opening weekend. Even if all 12 million were the critics of Rotten Tomatoes and the extent of anyone who likes Star Wars to a level where they are familiar with May the 4th, 6 million people walked away from the film having enjoyed it.

Percentages can be deceiving when they are disconnected from their actual representation. To say you were in the top 10 percent of the class, with only 10 people total, doesn’t feel as accomplished as the top 10 percent of 1,000 or 10,000 for that matter.

Same for the ease of seeing a film or genre as either great or terrible based on a percentage. Six million people: That’s the combined 2018-populations of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

The same critics of the rottenness of Rise of Skywalker who say Disney has ruined everything, fail to point out the acclaim of The Clone Wars Season 7 airing on Disney+, with its 100 percent critic rating. I’d imagine a handful of the 50 million subscribers have enjoyed that animated release.

What’s this have to do with Thursday and March? Almost there. Amidst all the consumption and criticism in the 21st-century Age of the Influencers, we lose sight of a very important human experience: meaning making.

The response in the positive or negative related to the films is because for fans — the same fans who coined a day to commemorate their worldview and by which the industries then release key products and info — it’s in part how they have shaped and crafted their identity and view of the world.

The same goes for those who cannot get enough of DC Comics or swear by Marvel or wear Gryffindor college gear and drink butterbeer frappuccinos. Stories make meaning.

So, a story that detours for a group creates new groups, like those who only admire the OG of Star Wars, released back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Like the splintering of Islam over the rightful heirs of the caliphate or of the Great Schism in the Catholic Church.

All of this is tied to the meaning we ascribe to the images and narratives that in turn shape our lives.

Back to Thursday and March. Did you know that Thursday is named after the Nordic god of thunder, Thor? In Old English, it means “Thor’s day.”

What about March and its association with the Roman translation for the god of war, Mars? It’s actually not limited to just those two time configurations, but they make a point.

Stories make meaning. Because they’re ingrained within our culture, no one says the word Thursday or March and considers the fandom behind their creation.

But the same human-generated principle is responsible for their creation as much as May the 4th. Stories make meaning. And humans are meaning makers.

Now, I hear the rebuttal forming in your mind: “But, Norse and Greek mythology are much bigger than 6 million people.” It depends on how you approach it.

From a time standpoint, yes, Nordic and Greek thought has been around much longer than Star Wars, so it’s yet to be seen on its timelessness. But at its height, the Greek Empire had a population of 500,000. Although harder to pinpoint, the Germanic people, out of which came gods like Odin and Thor, numbered tens of thousands at the origins of their narrative.

If anything, timelessness has more to do with who in power liked what narratives at the time, helping cement its presence in broader society.

Part of my goal in anything I create is to help reframe experiences, because I too am a meaning maker. Whether it is enjoying a film by Christopher Nolan or navigating the complexities of systemic racism, narrative shapes much more than we tend to give it credit.

It’s not just entertainment; it’s a worldview. Before we cast-off someone’s viewpoint as nerdy, it might be helpful to ask a simple question, “What about ___ makes you like it?”

➡ What about Star Wars makes you celebrate May the 4th?

➡ What about this policy makes you like it?

➡ What about this news article makes you share it?

➡ What about this brand makes you buy it?

To dialogue instead of to dismiss can help us not only appreciate the different viewpoints within fandom, but to navigate the meaning that generates political opinions, purchasing tendencies and power structures within our global village.

A good starting point for your own navigation is to ask yourself, “What has made me a fan of ___? And why?” May the 4th guide your discoveries.

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Lane Lareau

Lane Lareau

Husband, dad, peacemaker, storyteller || Empowering spaces for flourishing || He/him