The entity of Star Wars as a movie franchise can often be compared with it's own moralistic story-lines. By this I mean that it is a movie franchise fraught with a chequered and contradictory past. As such, it's actions have come to symbolise both the dark-side, and the light. But much like the battle between the two sides within the films, a war for Star War's soul is being fought right here in the real-world. And much like within the films, it is often hard to distinguish who the real victor is. However, perhaps the advent of this fan-made holiday can give us a hopeful indicator!
"No Future In Dead Han Toys"
Even from the days of the original trilogy, the creator of Star Wars himself; George Lucas, often acted in contradictory ways. Some see him as the world's most successful, budding arthouse writer/director in Hollywood's history. Defying studios for creative control, Lucas stuck to his horses vehemently whilst filming the original Star Wars film in 1977, prioritising originality over the safe route as advised by the studios. It was precisely this originality that catapulted Star Wars into cult-status, and garnered Lucas a lot of much deserved respect and kudos amongst the arthouse community.
However, by the time episode two was being written, it seemed Lucas himself was beginning to prioritise profit over story-telling. Actor Harrison Ford and a number of producers for Episode II thought it would lend weight and gravitas to Han Solo's character if he sacrificed his life for a higher cause. However, Lucas voted against this option, explaining to Harrison that there's "no future in dead Han toys". This was a key indicator that the sales of merchandise was becoming more important than quality storytelling for Lucas. It was also an indicator of the dark turn Star Wars was beginning to take as a whole as well. Was Star Wars simply becoming an opportunity to make money rather than ?
Disney Buys Star Wars
Following the lacklustre reception of the prequels, Lucas chose to sell the rights of Star Wars to Disney for an estimated $4 billion. Although George Lucas earmarked this money for charity, not his own financial gain, for many this marked the end of Star Wars having any credence in independent cinema as it literally sold itself to corporate America. The Empire had won so it seemed. The fact that this was a number of acquisitions Disney had made within the decade of buying up successful independent studios such as Pixar and Marvel as well, made the news worse. Yes it was likely they would make better movies, which they have, but it would always be with the profit motive, and the profit motive alone, in mind. Now we live in a time where at least one Star Wars film will be produced every year for the foreseeable future, merchandise sales are through the roof, and Star Wars has well-and-truly become a corporately funded, corporately controlled, film franchise
Hope To Be Found in May the 4th
With the purchasing of Lucas Films by Disney, it appeared that Star Wars had finally become fully corporatised. However, the advent of May the fourth helped argue otherwise. This was a date created by fans, for fans, to celebrate their genuine love and affection for Star Wars. It is a reminder that Star Wars lives and dies with it's fanbase. If we don't buy the tickets, to see the movies, Star Wars films cease to continue being made. And we the fans go and see these films for one reason: because we love Star Wars. I, like many, grew up being obsessed with Star Wars. It was my religion, cult, obsession and identity growing up. I would create my own Luke Skywalker and Han Solo outfits and proudly wear them out in public as a child despite being probably the shyest kid in my class. I watched the sequels, not because they were out in theatres, but because my parents, who were also avid fans of the original trilogy, showed them to me. I played these movies so often, and from such a young age I can't even remember a time I didn't know Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's Father! Star War was, and is, a unifying phenomena between friends and family alike. And that's why it's so great!
And May the fourth helps represent this side of Star Wars. An entity that is so much more than box office numbers, or toy sales, or projected figures. It's about accepting who you are, embracing the thrill of adventure and learning about good and evil in a more contemporary context. As a result, this holiday helps ensure it is this side of Star Wars that will be remembered, and for that I thank whoever crazy fan it was that first uttered the words: "May the fourth be with you".