The Cultural Significance of George Lucas’ Star Wars

If you’re like me, and as a child seriously considered studying to become a Jedi Master, you have probably heard that the long awaited 7th installment of the Star Wars Saga will be released in December of 2015. Though an entire year away I’ve already pulled out all six episodes, watched them attentively, and decided on spreading the love in the form of nerdy Christmas gifts to the family. My debatably unhealthy obsession also led me to consult google search on the subject Star Wars’ cultural influences on society; it was in the search results where I found a paper by Dave Utley (a California Polytechnic Institute alum) on which this excessive blog post is founded.

Utley frames his 300-level history paper by examining the cultural climate of 1970 America. He quotes famous American news anchor, Walter Cronkite, saying “Watergate tore us apart, and then we had the Vietnam War on top of that, which was dividing the nation like nothing else had.” If you’re a 90’s kid, such as myself, you might have just as little conception of what life was like in the U.S. forty-some years ago. I have always felt relatively removed from global conflict (despite being a Navy brat), and the most disreputable national incident I caught wind of was the Monica Lewinksy scandal. What I think Dave Utley conveyed in his paper was a nation that was looking for hope; which perhaps was one of the reasons George Lucas dubbed his first 1977 installment of Star Wars “A New Hope.”

A related point that was represented in the paper was just how different Star Wars Episode IV was compared to other notable films of the decade. Most of the films such as Earthquake, Towering Inferno, Mash, and Poseidon Adventure, all presented similarly bleak and depressing motifs. Lucas found them to be reflections of America’s “political and social upheaval” at the time, and also the driving force behind creating a new generation of fairy tales. Utley presents evidence from Dale Pollack (author of George Lucas’ biography) that Lucas wanted to present a tale that would create moral anchor for Americans and present the audience with positive family values.

Crazy, right? I missed the 1977 release by like 15 years, but the 2002 and 2005 releases of episodes II and III admittedly had a similar effect. These aren’t your average fairy tales with blunt, slightly condescending lessons at the end. The Star Wars Saga is a just a classic tale of good versus evil sprinkled with strong familial values, and a pseudo-spiritual mantra that mirrors many of the world’s most adhered-to religions.

Perhaps I’m biased but Dave Utley’s paper highlights some really great points regarding the various religious and mythological references that may be found throughout the series. The paper also brings to light how the famed Princess Leia was one of the first heroines to break from a female protagonists stereotypical role of “damsel in distress.”

I could go on and on, but in summation—it’s a great read, and I too believe The Force is still with us.

If you would like to watch the new star wars trailer, follow the link below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOVFvcNfvE

If you would like to read Dave Utley’s paper “The Cultural Phenomenon of Star Wars: Why The Force is Still With Us” please follow the link below!

http://cla.calpoly.edu/~lcall/303/utley_on_star_wars.pdf

-Alexander Santos

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