Star Wars: May the 4th be with you today & every day
May 4 is the day millions of internet memes have helped name “Star Wars Day” thanks to a play on the famous Star Wars phrase “May the Force be with you.”
For generations of fans of the original Star Wars and all the movies, television shows, books, toys and more that have followed since the first movie was released on May 25, 1977, May 4 is the informal national holiday for Star Wars lovers. Even the official Star Wars people have embraced it.
Everyone who loves the immersive world that George Lucas and Lucasfilm created decades ago has their favorite characters and moments. Among my favorites: Han Solo having Luke Skywalker’s back so he could blow up the Death Star in Star Wars; this exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo: Her: “I love you.” Him: “I know.” from The Empire Strikes Back; the light saber duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith; and even the newer stuff, like Rogue One.
When you do something creatively for 45 years, there are some missteps along the way. Like many other fans, I could never quite get into the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. I understand they’re like little walking teddy bears. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But then again, the whole idea behind Star Wars is that it’s a big science fiction/fantasy universe, so maybe walking teddy bears make sense in that context.
And then there was Jar Jar Binks. Enough said.
People lose themselves in this world. Yes, there are the people who dress up like Darth Vader and Rey and Greedo and go to conventions. I’m not just talking about them. Even casual Star Wars fans know the names of the planets (Tatooine, Hoth, Coruscant), the big names (Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Darth Vader) and the second- and third-tier players (Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Mace Windu, Grogu (“Baby Yoda”) and of course, Monaw Nadon (OK, you probably know him as “Hammerhead” from the famous bar scene in the original movie.)
The highest compliment I can give the entire Star Wars franchise on its special day is that it has been incredibly entertaining for a long, long time. I was 4 years old when I saw Star Wars in an Ocean City movie theater. More than four decades later, it still holds up, even if I watched it tonight. That’s what separates even an outstanding movie from a classic. It’s timeless entertainment.
Now, maybe that isn’t the case for every movie in the series. It’s safe to say Attack of the Clones can’t come close to The Empire Strikes Back. Fans of Star Wars may debate which movies or television shows or books are the best, but the biggest Star Wars fans watch and read everything, and many of them have been doing that for nearly 50 years.
There aren’t many franchises that have a following that has lasted consistently for that long. Star Trek? James Bond? Lord of the Rings? Not much else has had the kind of staying power in popular culture Star Wars has had during the decades.
And as far as I know, James Bond and Lord of the Rings don’t have their own informal holidays celebrated each year. Star Trek has September 8, the day the television series debuted in 1966 (and some Trek fans support April 5 in commemoration of “First Contact Day”) but it doesn’t have the cachet of the day fans use to celebrate their obsession with all things Star Wars.
May the 4th be with you.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.