The Force of Others
Picture this: It’s 1977. You’re a young kid, maybe 11 or 12, and the news is angry. The Vietnam War, one of the most controversial wars in American history, is fresh on everyone’s minds. The presidential election came to a close four months ago, a particularly polarizing one since the previous president resigned from office, the only president in history to do so. You sit down in your town theater, not knowing what to expect. The lights dim, and words scroll across the screen: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” The screen goes black and in huge letters large enough to fill the entire screen, you see “STAR WARS” just as the brass of John Williams’ score bursts through the speakers. You’re taken aback, not knowing how to feel as confusion turns to excitement. You’re about to watch the tale of Luke Skywalker, the simple farm boy who yearns and learns to make sense of The Galaxy by using the mystical power of The Force.
Luke’s story has resonated with people for 40 years now, in large part because of its simplicity. George Lucas, the writer, director, and producer of the franchise, was a big fan of The Monomyth. Also known as The Hero’s Journey, The Monomyth is a concept—introduced by Joseph Campbell—that most myths share similar themes and ideas. Lucas took this concept and ran with it when creating the idea of The Force.
The Force is broken into two polar opposite sides: Light and Dark. The Light Side is everything Luke strives to embody: empathy, passivity, and compassion. To tap into the Light Side of The Force is to tap into the collective will of everyone in The Galaxy. It’s no small surprise that in one of the original drafts of Star Wars, The Force was referred to as “The Force of Others.”
Luke can potentially stray from his path, though, and fall to The Dark Side as his father did. People who follow The Dark Side have become self-possessed and bend to their own fear, anger, and hatred.
These ideals are present in most cultures. From a young age we’re taught to share and to care about what others are feeling. To become self-absorbed is seen as antisocial behavior.
Star Wars was a breakout hit in large part because it spoke to so many people, but also because of its timing. The original movie released in a time of unusual political upheaval. The mainstream surety of the 1950s was long gone, and for the first time in America, many people were questioning their government and their society. For many children of the 70s, seeing Star Wars was a formative experience in their lives. In a time with few heroes, Luke, Leia, and Han were role models. Light and Dark became clear cut. I won’t draw parallels to the present, but they’re obviously there. In a time of division, most of us agree with these principles. So, for one day at least, let’s put politics aside and enjoy Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you!