Monday, August 10, 2015

Star Wars as Myth

While looking at videos about how to raise crops responsibly with pesticides I stumbled upon an amazing video of people's reaction to the new Star Wars movie trailer #2, which you can watch first here.

The reaction video is here. People's shock and delight at the end (I won't spoil it) is amazing. Granted that these have been selected, but they are clearly not acted, though I'm not clear why people are taping themselves while they watch a movie trailer.

I have been using the Star Wars movies as an example of myth in my Magic, Myth and the Supernatural class. The movies were the subject of a Smithsonian exhibition, with a book Star Wars: The Magic of Myth by Mary Henderson. George Lucas is said to have used Joseph Campbell's ideas about the hero's tale (from his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces) in writing the screenplay, and the movies were later were analyzed by Joseph Campbell in his interview with Bill Moyers. I have always thought that finding mythical qualities in movies is a way to help students see that myths are still alive, and still told, in our "modern" society.

In the past few years, I've been thinking that I need to pick a newer movie, because students in Hong Kong, at least, are increasingly unfamiliar with the Star Wars series. Many of them simply say they don't like science fiction, so have not seen it. But I think for many Americans, Star Wars is not just science fiction: it is mythology. The problem may not be only that the movies are old for my students, but that they don't speak to them as myth.

These videos show the importance of star wars as a myth to American society. People get very emotional, raising their arms in exuberance, crying, laughing uncontrollably. (I have to admit I did not react that way when I first saw it.) Someone should examine the connection of the movies to not only to mythology, but to American culture and national mythology. My feeling is that the passion that many Americans feel for the movies is not felt by my Hong Kong students. For them, it seems, the movies are just good stories with pretty cools special effects. They are forgettable. Clearly, the people in this video have NOT forgotten the movies, and are thrilled to have their icons back on the screen.

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