Star Wars fans are well versed in how the epic series created by George Lucas deals with family dynamics. The honest truth? This sci-fi epic speaks to many families in ways that make May 4th an important family holiday. In Episode IV “A New Hope” (1977), the first Star Wars film to be released, families experienced a story that immediately threw them into uncomfortable territory as we watch a family torn apart by death and the need for support from surrounding characters to transform Luke Skywalker through his hero’s journey.
“There’s nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.” – Luke Skywalker, Star Wars Episode IV
Confronted with the death of a loved one, or in Luke’s case, the loss of his two guardians at once, along with his home, he is deeply distraught and looking to fill the void left behind. Now that the Star Wars series is reaching a second and third generation of fans, families are joining with children, parents, and grandparents to experience this story and own it as a part of their own family dynamic.
The family relations in Star Wars are deep and complicated, judged by some viewers to be like an intergalactic soap opera. This can make make the domestic situation of most viewers seem tame by comparison, and make any family feel better about themselves! The family drama, combined with sense of humor George Lucas imbued in his plots and characters, now provides three generations of families with inside jokes, repeating actors’ lines, and planned outings as the film releases continue under the direction of JJ. Abrams.
The only other film franchise to speak to family dynamics as deeply may be The Godfather (1972) by Francis Ford Coppola, for a time the largest grossing film in history. Ironically there is a deep connection between Coppola and Lucas, as Coppola’s American Zoetrope and Warner Bros partnered to produce THX1138, the precursor to Star Wars. It’s no wonder that the two filmmakers share similar family values, as the Star Wars saga and The Godfather series share the themes of family, money, power, death, funerals, and planning of activities in and around these familiar areas.
It can be rare to see families together, so any wholesome activity to entertain family and friends is a useful call to action. The need to spend time together is not just based on an indulgent desire to be entertained. Sharing in cultural activities like going to the cinema or even a trip to a local lake provided families with the fabric of connection that gets them through harder times. From a business standpoint this could be called team-building. In this context it should simply be labeled as “being a family.”
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part II
In the event of losing a loved one, we all go through some process of discovery to fill the void and move on, and positive time spent together makes the hard times just a little easier. Michael Corleone moved into the family business to fill the role left behind by the death of his father Vito in The Godfather after he was familiar with the risks involved. Luke watched his father being cremated in Episode VI “Return of the Jedi” (1983), surrounded by supportive family and friends. While not all of us have access to a warm Ewok Village during our parent’s cremation, we can all relate to the desire of celebrating a life well lived.
When families gather to celebrate the presence of Star Wars in our lives with “May the 4th Be With You”, it’s not just the movies we are celebrating. We celebrate the importance of family, and even the biblical call to action of honoring our mothers and fathers. Any secular ritual that deepens the spiritual union within families is welcome. No matter how your family is planning to spend time together this month, the Star Wars epic provides some insight into a hero’s journey we all possess.