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This essay is from Dewan Ami.
Published on January 26, 2001

Star Wars - Television or Legend?
A Mythologist's Perspective

(This essay is a response to Chris Knight's editorial Television Anthology)

In terms of motion pictures, the cultural impact of the Star Wars Saga is virtually without peer. Many of us are familiar with the mythological symmetry outlined by Joseph Campbell, and the sheer collective impact of the visuals - the sleek X-wing barrelling down the Death Star trench - has created a fairytale setting irresistible to almost anyone who dreams of adventure.

With Return of the Jedi, the story was at an end. And then suddenly it wasn't. Hence, the problem suffered by originality of an art form in the 20-21st Centuries - the audience will want more. The audience is accustomed to getting more, because demand for a product means money. And so with many novel films today, we can expect a cranked-out sequel.

George Lucas plainly recognises the complexities of the media market in regard to the cinema. Arguably, no one person has manipulated that market better (indeed, some might say he was responsible for shaping how the public and media relate to movies).

And so, a Star Wars series made for television? Never. And this is the most wonderful blessing Lucas could give the fans.

Movie sequels are cranked out to please the studios, the financial investors, and finally at the bottom of the list, the public. Star Wars, in that regard, had similar origins with drastically different results. The studio asked for The Empire Strikes Back, like it or not. However, Star Wars has achieved an amazing level of cultural power that transcends the common film. There are themes in the storyline so profound and still simple, its safe to say the two trilogies will endure for some time to come. As often as we hear it, the full impact of one simple statement may not ring as clear as it should: Star Wars is our Modern Myth.

Anything else - individual stories of related characters, expanded visions of worlds only hinted at, brief tales that connect to the originals in tangents - do these things actually add to the myth? Or are they simply more? To flesh out the details of this great myth would only serve to fatten the story, encumbering the soul of this legend with unnecessary bulk.

If gold were growing on our lawns, would it still lustre so preciously?

Lucas made a journey once, far off beyond flat plains, up the mountain face, and down into the hidden cavern. He found gold, a small nugget of a movie that inspired millions, and will inspire millions more. Myths are meant to make you dream, and make you wonder just how far your wings can take you. To continually add to the mix, to continually ask for more detail where the generalities are most important, is not going to make the people happy. They will still want more. And the more they get, the less its worth - a dilemma impossible to avoid. Consider the Star Trek franchise.

I want to see the academies on Alderaan. I want to see where the Jedi were, and where they are going. I want to know who sits in the corner of the cantina and where they come from. But in my mind I already can, and my imagination isn't bound by the meagre means of television. The myth has taken root in us all. I believe we may yet see the third, final trilogy someday when the right voice is found. Until then, let Anakin's world inspire where it has the most effect - inside the ever changing landscape of our cultural imagination.

Feedback welcome

 

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