May 4, 2014
May The 4th Is Star Wars Day
While the first Star Wars film opened in movie theaters on May 25, 1977, since 2011, many fans have used May 4 as the official Star Wars day. The reason is sort of obvious – as in “May the Fourth Be With You.”
Ironically many fans probably don’t know that this reference was actually first used on May 4, 1979 when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party offered congratulations on her taking office as Prime Minister. On that day the Tories offered a full page ad in The London Evening News that read, “May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
Now May is a month with numerous holidays already – notably Memorial Day, which is the day we honor (or at least should try to honor) those who served in the military and gave their lives for our country. Memorial Day has also become the unofficial start of summer and a weekend for tent pole films. Yet it should be noted that Star Wars films since the original haven’t needed the holiday to launch. Actually, all the films have bowed a couple of weeks in advance of Memorial Day.
May is also, for the record, when Mother’s Day lands on the second Sunday of the month. May Day of course happens in May.
Now the question comes up why Star Wars actually needs its own day? Isn’t this multimedia franchise bigger than a second day? As a member of Generation X who grew up with the films, I personally would argue that the last thing Star Wars needs is a day of celebration. Do fans need another day to dress up, binge watch the movies, or get in character with the games?
I’ve argued in the past that I also find it amazing that some fans know more about this fictional world than they do about the real world. The same could be said of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and numerous other series and franchises. This is because these worlds can be very black and white.
This is most certainly true of Star Wars, and perhaps why it is so easy to embrace. It is so black and white that it even has a dark side and a light side! The phrase “turn to the dark side” is often used when someone changes jobs or careers to something they vowed they would never do, as in “that guy turned to the dark side.”
The other part of this is that perhaps Star Wars is unlike most real wars. Bart Simpson once said, “With the exception of World War II and Star Wars there are no good wars.” This is an apt consideration on the subject. World War II is far more cut and dry as to whom the bad guys are, but Star Wars takes this even further.
Plus you don’t get strange looks for dressing up as the bad guys. Consider that people spend good money to dress up as Imperial Stormtroopers and join up with the 501st Legion of “re-enactors.” This group is so popular; they are known to march in the New York Halloween Parade and even the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
Now, people do re-enact World War II, but Rich Lott’s bid for Ohio’s 9th District ended when The Atlantic ran photos of him in a World War II-style Waffen SS uniform. Lott claimed to have no ties to the Nazis, but it was a hard image to ditch.
Dress up as Darth Vadar or a Stormtrooper – where one’s face is concealed anyway – and you might just be laughed at. Is this fair? No, but again that’s because people can look past the ‘dark side’ of the dark side of Star Wars. And by that I mean both the Nazis and the Empire were responsible for a lot of innocent deaths. The Nazis were real, but as to the best of my knowledge, no one was actually hurt when the Death Star blew up Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan!
In fact, Star Wars is a good way for good people to feel a little evil. They can rebel; not by joining the Rebel Alliance ironically, but by pretending to be a Sith or a Stormtrooper or bounty hunter. As cable TV has shown, there are real opportunities to actually go be a bounty hunter, but that looks like a lot of work and it involves chasing down bail jumpers and risking one’s live. Boba Fett and friends seemed much cooler and they were the real rebels!
So it isn’t hard to see why there are fans and why every day is really sort of a Star Wars day.
As for why is there is a May the Fourth Star Wars day of celebration, well it goes back to Mother’s Day. Maybe the intention was good – and certainly in the case of Mother’s Day it really was. It was meant to honor mom. Over time like so many holidays it was corrupted and dare I suggest it, it turned to the dark side.
Mother’s Day is now a day of guilt and that required call, the sending of flowers and dinner out. Restaurants, greeting card companies and candy makers love Mother’s Day because it is big business.
Given that most fans own the movies on Blu-ray, or at least DVD, it isn’t all that hard to see them anytime. In the old days – no, not before the Empire, but before home video – seeing a movie on TV was something special. The Wizard of Oz aired about once a year, and when movies such as Cleopatra or Gone With the Wind were on TV, it was an event. Today you can watch Star Wars and the other films, plus the episodes of The Clone Wars – and if you can find a bootleg of it even that awful Star Wars Holiday Special – EVERY day of the year. Do we need a May the Fourth Day?
Well, businesses do.
At the end of it, Star Wars Celebration Day is just another way to rake in the cash. And if you don’t think at the end of this that it isn’t really about the money, consider this: Disney paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm. George Lucas is getting older and doesn’t need the money, but he wanted to ensure a bigger company would guide the franchise, control the characters and protect the property well into the 21st century and beyond.
It is almost like Mr. Lucas went over to… well, you get it.
Image Credit: Thinkstock