As I’ve discussed on several occasions I would say the most formal schooling I had which I didn’t consider a waste of time was the ten years I spent studying comparative religion and world mythology. The most important person in my life and primary motivator of my ideals has been and will always be Joseph Campbell. My parents did a good job of giving me value, but my intellectual development came from Campbell. What he did in the middle of the progressive era was quite astonishing. He was a conservative who had a following of radical hippies in search of meaning, and Campbell was able to transcend all those ideologies with an intellectual pursuit that has shaped our modern world. One of those nutty hippies was George Lucas—who wasn’t like the rest of the drug induced film makers studying under Francis Ford Coppola in San Francisco. He was a race car driver who had nearly died in a car wreck and had his life flash before his eyes with an intellectual hunger that was moving at a million miles an hour. It was in this period that Lucas discovered Campbell’s epically important book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the most important book in my personal library. I spent ten years reading Campbell and was for a time a member of The Joseph Campbell Foundation while George Lucas sat on as a board of director. Campbell had died in 1987 but ten years later we had a big meeting in Washington D.C. which for me was a personal odyssey similar to The Wizard of Oz. Upon arriving at “OZ” I discovered that everyone was far from epic in their intellectual standards and had become mere cult-like followers of Campbell, which left me feeling as if I pulled back the curtain of an entire intellectual industry and discovered a decrepit old man attempting to appear greater than he really was.
I always took my kids to these kinds of things, which pissed off everyone as Campbell’s wife Jean had never had a child. There were no kids at the big meeting of the minds and they resented me for bringing them. But as a father, I always delivered to my kids the opportunity to live their own life of adventure without restriction of intellectual limits, and I wanted them to meet the kind of people who molded public sentiment. After the meeting, my family broke off to do our own thing and we didn’t socialize further with the Campbell followers. It was Halloween in Washington D.C. and my plan was to take my kids Trick or Treating. We went to a neighborhood in Chevy Chase, but my kids refused to go up to a single door because they didn’t trust the neighborhood and felt out of their element. So we went back to our hotel and I improvised. Using lessons learned from Joseph Campbell I decided to give my children a mythic experience, since that was what Trick or Treating was supposed to entail. While the Joseph Campbell Foundation members were down the hall trying to resurrect his dead spirit with chants and hand-holding, my kids went trick or treating at our hotel door. They were only 6 and 7 years old at the time and my wife was worried that we were ruining one of their precious Halloweens of their youth by being on the road. So I dressed up as a different character that opened the door each time my kids visited. I’d give them candy then they’d run down the hall of the hotel giving me time to change into a different costume, then they’d come back. I used everything I could find inside that hotel room to try to appear as a different person, or (creature) each time they arrived at the door proclaiming, “trick or treat!”
To this day, as recently as this latest Halloween where they are now girls in their twenties, they still talk about that Halloween in Washington as being their favorite—and it was a one man show put on by me exclusively. My wife did help a couple of times as I struggled to find new costumes with what was inside our room. The reason my children loved that Halloween so much was because I gave them a mythic experience, something that was representative of reality but spoke of higher ideals beyond temporal existence—which is what most everyone in one form or another yearns for. Some people look for it in sex, love, career, drunkenness, financial power, or in eating—but everyone is looking for meaning to each breath they take.
Star Wars is the best embodiment in the modern world of human meaning. It is mythology that goes well beyond a simple blockbuster film intended to make money for the Disney Company. It has an importance that is unfathomable to contemporary thinking, and is a gift from George Lucas that only he could have come up with after surviving his devastating car wreck. He lived a life of extremes; he was a race car driver, and an avid reader who wanted to be an anthropologist. Those two radically opposite ideals are what make Star Wars so important to the human race. The reason is that Star Wars is about values, and conveying those values through a story, which is the heart of all mythologies. Star Wars because it was set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is able to transcend religious temperament here on earth and explore the meaning of value with conflict removed. Such an example would be of whose version of religion is correct Muslims or Christians. Star Wars explores the same values without violating people’s religious beliefs which is all too often the greatest hindrance to understanding. So it is far more than just another movie, it has the power through its story to transform culture—and I predict that these new films will do just that.
When the first Star Wars film came out in 1977 America was in the middle of the Carter administration, Nixon had just been impeached, and gas prices were too high causing long lines at the pumps. Iran was moving aggressively against America on multiple fronts and the USSR was trying to inject communism into America through every open sore. A New Hope followed quickly by 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back changed Hollywood and by their own merit kick started the 1980’s and the Reagan presidency. The way those movies captured the imagination of the world was a form that only mythology could generate. Star Wars is bigger than Star Trek which explores ideals in an interesting way. Star Wars is purely about mythology and the power of it to convey complicated messages. For the same reasons that my daughters loved that particular Trick or Treat event in Washington D.C. as little girls, Star Wars for many people no matter how jaded, is their “mythic experience,” and they can’t get enough of it. Star Wars is about values.
When George Lucas wrote the character of Han Solo played by Harrison Ford, he thought of all the motor heads he knew from his racing days. Lucas unquestionably had read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and Han Solo was his answer to a Randian archetype. He meant for Han Solo to be won over by altruism conveyed through Luke Skywalker during the course of the movies and learn how to think of others first—it is the classic sacrifice and the bliss stuff so crucial to Joseph Campbell’s writings. That was before Lawrence Kasden got a hold of Lucas’ script and made Han Solo one of the most compelling characters in the history of film—unintentionally becoming the ultimate hero of the entire saga. In fact, what is missing from Return of the Jedi and the prequal films is a Han Solo type of character. Lucas attempted to humble Solo a bit by the third film, and it came out a bit flat. Even though Lucas intended to make an altruistic film out of Star Wars, the values of the characters took on a life of their own and became their own mythic experience. Lucas being enough of a lover of capitalism wisely let the story take on the form that THE FORCE intended and let things develop along their market value. Harrison Ford went on to become an international sensation while Mark Hamill even though he was the star of the films, got lost in the shadows.
The new films are being written again by Kasden, and the implications of this are quite extraordinary. Kasden is a very, talented story-teller who clearly understands mythology in ways that are different from George Lucas and very complimentary. Harrison Ford, Hamill, Fisher and many of the original cast will be back for the new films, and Ford appears to have a multi picture deal with Disney, so the Millennium Falcon will survive well into the future of the Star Wars franchise it would seem. The Falcon is the most important space ship ever created, even more so than the Space Shuttle. It is a modern-day pirate ship and symbol of freedom and rebellion in the Star Wars universe, and is one of the most recognizable objects on planet earth. If I had to take a bet, I would say more people know more about the Falcon than who their local congressman is. They probably know more about the Millennium Falcon than most of their own family members. Disney wisely is beginning to flex their mythological muscle already announcing that they are building a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon at their Anaheim Park in California prompting this guy below to declare:
This has been my life long dream… to walk in a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon. After this, I can die a content middle-aged man.
Well, I reflect his sentiment. I’m right there with him and the hundreds if not thousands of others who share his opinion. I have not been shy about my love for the Millennium Falcon. My current favorite place in the whole world physical and virtual is aboard the ship I have on the game The Old Republic which is very similar to the Millennium Falcon. I understand why people are so excited about a full-scale Millennium Falcon at Disneyland, it is for them a mythic experience. I will love taking my grandchildren aboard a Millennium Falcon looking up at it from the foot of the loading ramp. That will be magnificent.
After eight years of Obama no matter what their political affiliation, people are tired. People don’t like communism and socialism, and for nearly 16 years, the United States government has forced heavy doses of socialism upon America growing government in ways that modern mythology has failed to capture. Television shows reflect too often statism, music is too political, and our court system is loaded with greedy lawyers trying to make mountains out of mole hills taking advantage of ACLU cases. Millions of online gamers have retreated from the real world to the virtual one to escape the tyranny of statism—because no place else is dealing with the mythic experience they require to comprehend the forces at play in their lives—except Star Wars.
When the next wave of Star Wars hits in 2014 with the Disney XD television show titled Rebels, it will have all the familiar signs of the past, the positive social impact, the economic stimulation, the cultural desire for goodness and fighting evil on behalf of justice. But this time a Disney financial machine in need of a new wave of revenue will use its considerable power for good because for the first time in decades the market need for goodness will line up with the needed greed of corporate interests and will benefit society in countless ways. It won’t be just a movie that comes out, but a mythological experience that will engulf most levels of human existence, and will be one of the greatest vehicles of capitalism displayed in a number of years.
Hollywood as a whole is in trouble. Labor agreements with the various entertainment unions will paralyze the industry in the coming years—within four years to be specific. Several studios will go out of business like the many steel and auto manufacturers of the past—collapsed by the labor unions and their collective bargaining agreements. Money men won’t risk their money if they have to share too much wealth and will move on to other forms of revenue streams—likely oversea investments. The reason Star Wars moved to December 18th, aside from gaining an extra 6 months to do post production work, was to avoid soaking up the money that can be made off the next Avengers film, and other big movies like Jurassic Park 4, and the Superman VS. Batman. Once Warner Brothers and Disney have played out the superhero films, and the stars demand larger fees under union rules, there won’t be many other large projects that can carry the type of box office numbers these big action films produce. The union wages being so high forces great box office turnout, and people aren’t going to line up to see the newest Oprah film, or romantic comedy getting box office numbers that justify the investment. This is going to crush Hollywood, because the revenue stream won’t keep going. Disney however has Star Wars, and they can hedge their labor costs with theme park revenue. Without those theme parks, Disney would be victim to the same kind forces that the other studios are going to face—parasitic labor union practices. Because of the vacuum of power that the Hollywood left will have in this period, they will be forced to compete with Star Wars, which is a force for good—or they will be financially crushed. The string of progressive films that have been projected upon the silver screen for two decades now will abate, because capitalism will force their hand to abandon their liberal ideals the same way that Lucas had to re-think Han Solo as a character—because the market drove the character’s importance.
Behind all this is a rather solid formula that Joseph Campbell outlined in his life’s work on comparative mythology. That work directly shapes the kind of stories that are told in the various Star Wars formats, whether it be film, television, books, gaming, or comics—the need for the stories are what matter most, and the reason for the need. Once those things are understood, they can be explored in the story telling process. That is precisely what is going to happen when the first Star Wars film hits in 2015. A market need is going to be fulfilled in a big way, and that need was created by anxiety driven through lack of mythological coordination. Statist governments have attempted to suppress that mythological need and reshape it in their own image—and they have foolishly attempted to force it down society’s throat without listening to the market needs. In the Star Wars equivalent, if government had been in George Lucas’ shoes, they would have forced the Luke Skywalker angle and suppressed the Han Solo one—and what they would have ended up with would be something along the lines of the prequels—entertaining, nice to look at, but lacking the kind of meaning that makes grown men want to walk through a full-scale Millennium Falcon as their life goal. It says a lot that a fictional space ship that is over 30 years old has more mythological meaning than any other creation proposed over that same span of time. The Falcon represents rebellion, defiance, speed, and freedom—that is why people love it. And as long as those symbols exist in our society, statist government will not succeed. So when Star Wars hits the new theater at Liberty Center, and a wave of excitement emits in a way that few people have seen in their lifetimes, more than a movie will be presented. A mythology will be offered, and that is more powerful than all the weapons of the world—because weapons are built to destroy the will of an enemy with fear. Mythology is designed to build a mind up to withstand the fears they are presented with, and in a perpetual game of tug and war between those two forces one that is generally regulated to only religions and some mild forms of entertainment, the other is supported by large governments with the endless ability to steal the money of their tax payers to support their grip on power. Star Wars does what only mythology without the congestion of focus on the afterlife can achieve, and that is to bring the mind to what it truly craves which is freedom, innovation, and rebellion against those who seek to suppress it.
I can’t freaking wait!