Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed

I saw a very well-made show on the History Channel tonight, Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, that examined the mythology of the Star Wars series of films. It explained how Lucas drew from classic archetypes of history, mythology, religion and literature to create characters and situations that just about everyone can see and connect with. He made these references general enough that people from vastly different stations and cultures could see things that they identify with. These connections are explained not by Lucas himself or even anyone from the film but rather from historians, experts in mythology, politicians and other directors. The directors predictably included Kevin Smith -- someone who has not had a film that did not have a Star Wars reference in it. Peter Jackson, Joss Whedon (Serenity, Buffy) and J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) also made appearances. But, people like Camille Paglia and Stephen Colbert also explained the influences of the film and how it influenced others.

One of the politicians that were interviewed was Newt Gingrich. Gingrich, a self-proclaimed expert in history, somehow always seems to forget a vast majority of it, overstates his influence in it, and funnels everything through the narrow prism of the Cold War and Ronald Reagan. In three different segments, he was interviewed and the things that he gleaned from Star Wars were that good and evil are clear-cut, that the Jedi Order represented Jesuits and that the Dark Side obviously represented Russia. Quite the broad view you have there, Newt.

But even his inclusion did not detract from the program. It just confirms that there is something in the stories for everyone.

Parallels were made to Nazi Germany, to Homer's Oddyssey, to Hamlet, to the Greeks and Romans, to Lord of the Rings, to King Arthur, to Paradise Lost, etc. Classic concepts of "mentor", "nemesis", "sins of the father", etc. were explained. All very interesting stuff. By drawing on mythology of the past and introducing it in an interesting and new setting, Star Wars is creating it's own new mythology.

Even if you only like Star Wars a little, I recommend checking out this program. It provides a new frame of reference in which to re-watch the Star Wars films.


CyberKitten said...

Me-thinks they over analyise things a bit....

You can probably see mythological themes in many movies if you look hard enough.

But I'll check out the prog if it's ever shown over here.

dbackdad said...

Undoubtedly they overanalyzed it. And a lot of them admitted it. They suggested that they were seeing things that Lucas never actually intended.

But the Hitler/Germany elements are fairly obvious -- "stormtroopers", Darth Vader's helmet.

And I've heard from Lucas himself that he was greatly influenced by Joseph Campbell's writings on world religions.

Laura said...

If they want to know the mythological history of Star Wars they should start with Kurosawa.

I've heard Lucas say he was influenced by general mythological principles, and I certainly see them.

Wow... Newt Gingrich is whacko. I mean, I knew that, but jesus.

I recorded this and am planning on watching it this week. Sounds pretty interesting.

josh said...

I need cable.

@cyberkitten: I wrote a paper in college comparing Xerxes to Darth Vader (I know I know) based on some classic I can't remember anymore, and I got a really bad grade because (from the professor) 'Stories about good and evil all have things in common, finding them isn't much of an intellectual excersize'. You're right: If you look deep enough you'll find commonalities in anything.

That being said I would love to see this.

Jeff said...

Although I don't really like Star Wars at all I wanted to check this out. I've seen most of them but never really got into them, I am still interested by this though.

Great White Bear, said...

My sons are huge Star Wars fans... hopefully one of them Tivoed this so I don't have to pay to download it off Itunes!

dbackdad said...

It's definitely worth the viewing. It's more irreverant and not quite as academic as I may have made it sound.

Laura said...

I finally saw this. It was very interesting. My favorite observation?

Kevin Smith chiding all of us for complaining that Anakin was just a whiny teenager: Of course the villain will be an "emo kid with some issues"... I just about fell off my chair.

Anonymous said...

LOL Laura! My favorite quote as well. My son wants this on a T-shirt.