Cultural impact of Star Wars

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Imperial Troops invade Riverbend Music Center (Cincinnati, Ohio).
Masks from Star Wars in the National Museum of Cinema of Turin, Italy.

George Lucas' multi-film Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern popular culture. Star Wars references are deeply embedded in popular culture;[1] references to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in many English-speaking countries with the assumption that others will understand the reference. Darth Vader has become an iconic villain. Phrases like "evil empire" and "May the Force be with you" have become part of the popular lexicon.[2] The first Star Wars film in 1977 was a cultural unifier,[3] enjoyed by a wide spectrum of people.[4]

Many efforts produced in the Science fiction genre (particularly in film) can now be seen to draw heavy influence and inspiration from the original Star Wars as well as the magnitude of sequels, spin-offs, series, games and texts that it spawned. Sounds, visuals, and even the iconic score of the films have become integral components in the tapestry of American society. The film can be said to have helped launch the science fiction boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, making science fiction films a blockbuster genre.[5] This very impact also made it a prime target for parody works and homages, with popular examples including Spaceballs, Family Guy's "Blue Harvest special", Seth Green's "Robot Chicken: Star Wars", and Lucas' self-proclaimed favorite parody, "Hardware Wars" by Ernie Fosselius.

Impact on filmmaking[edit]

Star Wars fundamentally changed the aesthetics and narratives of Hollywood films,[6] switching the focus of Hollywood-made films from deep, meaningful stories based on dramatic conflict, themes and irony to sprawling special-effects-laden blockbusters, as well as changing the Hollywood film industry in fundamental ways. Before Star Wars, special effects in films had not appreciably advanced since the 1950s.[6] Star Wars was also important in the movement towards the use of computer initiated imagery in films.[2] The commercial success of Star Wars created a boom in state-of-the-art special effects in the late 1970s. There was increased investment in special effects. Companies like Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Productions were created to provide them. The 1977 Star Wars pioneered the genre pastiche, where several classic film genres are combined in one film. In Star Wars, the genres were science fiction, the Western, the war film, and the quasi-mystical epic.[5] Along with Jaws, Star Wars started the tradition of the summer blockbuster film in the entertainment industry, where films open on many screens at the same time and profitable franchises are important.[2][4] It created the model for the major film trilogy and showed that merchandising rights on a film could generate more money than the film itself did.[3]

The holographic video effect associated with Star Wars served as a technological tool for CNN during its 2008 Election Night coverage. CNN reporter Jessica Yellin and musician looked as though they were in the network's New York City studios talking face-to-face with hosts Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, when in reality, they were in Chicago at Barack Obama's rally. The process involved Yellin and standing in front of a blue screen in a special tent, while being shot by 35 HD cameras.[7]

Furthermore, whole films have now been dedicated to the legends, such as Family Guy's tribute-spoof season premiere episode called "Blue Harvest", in dedication of the saga's 30th anniversary. A sequel to the episode as a parody to The Empire Strikes Back titled "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side" aired in the eighth season and another parody, "It's a Trap!", aired in the ninth season. In the film Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to make a pornographic film called Star Whores to get them out of debt.

Financial impact on Fox[edit]

20th Century Fox optioned Star Wars. When it unexpectedly became the decade's blockbuster, grossing $100 million in three months, Fox's stock soared from $6 to $25 per share and generated revenues of $1.2 million a day for the studio. Fox purchased the Aspen skiing and Pebble Beach golf corporations with the increased cash flow and still declared excess profits in 1977. Income from Star Wars re-releases, sequels, and merchandising enriched the studio in the following decades. Star Wars helped Fox to change from an almost bankrupt production company to a thriving media conglomerate.[5]

Impact on aeronautics[edit]

Expedition 45 'Return of the Jedi' crew poster

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum had an exhibition called "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth". It was an exhibition of original production models, props, costumes, and characters from the first three Star Wars films.[8][9] In October 2007, NASA launched a space shuttle carrying an original lightsaber into orbit. The prop handle had been used as Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. After spending two weeks in orbit, it was brought back to Earth on November 7, 2007, to be returned to its owner George Lucas.[10]

Political impact[edit]

In television commercials, public interest group critics of the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative program deridingly referred to the orbital missile defense project as "Star Wars". Lucasfilm originally sued to try to enjoin this usage of its trademark, and lost.[11] Explaining its decision, the court said,

When politicians, newspapers, and the public generally use the phrase star wars for their convenience, in parody or descriptively to further a communication of their views on SDI, plaintiff has no rights as owner of the mark to prevent this use of STAR WARS. ... Since Jonathan Swift's time, creators of fictional worlds have seen their vocabulary for fantasy appropriated to describe reality. Trademark laws regulate unfair competition, not the parallel development of new dictionary meanings in the everyday give and take of human discourse.[11]

On May 4, 1995 during a defence debate[12] in the UK parliament, MP Harry Cohen related the Star Wars Day joke: "May the 4th be with you". Star Wars also made its mark in the 2001 census, when over 390,000 UK respondents entered their religion as Jedi.

On March 1, 2013, President Barack Obama spoke on the sequestration debate. He said that some people expect him to do a "Jedi mind meld" on the Republicans who refuse to deal.[13]

Celebrity fans[edit]

Actors and comedians[edit]


Impact on other media[edit]

John Williams' score for the films, especially the "Main Title" theme and the recurring "The Imperial March", has become part of the musical repertoire. Other symphonic themes are often used as fanfares at sporting events.[citation needed]

Along with fan films, there have also been comics based on the series. This includes the web comic Arc: Clone Files, which involves the stories of a group of clone troopers on Kamino.

That '70s Show protagonist Eric Forman is a huge Star Wars fan.

The characters on The Big Bang Theory are Star Wars fans.

Star Wars is constantly mentioned in the show How I Met Your Mother and the characters Ted Mosby, Marshall Eriksen and Barney Stinson are huge fans. Barney also has a replica man-size stormtrooper in his living room.

The Mirage Raceway in Shimmering Flats, south of Kalimdor (World of Warcraft) is rumored to be a homage to Star Wars' Tatooine planet. Some of the Goblin have a slight resemblance to Star Wars Pod Racers, also similar is the fact that the course takes place in a desert, similar to the film saga.[citation needed]

The 2009 film Fanboys, produced by The Weinstein Company, takes place in 1998. It is about a group of men who are huge fans of Star Wars. One of them is diagnosed with cancer and has only four months to live. The others are worried that he might not live long enough to see Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, so they decide to put a plan that they plotted since the eighth grade into action. They drive from Ohio to California, break into the Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of the film.

In the 2009 Showtime documentary Guys and Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals, which studies high school theater in Southern Indiana and the students involved, one of the students holds up a Yoda figure and does an impression saying "a great actor Adam is" while moving its lips.

An episode in Danny Phantom, "The Fenton Menace", was named after Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The 2010 documentary The People vs. George Lucas focuses on the franchise and George Lucas.

In July 2013, the producers announced Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, a Phineas and Ferb/Star Wars crossover which will be used as a sidebar to the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The episode first aired on July 26, 2014.

Some of the mythological underpinnings of the franchise were discussed in a six-part feature on PBS first airing in 1988, called The Power of Myth, consisting of conversations between host Bill Moyers and renowned scholar Joseph Campbell.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brooker, Will, 2002, Using the Force: Creativity, Community, and Star Wars Fans, ISBN 0-8264-5287-6.
  2. ^ a b c Caro, Mark, May 8, 2005, The power of the dark side, Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ a b Emerson, Jim (2007). "How Star Wars Shook The World". MSN Movies. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Star Wars: Space Saga, May 19, 2005, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
  5. ^ a b c Cook, David A., Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979, History of the American Cinema, V. 9, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-23265-8.
  6. ^ a b Bigsby, C.W.E., 2006, The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Culture, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-84132-1.
  7. ^ Ryan, Maureen, November 4, 2008 - The Watcher: Freaky CNN hologram recalls "Star Wars", Chicago Tribune.
  8. ^ Lancaster, Kurt, and Mikotowicz, Thomas J., (editors), Performing the Force: Essays on Immersion into Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Environments, McFarland & Co., ISBN 0-7864-0895-2.
  9. ^ "Star Wars:The Magic of Myth, National Air and Space Museum". 
  10. ^ - Items Taken Into Space Reflect Accomplishments on Earth
  11. ^ a b Lucasfilm Ltd. v. High Frontier, 622 F.Supp. 931 (D.D.C. 1985)
  12. ^ Hansard, Column 784, May 4, 1994, UK Parliament Hansard, Column 784.
  13. ^ Heil, Emily (March 13, 2013). "Obama’s ‘Jedi mind meld’ mixes sci-fi worlds". Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Joanna Robinson. "Celebrity Star Wars Fans - Vanity Fair". Vanity Fair. 
  15. ^ Kristopher Tapley. "Matt Damon Talks ‘The Martian,’ ‘Bourne’ and ‘Star Wars’ - Variety". Variety. 
  16. ^ "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  17. ^ "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  18. ^ "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  19. ^ a b "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  20. ^ "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  21. ^ "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g "Celebs Who Are 'Star Wars' Fans". etcanada. 
  23. ^ Niles, Jon (December 15, 2015). "'Star Wars' Fan Ariana Grande on "Who Shot First?" Debate Ahead of 'Force Awakens' [VIDEO]". Music Times. Retrieved 2016-02-04. 

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