Star wars has garnered a die-hard fan base over the decades that is arguably unparalleled among film franchises.
Since the first film in George Lucas’ space saga, “Star Wars: A New Hopewas released, enthusiasts were treated to three trilogies and a growing number of TV spinoffs, books and games, creating a blockbuster cinematic world like no other.
And such has been the extraordinary popularity of films, star wars even spawned its own special day.
But a few star wars newcomers may be unaware of the origins of May 4, or they may just be curious about how to best mark the occasion. Keep reading to find out.
Star Wars Day: May 4 Origins
The popular phrase ‘May the Fourth be with you’ dates back to 1979, when the British Conservative Party paid for a newspaper ad saying, ‘May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations!’ to celebrate the party’s victory in the general elections.
Professor Nigrin, executive director and curator of the New Jersey Film Festival, says the decision to tell Star Wars Day was chosen because it is a play on words.
He said Newsweek: “May The Fourth” Star Wars Day is a hanging hook and a pun that pushes you to say the whole line of the film: “May The Force Be With You”.
“The first May Fourth celebration was held at the Toronto Underground Cinema in May 2001.
“It has since taken off and practically become something of an unofficial holiday in the United States and Western society.”
However, Professor Jackson wryly notes that the occasion almost didn’t arise at all, adding: “‘May the force be with you’ […] was the phrase that appeared in the movies.
“The original scripts had The Force of Others be with you, which doesn’t fit the date as well!”
It’s interpreted as somewhat ironic that what apparently started out as sci-fi escapism has since become so strongly associated with politics.
Professor Albert Nigrin said: “Star Wars is a phenomenon like no other. It fundamentally changed so much about our culture, the film industry, film merchandising, marketing and the list goes on.
“Star Wars also had a huge cultural impact on politics. The Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) has been dubbed ‘Star Wars.’
“[And] President Barack Obama used the phrase “Jedi mind-meld” to describe what some people expected him to do in his opposition to get them to accept his ideas in 2013.”
How is Star Wars Day marked?
Experts agree that there were two separate, yet related, catalysts for the adoption and celebration of Stars Wars Day.
Professor Nigrin said: “The roots of Star Wars cult status could be found in The Rocky Horror Picture Showanother movie that debuted in the 1970s.
“People who recite lines from the movies and go and watch them again and again are elements that have also established themselves in the star wars phenomenon.”
Meanwhile, Professor Jackson believes the online world has made it easier for like-minded fans to mark Stars Wars Day.
He said, “Enter the Internet. About 10 or 15 years ago, star wars online fans began using the phrase in their fandom’s annual commemorations.
“In doing so, they were taking a phrase they might have used locally with fans they knew in person and expanding the geographic reach of their celebrations – it was a fun way to connect with other fans online.
“Things went beyond the speed of light when Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, and as of 2013 there has always been an official Star Wars Day celebration at Disney parks in the United States, as well as merchandise exclusive brands (of course).
“But the important point to keep in mind is that official Star Wars Day is an amplification of fan celebrations and depends on the genuine excitement of fans everywhere.
“Ultimately, it’s a way for fans to connect and immerse themselves in the shared Star Wars universe for a little while in shared celebration.”
He finally notes that there is a potential dramatic schism among fans as to when Star Wars should really be marked.
The professor of international studies at American University said: “Now there’s a sort of canon law conflict in some parts of the fandom, with more orthodox people claiming that Star Wars Day really falls on May 25, the anniversary of the theatrical release of the original film in 1977.
“At the moment the Reform Party and its sponsors seem to have the upper hand, and the lure of the pun is probably decisive here.
“But if star wars teaches us one thing, it’s not to bet against rebellion or long-term resistance!”