Star Wars

Why is Star Wars Such a Huge Cultural Force?

A Reason panel debates the cultural and political impact of the blockbuster franchise.

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Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens won't come out until December 18th, lines are already forming for the highly anticipated release.

How and why did Star Wars become such a cultural force? At a December 3rd event in Reason's DC HQ, writers Alyssa Rosenberg (Washington Post), Sonny Bunch (Free Beacon), and Peter Suderman (Reason) gave their thoughts as to why the original movies became both political and cultural touchstones, why Han Solo and Bob Fett are fan favorites, and whether there's a case to be made that the Empire, not the Rebels, are actually the good guys in all of this.

You can watch an edited version of the event below.  

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101 responses to “Why is Star Wars Such a Huge Cultural Force?

  1. I’m beginning to suspect Reason magazine is trying to get some heat of its own off of all the Star Wars buzz that’s going around right now. It’s marketing genius!

    1. What Star Wars buzz are you speaking of?

      1. In an attempt to be clever, you are being obtuse and pedestrian. You have low midi-commentarian levels in your blood.

        1. Well, my speeder broke down and I had to walk.

          1. To Toschi Station to pick up some power converters?

            1. No. Just wasting my time with my friends after my chores were done.

        2. FoE who died and left you commentatiate boss?

          You’re not the boss of me.

            1. F.O.E ?

              OK..now I get it…..sir.

  2. It’s because most people are too lazy to read Frank Herbert’s Dune series.I’ll take Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis over Star W

    1. Damn it,Star Wars and Star Trek,I shouldn’t type while watch South Park.

      1. You’ve mentioned many popular culture touchstones in your poorly formatted rant, but crossed a line disrespecting a certain one. You are dead not only to me but to the entire Hit & Run Commentsphere.

        1. disrespecting a certain one

          what? just ’cause he didn’t mention Space 1999.

        2. Star Trek sucks,it’s a commie plot

        3. And the Wraith are a better villain then anything in Star Trek and the Atreides rule.

          1. +3500 years The Golden Path

            1. I really like God Emperor of Dune..Good book.

              1. Re-reading the whole series. I am on God Emporer now. Will do Heretics, Chapterhouse, and the two that his son wrote to finish that story. Then go back to the three Legends and the three direct prequels.

                1. I’ve read them all,the sun’s not as good,but I liked them.I’m a re-reader too.Although I like the Destroyer pulp series.Started reading them as a teen.Kinda fun books .Chiun’s a hoot.

                2. The one with the Ix kid inventing some FTL telephone from the rubble of his home planet… that killed off any interest I had in the prequels.

          2. I thoroughly enjoy SG1 and Atlantis, but nothing could ever top the greatest, most iconic battle in the history of science fiction:

            https://youtu.be/4SK0cUNMnMM

            1. Ha,cool.With Stargate,I like the way they use earth myths woven into the story.I have read lots of mythology,Greek,Nordic,old English. and Egyptian.Beowulf, the Iliad and Norse myths are great reads.Putting them in stories,along with King Arthur and Atlantis ,made me a fan.

              1. Me too. The transposition of the Aesir from Norse legends to the smart “greys” in SG1 was cool. I couldn’t wait to see Thor again.

                1. I’m still a little bit disappointed with the end of the Ori arc. They had so much potential, but it all got fizzled away.

                  1. I felt the same way.

              2. I like the way Stargate doesn’t pretend that culture from the then-current age never happened.

    2. Recently introduced my son to Herbert by way of watching “Jodorowsky’s Dune” – excellent documentary/story.

    3. It has nothing to do with conceptual novelty, excellence of plot, depth of character or meaingfulness of story, I’ll tell you that much. My own sense it that it is John Williams and Jim Henson, and the rest is momentum and marketing.

      1. “My own sense it that it is John Williams and Jim Henson, and the rest is momentum and marketing”

        You’re actually just pointing out that Star Wars (the OG, ep IV) had many strong ‘peripheral’ elements

        the story and acting might have been fairly ‘meh’, but so many of the otherwise-overlooked ‘below the line’ elements of film-making (effects, score, marketing/promotion, animation/puppetry, etc) were so “groundbreaking” and A++ stuff that it hardly mattered.

        I’d argue that Star Wars created its own genre of film experience. It was a different way of doing movies, and specifically it was a way for adults to enjoy “kids stuff” (fantasy*) again without too much embarrassment.

        Its was less about the substance of the ‘movie’ than it was “the event” of something so wholly different in conception to mainstream films of the 1970s. All the rest of the movies that have followed it are all so many watered-down re-runs celebrating the original idea.

  3. and whether there’s a case to be made that the Empire, not the Rebels, are actually the good guys in all of this

    No, the Empire is bad. But this doesn’t mean the Alliance is good. Both the Alliance and the Empire have this irrational belief that you can govern an entire galaxy composed of billions of systems with a centralized authority. That’s so crazy and stupid it really doesn’t matter if that authority is democratically elected or not.

    Just let every system do its own thing and maybe form a loose confederacy to hammer out things like rules concerning interstellar trade and whatnot.

    1. Everyone knows the (inadvertently) libertarian sci-fi show is Firefly.

      1. And its mentor Rufus T.

      2. All of Whedon’s heros are libertarian. And it pisses Joss off.

        1. It kind of amazes me that Whedon has so little self-awareness about the heroes he creates (or in the case of the Avengers the heroes he works on).
          He is a standard card-carrying, beta male lefty. But everything he does goes against big govts and promotes individual strength.

          1. He is aware of it. Its the dissonance I cant figure out how he lives with.

            1. Actually your comment made me think about the typical Hollywood lefty response about action movies and guns. “It’s just a movie.”
              So I think you are right that they know about the difference, but they rationalize it with the idea that it doesn’t mean anything. Except of course, when THEY want it to mean something.

            2. Isn’t Whedon the guy who complained about sexism in the trailer for Jurassic World, even as his own movie (Avengers 2) had one of the heroes make a rape joke?

              1. That movie also had the great bit where Iron Man loads his suit with an AI personality called “Friday” who talks like a chipper secretary and calls him Boss. This strikes me as more of an example of the “big dumb Hollywood sexism” Whedon dislikes than Chris Pratt flirting with Bryce Howard, but of course it works because it fits so well with the kind of character Tony Stark is established to be.

                I’m not sure why people get so tied up in knots about fictional characters having “bad” or, as the kids say, “problematic” character traits like having a cavalier attitude towards women. I guess in some sense it’s because they don’t want young people emulating such behavior after seeing it in their heroes, but then the logical extension of that would be saying that fictional heroes can’t have any negative personality traits at all and then the only acceptable character would be Superman. Ironically, this was basically the position of the infamous Comics Code Authority which would have made Whedon’s own career impossible if it were still around.

                But I dunno, I’m not really one to hold things against people that they said flippantly on Twitter. And avoiding having a record of dumb off-hand comments that can later make me look like a hypocrite is the main reason I don’t use Twitter.

      3. And FireFly had some hot women on the ship.The Star Trek Federation were commies.

        1. Morena Baccarin is the sexiest sci-if woman of all time!!

          1. False, the correct answer is Leeloo Dallas Multipass.

            1. False, the correct answer is Guinan.

            2. Eh Milla was hotter in Resident Evil.

          2. +10 Brazilian babe,and she’s in SG1 also.

            1. Yep! And in the reboot of V. Not a great series, but I would watch anything with her! Gotham is pretty cool too.

              1. With Morena and Jessica Lucas, Gotham is not lacking for eye candy.

              2. She is one of the hottest women on TV,I put Stana Katic and Emily Bett Rickards in that group’

                1. Ooo Felicity!! Oh yeah!

    2. That’s what they so in the Somalia galaxy.

    3. Add to this, Palpatine was elected as Chancellor and then the Senate gave him all of his “emergency” powers completely legally. Then the Jedi council, an unelected body accountable to no one who leads a private army of super powered martial arts masters, decides to launch a coup.

      1. So the Empire is Venezuela? I dont think you are making the point you are trying to make.

        1. My tongue is rather in my cheek as I was writing that. I am not really making any point. I was merely reinforcing Grand Moffs point that both sides are wrong.

      2. The Senate was likely under the influence of the dark side and, more importantly, was reacting to a war that Palpatine engineered for this purpose. The Jedi (very, very, very slowly) realized this and tried to stop him from establishing a dictatorship, making them liberators.

        1. I actually do agree, but there is great irony in that what I said was absolutely true “From a certain point of view”. The Jedi are big on situational ethics. And only the Sith think in absolutes.
          But then as much as Lucas had one or two great ideas, the man couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag.

      3. Genetically empowered martial arts masters, don’t forget that!

        Waytogo, Lucas. In breaking the first rule of sci-fantasy (don’t explain the sci-magic), you had as your heroes, genetic supermen who decide right and wrong by divine right.

        At least Trek had Khan as the bad guy*.

        * That doesn’t excuse Trek’s attitude towards transhumanism, though.

    4. Qeng Ho trading culture

  4. Freaking nerds.

  5. Part of it is because it relies on cultural archetypes–and tied them into contemporary mythology.

    Luke: Knight errant.

    Lea: Damsel in distress.

    Han Solo: Swashbuckler.

    Chewbacca: Big Foot/Sasquatch is an alien!

    Long time ago in a galaxy far away: This is humanity’s origin story

    Another part of it is that it’s from the ancient time before VHS, the internet, and cable and having more than three networks to choose from–which means everyone who wanted to be part of American culture saw it. To not have seen the original Star Wars was to not participate in American society. You can’t recreate that kind of mass inertia again, and there hasn’t been anything like that, that we all watched, really, since . . . All in the Family went off the air.

    Yes, All in the Family stayed on the air until 1979, and Saturday Night Fever was in 1977.

    IN 1979 Turner Broadcasting System was born, and multiplexes didn’t start coming to the suburbs until the 1970s. When the theater chains kept Star Wars in the theaters for more than a year, it blew the studios’ minds. It’s what sold them on video cassette. Before that, nobody in the industry thought anybody would pay to see a movie more than once. What I’m not sure some of them realized was that in the suburbs, where there may have been only two screens, keeping Start Wars in the theater for more than year meant that when you went to the movies, you could only choose between seeing Star Wars or one other film.

    1. Dude, way to hijack a true geek thread with all your serious, insightful commentary and marketing discussion.
      What a downer! 🙁

      1. Ken is most likely a Wraith,sucking the life force from the thread. Or worse ,a Harkonnen.

        1. Ken is so rape-y.

    2. To not have seen the original Star Wars was to not participate in American society.

      “I haven’t seen Star Wars… ” people are worse than “I don’t even own a TV” people. Fact.

    3. I think it’s mostly because it’s just plain escapism. Unlike Star Trek where humanity is very conscious of its flawed history, Star Wars takes place in a whole other galaxy where none of the identifiably human protagonists are weighed down by such self-reflection.

      There’s good, there’s evil and that’s it. It’s simple. And audiences love simple.

    4. Having recurrent characters may be part of it, but I think Jim Henson and John Williams had way more to do with it’s appeal than anything george lucas did. For the most part you’re right: It’s not unlike Islam. You have some powerful symbolism, effective rap-battle delivery, and the threat of death and/or enslavement, but for the most part, it was just one of the only major games in town.

  6. OT: Request for delicious “food finds” from the commentariat.

    My son is opening a market/bakery/bistro in Iowa and we are looking for packaged/prepared/specialty food ideas for the market portion. I would appreciate any product ideas available domestically (we are importing some international items via distributors). Local companies are fine if willing to wholesale.

    1. Spice coffee!

      1. Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

        1. We will have a Chili-hot chocolate mix from a Brooklyn company, but NO PUMPKIN SPICE!

          1. I don’t think pumpkins grow on Arrakis.

    2. Aeros.

      Which isn’t domestic and that’s the point. To borrow the Pratchett, American chocolate is formally classified as ‘cheese’ and only misses an officially label of ’tile grout’ on grounds of wrong color.

      My favorite shop in Jacksonville is a little bakery/hot deli/coffeeshop thing, where you can get a hot Scotch egg and a bun, and some foreign dry groceries while you were there. Imported chocolate bars, Ribena, a bottle of brown sauce. Crackers and Easter eggs in season.

      Foreign chocolate is like chocolate moonshine to deprived Americans under our oppressive chocolate overlords.

      1. Thanks – our European distributor carries so easy addition.

      2. Sure if you stick to the impulse section at the grocery store. But good chocolate exists in this country if you know where to look. This guy is popular in my neck of the woods http://www.elbowchocolates.com/our-chocolates
        (mmm whiskey pecan)

      1. Do you have a producer or brand in-mind?

        1. ::cough::cough::

    3. Try these two, they are the real thing. I used to buy out of the back door at Savoie’s.

      http://www.richardscajunfoods.com/who-we-are/

      http://savoiesfoods.com

      Best selling would probably be the smoked sausage and the roux. Those sell here as fast as they can make it, but Iowa…I dunno. The only spices there are salt and black pepper, right?

      1. Isn’t is ridiculously easy to make one’s own roux?

        1. It is ridiculously simple, but a little troublesome. You have to stir constantly and can’t leave it unattended. It is easier to just buy it and the prepared roux is identical to what you would make yourself. Saves a ton of time.

          1. It is problematic isn’t it Suthenboy

            I buy it pre prepared also even though I can watch football from the stove top.

      2. These fit perfectly – I’ve actually been searching for some cajun/andouille (tough to gauge without an endorsement). The core lunch focus is specialty sausages – we have an excellent company for traditional German, and creating some unique blends with a local locker.

        Sadly not far off with the salt/pepper comment…

        1. “Sadly not far off with the salt/pepper comment…”

          *snicker*

          I was just pulling your chain, but…yeah.

          The Richard’s (Reee-shards) and Savoie’s ( Sav-wah’s) are very authentic, about the same price, and identical in taste. All of the grocery stores here sell both. I buy whichever one is ten cents cheaper this week in 5 lb boxes.

          All of their sausages are good, especially the Andouille.

          If your brother is going to serve lunches and you want a good recipe for gumbo, let me know. You can cook a gallon pot up for a few bucks and serve the bowls for 5-8 bucks a piece, depending on your market. Good stuff that warms you up when it is cold out.

          1. Oh hey, that reminds me.

          2. I’d appreciate a good gumbo recipe, especially if we can secure the sausages you recommended (already sent emails to both).

            There’s a lack of “interesting” offerings here, but a people seem to be looking for flavor.

    4. Blue Bell ice cream from Brenham Texas is the best ice cream in the world in spite of what a few Yankee ice cream snobs say.

      Try Johnny’s Oysters & Shrimp in San Leon Texas. They do several million a year in oyster and shrimp products.

      (713) 339-2111 Some of their stuff may go over well in Iowa.

      1. Now Listeria-free!

    5. I can’t recommend these people eenough. I’ve been buying from them for over 40 years and I know they wholesale for volume. Excellent meats, smoked meats, and sasuages.

      Try their stuffed pork chops if you can buy them online. They are about 4 inches thick and stuffed in the middle with various sasuage products. Slow smoke them on a pit.

      https://www.praseks.com/

      1. If you’re interested in any recepies I can give you an authenic chili recepie made from scratch without store bought type spices.

        It uses actual smoked chilies rehydrated and put through a food processor. It makes the chili sauce smooth and satiny.

        And no beans else it wouldn’t be chili.

        1. “And no beans else it wouldn’t be chili.”

          *ahem*

          Black beans arent beans.

        2. And no beans else it wouldn’t be chili.

          Ick… One big thing I’ve missed since moving to Texas… real chili. Simmered meat sauce isn’t chili.

          1. Neither is meat and bean soup.

            Authentic chili consists of:

            meat
            chilie sauce made from rehydrated chilis, some hot and some not
            garlic
            salt
            water.

            You can cook any kind of meat and bean soup or stew you want, and you can call it what you want, but it still isnt authentic chli.

      2. Thanks for the suggestions, and agreed that Blue Bells is great ice cream. We call thick pork chops – IOWA chops here!

        1. Makes sense about the chops.

          I wasn’t referring to the meat itself though just the stuffing.

          Good luck to your brother.

  7. Green Chile

    4 10oz cans green chiles
    1 Roma tomato
    2 heads garlic
    1 stick butter
    whole chicken
    2 yellow onions
    oregano

    Season chicken with salt and pepper. Peel and trim one onion, and roughly chop. Peel one head of garlic. In a cast iron dutch oven, combine chicken, onion and garlic. Top with stick of butter, cover and bake at 325 until tender, or 60-90 minutes.

    Remove chicken to a platter and refrigerate. By whichever manner you prefer, arrange that the skimmed fat from the dutch oven is set aside while the roasted vegetables and pan juices are put in a deep pot.

    While the chicken cools, start your chile… tbc

    1. Dice the tomato, remaining onion, and 4-8 cloves of the second garlic head. Or more. Do the whole thing, what the fuck, YOLO. Saute onion and garlic in a tablespoon of the reserved fat until lovely and brown. Add tomato and oregano. Drain the juice from the chile cans into the saucepan, chop the chiles and add them in. Cover and simmer.

      Pick the cooled meat from the chicken bones and reserve. Dump everything else (skin, bone, gristle, etc) in the deep pot currently holding the roasted veg and whatnot. Add salt, pepper, a splash of lime or cider vinegar and enough water to cover, and simmer for ninety minutes. Strain.

      Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, and puree the lot of your chile. Add a quart and a half of good broth, your reserved chicken meat (run a knife over it a bit first, nothing fancy).

      Make a roux of your reserved fat and flour. Thicken your chile.

      Aaaaand you’re done.

  8. “Why is Star Wars Such a Huge Cultural Force?”

    Because most people can’t grasp art beyond the level of thin commercial product. This is the best they can do, and the most they can understand, so they do it.

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