Star Wars comes out tomorrow, and of course, my husband has had tickets for days. As is usual before a SW event, there will be some documentary on TLC or the Discovery channel or some snippet on the 11 o’clock news about how George Lucas used stories of ancient mythology and Joseph Campbell’s work to fashion the story about a galaxy far, far away. I had never really questioned this, because it was so reported by so many reliable sources. But this Salon article by Stephen Hart debunks the “myth”:

Lucas himself was mum about any Campbell influence when the original Star Wars opened — “The word for this movie is fun,” he told Time in 1977 — but he began name-dropping the retired Sarah Lawrence academic (who died in 1987) as the movie became a pop culture milestone. Feature writers took him at his word, unwilling to believe that a mere science-fiction flick could be so popular unless some deeper meaning was at work. Campbell, happy to have his work associated with the most successful film series of all time, returned the favor by praising Lucas’ use of mythological motifs, though he had trouble keeping straight exactly which motifs were being used. The relationship built until the men have become as closely linked in the public mind as Chang and Eng. (…)
Like many of mankind’s oldest legends, this notion offers multiple levels of absurdity. First, if knowledge of “man’s oldest stories” underlies the popularity of “Star Wars,” then why is Lucas’ non-“Star Wars” resume so dismal? Apart from conceiving the “Indiana Jones” films, which owe their box-office impact to the kinetic genius of director Steven Spielberg, Lucas has produced an unbroken series of flops. Anyone here remember “Howard the Duck”? Or “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”? “Radioland Murders,” anybody? And let us not forget “Willow,” which is a virtual textbook of Campbell’s mix ‘n’ match approach to mythology.
Second, and more damningly, the real roots of “Star Wars” are obvious to anyone not blinded by snobbery or the need for self-inflation. They lie not in “The Odyssey” or the “Upanishads,” but 20th century science-fiction magazines such as Astounding, Amazing Stories and Galaxy. The “true theology” of “Star Wars” was written not by Virgil or Homer, but Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, E.E. “Doc” Smith and a host of other S.F. writers.

The article goes on like this, examining different characters and events in the original Star Wars and pointing to sci-fi books that could have served as “inspiration”. Interesting read. Galactic Gasbag


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