Just seen images of different cinemas (London and Paris) with young people waiting since as early as 3 am for the early show. Is it a mania? A fad created by the western society in these past forty years? After all, we all contributed with some coins to the amazing 33 bil $ that the franchise amassed from its films, comics, cartoons and merchandises issued under the brand. On October 31, 2012, George Lucas’s selling of his Star Wars over to Disney for 4. 05 billion dollars, not a current event in the movie industry, not in any other industry – it made waves in the media. The most expensive sell of movie rights so far rightfully entails the question: “Why would Disney be so interested in buying this particular movie?”, and “Why the elevated price?” Obviously, because it is worth it: six parts already and people around the world are still hugely interested. What is it that makes this one stand out among all the other successful movies?
I imagine that, for Disney to have advanced 4. 05 billion, it must be safe to assume that it knows what it’s doing, and it is everyone’s knowledge that, among the immense production of Hollywood’s dream factory over the years, Star Wars stands out by its enormously successful previous six parts. But why should this particular structure be so attractive to the public? Why is it so irresistible to so many? It is because we are all caught up in this Hero Archetype. With the rise of the ego and of individualism, the hero season is in full swing. Is it good? Is it bad? Like sharp cutting tools, like electricity and nuclear energy, it all depends on what we do with it. On what kind of hero each one of us we choose to be.
If you don’t believe my story, here are the facts. Not many would care to know, but Lucas acknowledges his source of inspiration to Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. He just came upon it right in the middle of his first draft of the Star Wars, so his genius idea was to import the ancient myths from that rich mass of myth and folklore and dress them into the modern dress of the 20th C (and now 21st ) cinematography special effects.
But Star Wars is not about ” myth and folklore”, at least not in the trite meaning that we are used to give to these words. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces Campbell first introduced his theory of the Monomyth, a concentrate of all the hero journeys from the world’s literatures and religions, capturing in it the essential moments, challenges and initiation stages taken by heroes of all ages and cultures found in world mythologies. Campbell elaborated extensively on the hero archetype and on the archetypal journey of trials and transformation, so much so that no story or heroic movie ever gets to be born in Hollywood unless it follows to the letter Christopher Vaugler’s Writer’s Journey – Mythical Structure for Writers, his textbook for screenwriters (for more info on that, you can go to https://chrisvogler.wordpress.com/) conceived, of course, as a writers’ guide into Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The story structure of Star Wars is, of course, the journey of the archetypal hero, one that we all go through in life on our path through transformation, and this is what gives it the special appeal it has over audiences around the world: the hero in us cannot fail to identify him/herself with the universal hero pattern. Whatever the background, living situation and the nature of our aspirations, truth is that we all get to go through the same many aspects of the human experience – and this is the main and first reason of existence for fiction, this is what we all mainly look for when we go to the cinema or start reading a new book. In Jung terms, the hero is a symbol of the Self where the human part in us aspires to its communion with the Divinity, the divine part in us, after having had integrated all our parts of shadow. In Lucas terms our road of trials awakens us to our communion with The Force, the one that supports us in our eternal battle against the Darkness, mostly the one inside ourselves.
There is another aspect to the genesis of the Star Wars, that of continuity and of transmission communion and ultimately, of unity and oneness. In spite of what copyright and anti-piracy laws claiming exclusive ownership on any individual work, in fact no idea and no work of man is just the result of that one man’s (or woman’s) work or idea, but the influences come from many sources. In this instance we have a happy instance of a conducive thread to follow which shows us the most important influences – that is, only up to a point.
First Lucas, and then Campbell in turn, acknowledges two ideators as his source of inspiration: Joice and Jung. The Monomyth is not Campbell’s own term, but is has been coined by James Joyce in his Finnegan’s Fin, inspired in turn by the German Adolf Bastian’s pioneering idea of “psychic unity of the mind”. In the true spirit of a Renaissance man, this man has used his extensive knowledge and his direct experience gained through exploring the populations and mythologies of the world along his extensive voyages around the world ( he was a ship doctor) to come up with an unheard of, complex and unifying theory. But Campbell also traveled to Bollingen, Switzerland to meet Jung in person. He uses Jung’s insights into archetypes in his book Pathways to Bliss by introducing Jung’s theory of the constituents of the soul: anima/animus, the shadow, the ego-consciousness to his American readership.
Then Jung, in turn, acknowledges Adolf Bastian’s concept of the “psychic unity of the mind” as being an early source of inspiration for his theory of the unconscious and archetypes.
And think that, without the strenuous work of all these people, we wouldn’t have felt the need and impulse to skip work today, wake up before sunset, or skipping sleep all together, to go watch Star Gates – Episode VII, The Last Jedi. But this effort is just another challenge on our individual Road of Trials?? Of which kind of Hero we choose to be?