Star Wars as a Modern Myth
Yesterday, I was having a lively after-class discussion with my students in the coffee bar at Utica College. The topic: Star Wars as a modern myth.
While I have nothing but disdain for George Lucas as a megalomaniac and director, I have to tip my hat to him as one of the most brilliant cinematic storytellers of the 20th century. He intentionally wrote Star Wars according to the mythical pattern laid out by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell applied Jungian archetypes to the study of comparative mythology. He argued that all the major myths of the world’s religions conformed to a pattern that he called the monomyth.
While Campbell specifically mentions the stories of Prometheus, Osiris, Buddha, and Christ, we can identify the monomythical pattern in the more recent works of L. Frank Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and yes, even George Lucas. Thus, Dorothy Gayle, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, and Luke Skywalker are all basically the same character. What makes Star Wars different from the others is that Lucas was directly inspired by Campbell and intentionally wrote Star Wars as a “modern myth” according to Campbell’s pattern.
The Jedi as a Religion
Given that Lucas intentionally designed Star Wars as a myth, it shouldn’t be surprising that an actual religion has arisen around it.
The Jedi have been objects of admiration by many (including myself). Part monk, part Samurai, and you get to carry a lightsaber. Who wouldn’t want to convert?
In fact, you can. The Universal Life Church will gladly ordain you as a legal minister over the internet and, for the low price of $10.99, you can order a certificate that identifies you as a Jedi Knight. I’m not kidding. Click here if you’re interested.
For those who are looking for a little more commitment, check out the Jedi Church website.
Around the time that Revenge of the Sith was released, science fiction legend Orson Scott Card published an article on the Jedi as a religion. The question that Orson Scott Card asks is, if we take the Star Wars movies as the foundational texts for the Jedi religion, what kind of religion can we expect to emerge? Are the Jedi, as presented in the films, the kind religious order that we would actually like to see? Card has some fascinating things to say about it.
Click here to read his fantastic article, No Faith in this Force