Star Wars is one of the biggest and most fundamental movies and series of all times. They’re so big that they even have an official Star Wars day, “May the 4th”. But this year it’s 40/40 hindsight as the beloved franchise is turning 40 years old. For what many things have been done. A convention, a video commemorating the great Carrie Fisher, video games, cartoons and probably more. Showing the world the fundamental and worldwide phenomenon it has been. Probably only the Rolling Stones have had a longer successful run on pop culture than Star Wars.
The movie first, where it all began, A New Hope, was released in theaters on May 25th, 1977. Needless to say that it was a total success and created an instant international sensation. As the film was a game changing. Especially in the story and special effects ground. Also creating iconic characters and turning them, and who played them, into household names. Since from that moment on George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamil became legends. Along with Darth Vader, C3-PO, R2-D2 and Yoda.
The Star Wars universe has become such a cultural icon that hasn’t just survived through 40 years. It’s still as relevant and beloved as it was in the 70’s, reaching to countless generations and countries. Not bad for “a Saturday afternoon serial for children,” as Lucas originally planned it.
Why May the 4th
After the movie premiered 40 years ago it has become a core of pop culture. The phenomenon has gone beyond the silver screen. Giving birth to a multimedia empire adding TV shows, books, cartoon, comics, toys, attractions, spin-offs and video games to its catalog. So much that it attracted Disney, who bought it in 2012. To reach the point even Disney want’s it, they must have been doing something right. But this phenomenon is so big that they even got their own special day, that was created and granted for and by the fans. Not any formal institution, despite that LA City Council, declared May 25th “Star Wars Day” on 2007.
But that special and worldwide celebrate day is May the 4th. So to give you a bit o background where did all started from? The reference was firstly used on May 4th of 1979, as a play on words, the day that Margaret Thatcher took office as Prime Minister in the U.K. In the movies the phrase “may the force be with you,” is used to wish an individual good luck and that they would have favour of The Force. As the author Alan Arnold wrote about it: “Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations”.
Then in 2008, the first Facebook groups appeared, celebrating “Luke Skywalker Day,” using the same pun. Despite the Facebook group never received full recognition for it, the catchphrase spread through college campuses a few years later, and then Star Wars Day was born.
Happy Star Wars Day pic.twitter.com/6mDeZQ8jro
— Darth Vader (@DepressedDarth) May 4, 2017
The current out of this world celebration
The Internet has contributed a lot and spread the festive spirit of “May the 4th,” going beyond the initial Facebook group joke milestone. Since it has also helped many Star Wars fans to connect with each other and letting them know more about events, facts and so on. Then in 2011, the celebration evolved into what is pretty much today. As the first organized celebration of “Star Wars Day” took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, at the Toronto Underground Cinema. The event, produced by Sean Ward and Alice Quinn, featured an Original Trilogy Trivia Game Show, a costume contest with celebrity judges, online’s best tribute films, mash-ups, parodies, and remixes, etc.
The event was such a success that a second annual edition took place on the May 4th of 2012. Beginning what it would be today, as endless conventions and festivities are held all around the world on May 4th. Nowadays the day is celebrated in the same way, adding obviously a marathon all the movies. Also, reading the comics, watching the cartoons, playing the games, wearing a costume, favorite Star Wars merchandise or really anyway that any fan desires.
Even though the idea of “May the 4th” wasn’t started by Lucasfilm, they have encouraged and embraced it. Loving the spirit and the fact that it was all started by the fandom. Also, many stores and official partners of the franchise have special offers, sales, giveaways, and exclusives content/products in order to boost the day’s buzz.