Some kid in my school traded me his entire Star Wars toy collection for “Buzz Off” from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, forever ago. Buzz Off was a muscular man who looks like a bee. Black and yellow, he had wings and goggles. At the start of term I brought him in. I traded him for a bin bag full of Star Wars toys. He must’ve been under pressure from his parents because he instigated the trade. There was an AT-AT in that bag. And that was just the start of it. Speeder bikes, AT-ST, loads of figures… all sorts. I still wonder if he regrets it.
Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I went with my dad to the cinema in Douglas to see Return of the Jedi twice. I collected stickers, and had one on my bedroom door, of a Gamorrean Guard, to keep me safe from the ghost.
Ugly pig faced creatures, the guards are, and technically on the wrong side of the conflict plotwise. But I didn’t care as long as Ann didn’t come into my room with her dead face and beckon to me when I was trying to sleep. Green pigmen with hauberks were a welcome break from rotting faced ghost women.
The other day at Carol we had a kid in. Gabriel. He had a Star Wars jumper. He told me Christmas is about Star Wars. I can be mischievous when we aren’t running to narrative so I quizzed him on it before throwing it to the house: “Which is the “best” of these Christmas Star Wars nonsenses?” Universally I got back “Empire Strikes Back.” Even from Gabriel, who also insisted on “A New Hope.” as second. He was 9. A 36 year old backed him up: “It’s the most mature and complex plot.” insisted Daniel. I place this enduring love of the first trilogy firmly at the feet of Joseph Campbell.
Joseph Campbell was a mythologist and a brilliant post Jungian thinker and perhaps philosopher. I would love to recommend his book “The Hero with 1000 Faces” because it’s an incredible book, but his prose will make you want to spoon your eyes out. If you’re fine with dense prose, his thoughts are extremely important and powerful and worth getting through. If you prefer to listen, there’s plenty on YouTube. I firmly place Campbell’s existence as the reason why the original three films are satisfying, and the second three, long after his death, didn’t land.
Cambell locked himself in a shed during the great depression and read every book on world myth he could get sent to him. He swallowed universal mythology whole and saw the tropes that individually arose in different forms. He took 5 years just reading and absorbing. He learnt the trends in these stories we tell to make sense of the world and our place in it. He saw through the stories to the basic human needs the stories filled. And he further developed the Jungian story archetypes into a “monomyth”. A New Hope is one example of a film following his structure of a hero’s journey very closely. The Wachowski Brothers used the same frame for The Matrix. This structure works. It chimes with something ancient in us.
Lucas is an amazing world-maker but he needs someone else to chart the journey through the world. Cambell did that for the first three. Then the three nobody likes, with lovely characters ill used – (Darth Maul!!) Now we have these new films with the weight of money and numbers behind them but not the structure of myth. I won’t be sticking any minor characters from these ones to my bedroom door to keep off ghosts. But perhaps that’s because I’m no longer Gabriel’s age. And the ghost of Ann is a long way away. And I probably just made her up anyway. With her dead face. And her beckoning fingers. HELP ME PIGFACE!
But I enjoyed it. It was a Star Wars film…