It’s been thirty years since the original Star Wars movie was launched – Episode IV – A New Hope was released on May 25, 1977, and the world of sci-fi has never been the same ever since. Star Wars has become a cultural phenomenon and characters in the film are recognizable to any person in the world who is familiar with Western culture. Below is a list of the fields where the most famous science-fiction saga has had an impact in the last three decades:
1. Film industry and special effects
One of the things that have changed with Star Wars is how the industry regards movie narratives; there have been many blockbusters before Star Wars, but filmmakers wouldn’t replicate a success and transform it into a franchise. Star Wars opened the way for movie series and studios even started to make sequels for every successful movie. Star Wars has also determined the evolution of special effects and has changed the way movies sound; its sound designer, Ben Burtt, has suggested more natural sounds for movies, even sci-fi ones, and obtained aural originality.
2. Movie merchandising
No other movie has revolutionized the world of movie merchandising like Star Wars; as the series became a cultural phenomenon, every kid wanted to have collectibles like lightsalbers, action figures, or books. Those kids are now grown-ups and represent an entire market of adults who buy clothing, accessories, and gadgets inspired by Star Wars. The creator of the series, George Lucas, has earned more money from movie merchandising than from the movies themselves.
3. Popular culture
One of the most visible aspects of Star Wars saga’s impact on popular culture is reference to the movies. Phrases like “May the Force be with you” or “evil empire” have become part of the popular lexicon and Star Wars worked a cultural unifier, bringing together all kinds of people. The films and the characters have been parodied in multiple media productions, such as Hardware Wars, Return of the Ewok, or the Yoda song by “Weird Al” Yankovic, a parody of Lola by The Kinks.
Believe it or not, fictional names and elements from Star Wars have inspired scientific names of organisms, such as Yoda purpurata, a hermaphroditic acorn worm, or Wockia Chewbacca, a moth.
Ronald Reagan’s plan, the Strategic Defense Initiative, a system of lasers and missiles, was called “Star Wars”, suggesting it was science-fiction and also referring to Ronald Reagan’s acting career. Although Reagan didn’t like the nickname first, he eventually accepted it and even ended up describing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”. Another example comes from Ukraine, where, in 2015, a statue of Vladimir Lenin was modified into a monument to Darth Vader as a part of the de-communization process.
A real religion has been created after Star Wars, and it is called Jediism. Its adepts follow a modified version of the Jedi Code and believe in the idea of a Force as an energy field; many people throughout the world have declared their religion as Jediism at censuses, and the countries with the highest percentages were Australia and New Zealand. However, it is thought that most respondents have done so as a joke and not as commitment to an actual faith. Later, in 2007, 23-year old Daniel Jones founded The Church of Jediism with his brother Barney.
7. Science-fiction genre
Star Wars has contributed to the science-fiction boom at the end of the 70s; after Star Wars was launched, science fiction films became a blockbuster genre. Before Star Wars, most science-fiction films were made from a dystopian perspective and carried grim ecological and political messages, such as Soylent Green or Planet of the Apes. Some voices consider that Star Wars has had a negative impact on the science fiction genre, reducing its diversity and transforming it into a monoculture; however, the series has definitely opened the public’s appetite for sci-fi.
8. Video games
The Star Wars series has fostered the development of technology needed to create video games that were different from a white ball bouncing from one side of a black screen to the other. Aside from the new technology, Star Wars also created the appetite needed to play these games and home video players became very popular – they became the perfect Christmas gift and even when kids went out, they chose theme parks where they could play video games inspired by Star Wars.
The world would have been a slightly different place without Star Wars, and the impact of the film series can be seen almost every day, especially in the Western society. It may not be very visible, but sometimes many aspects in our lives are indirectly determined by the huge success.