Some of you may have heard of a little movie that was released in theaters a few weeks ago, and that has so far made a small amount of money world wide somewhere north of one billion dollars. For the last three years, Star Wars films have secured top spots at the box office, domestically in the U.S. and worldwide. Three years ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens took in over two billion dollars worldwide. A little movie called The Last Jedi recently crossed one billion dollars worldwide before the end of 2017 and continues to take in impressive totals.
Why though? Why does anyone still care about Jedi and Sith? Why did anyone ever care about them? Star Wars is branded as science-fiction, yet it is in some ways lightyears away from what is normally considered science fiction. To call it science-fiction, or fantasy, or action, or even drama, is only partially correct. A better term would be romance.
It is not romance in the sense moderns think of it. Albeit, it certainly contains elements of that sort of romance. Among a myriad of other definitions, way down at the bottom is this one: “a medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the Romance languages.” Now Star Wars is certainly not medieval in an immediately recognizable sense, but it does contain other important elements of romances, and even more so, of myth. It contains heroes and villains, it contains archetypes, and it contains good and evil. It contains some heroes that are very much like us, but more importantly some that are not at all like us: heroes that are in fact knights.
Star Wars appeals to us because it is reflective of our own story, whether we know it or not. It is in fact, more reflective of reality than a great many so called “realistic” movies or books. There is evil: The Empire, the Sith, the First Order. There is good: most prominently displayed in the Jedi Knights—the chivalrous heroes of the story. There is the inevitable victory of good over evil, the Rebels over the Empire, the Jedi Knights over the Sith.
It appeals to us because it reflects and plays out a reality we sometimes forget: that there are such things as good and evil, that there is a conflict everyone is involved in whether they like it or not, that there are heroes and villains, and that in the end the Light inevitably triumphs over the dark.
This is the real reason that Star Wars continues to reap such enormous successes, though things like actors, writing, and characters certainly help. However, contrary to what some people would say, stereotypes are not necessarily a bad thing. And Star Wars is what some might call a stereotypical portrayal of good versus evil. But then, reality just might be stereotypical too. Because Star Wars contains an element of truth that all the documentaries and thrillers and dramas can’t convey. It contains an element of the story we live in.