There’s a ripple in the force. December 27th, 2016. That was the day Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia of the Star Wars Universe, left this world. Growing up it was easy to have a crush on Princess Leia. She was beautiful, badass and witty (Not to mention she rocked that metal bikini in Return of the Jedi) She broke the Disney princess archetype of damsel in distress and instead was a tough intelligent fighter willing to take huge risks to fight the Empire. Going from princess of Alderaan to the lead general of the Rebellion made her one of the greatest characters in the series. So why is it that her death in a year of countless celebrity losses so hard hitting to myself and many others? There are many wonderful things that can be said about Carrie Fisher and her life, but the role so many identify with her is the role of Leia. Star Wars in general had a massive impact on my childhood as it did for millions of people. The answer I believe lies within the idea of the Hero’s Journey and carries with it ideas that can make an impact today.
The Hero’s Journey is the template idea for how a hero based epic functions in its story structure. Introduced by Joseph Campbell in 1949, it has served as the basis of understanding for each phrase a hero goes through throughout their narrative. Now I could go on and on about the Hero’s Journey and the contextual implications within the Star Wars Universe, however, for the sake of the fact this is not an English paper, I will simplify it down to its basic structure. Our hero is first called to adventure usually through some type of supernatural aid. Once they embark on this journey, they pass the threshold into the unknown where they receive the aid of a mentor and helper. Over the course of their journey they go through many challenges until they hit the lowest point at which point they are transformed and reborn to a better stronger version of themselves. Upon this point they return to the known realm changed and prepared for the next journey to come.
OK, so if you are still with me after my readers digest version of the Hero’s Journey, awesome. You may be wondering though what this all has to do with the impact of Star Wars. Think of the structure of the Hero’s Journey. It is cyclical. Although our hero has changed and accomplished their journey, a new one is waiting right around the corner, inviting further growth. We see this through the very beginning trilogy with Luke. A New Hope begins with Luke venturing into the unknown following his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca. After reaching the Death Star and saving Leia (let’s be honest though, she saved their asses several times during their escape attempt) Luke suffers the loss of Obi Wan, is transformed in his desire to learn about the force and fight for the rebellion, and finally destroys the Death Star. That’s all in one movie. And there are two more after that before venturing into this new series. All of our favorite characters in Star Wars go through this cycle in their own ways, each growing and become more deep and incredible characters. So what does this all mean? Sure, it’s a lot of literary jargon and analysis, but what it really boils down to is that Star Wars represents two important factors that whether people realize it or not identify with. People want to be a part of something greater and people wish for their lives to grow rather than have a single definition.
Growing up I always imagined being Luke Skywalker fighting the rebellion and becoming a Jedi or being Indiana Jones exploring the world to save priceless artifacts from the Nazi’s. The idea of being a hero or being part of something greater than yourself its not necessarily something you think about but it exists inherently within us. When I watch Star Wars, I well up with several emotions. I become happy and ecstatic reliving the nostalgia of my youth and still maintaining my nerdy ways as an adult. I also feel something that’s a bit harder to describe. When I hear Yoda describe to Luke in the swamps of Dagobah how the Force flows through all of us, when I see the pride of the Rebel pilots fighting the tyrannical Empire in the face of incredible odds, it reminds me that although these characters are fictional, the emotions they convey are very real. That is why I feel we connect so strongly to Star Wars. We all want a chance to continue and grow in our journey through life and all want to be a part of something great.
So how do we apply this as Millennials? We will never be racing through the skies in an X Wing fending off TIE fighters as we try and destroy a super space weapon. We will never harness the power of the force in a fight against the Sith. And as much as I dream lightsabers will totally become a thing, physics is against me on that one. What we can do however is taking the lessons that these childhood heroes taught us and apply them to our lives. Look at The Force Awakens for instance. Fin and Rey have many personal demons and struggle throughout their attempt to escape the First Order whether they can fight. There will be a time in your life, regardless of age where you will question if you have the strength to continue. There will be a time where you will think you cannot change your life and grow better with each passing journey. I grow concerned with my generations constant shift to being a victim above all else. Growth and change do not come from that mentality. So if you are feeling pigeonholed in life, thinking you cannot escape to something better or be a part of something more, take a lesson from Leia. Grab the blaster and jump down the garbage shoot. Yeah, it may not be the easiest way to go, but taking risks and striving through your journey will make you much happier in the end.