I’m one of the fortunate ones; through all of this I’ve managed to remain employed. I’m set up to work remotely, through a system of shared software systems. Like, for example, Google Docs, which we use frequently. When I log in to work today, I’ll open up our shared Google drive. It will have a calendar page – several calendar pages in my case, since scheduling is a big part of what I do. (Even in these quarantimes, when everybody else seems to be losing track of what day it is, I’m constantly dealing with scheduling.) At the bottom left portion of the screen today’s date will appear, with the logo of an American flag right next to it, which is how Google designates a day as a holiday. Are all holidays American, in the eyes of their programmers? Well, today’s certainly is.
It is, after all, May the Fourth. As in, “May the Fourth be with you.” The official day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Yes, official – it’s marked as such in my Google doc, after all, and you’ll no doubt see a puff piece about it at some point on today’s news to distract you from the other horrors about us. (We have murder hornets now. Yay.) It’s probably marked on at least one of the calendars mounted on your own walls, Constant Reader. For all intents and purposes, the Star Wars franchise has birthed not only movies, television shows, toys, and merchandise, but a new American holiday.
I was six when the original movie came out. (Meaning I’m now old and cranky and as such I refuse to call it A New Hope. Sorry.) That’s about as perfect an age for that initial run as it would have been possible to be. The initial trilogy’s heroics thrilled me as a child; the prequel trilogy’s angry political vision was tailor made to my own young adult mindset; the sequel trilogy’s melancholy regret resonates with my middle age. (The actual quality of the prequel and sequel trilogies is a topic for another day.) Heck, my very name is an anagram for one of the series’ most beloved characters. A part of me has always felt that Star Wars has been made especially for me; that part of me is utterly delighted to have a holiday, official or not, to celebrate.
And yet – Star Wars is as much an industry as anything else. Like all modern industries, it exists in a tangled web of mergers and bargains and backroom deals. And at no point, in the whole of my geeky science-fiction loving life, can I recall anybody starting the fifth month of the year by solemnly intoning “may the fourth be with you” before Lucasfilm was purchased by the Walt Disney Corporation.
It would be one thing if the holiday had grown organically, a celebration born of the same nerdy enthusiasm that sustained us through our childhoods, and through all the lean years of made-for-TV Ewok movies. (Those really happened. Trust me.) But for the combined might of Lucasfilm and Disney and Google and who-know-else to effectively purchase their own holiday? To increase market share or some such thing? It might not technically count as selling out, since it’s not like profit hasn’t been driving this franchise since the beginning – but it’s not exactly a Light Side of the Force type of move. And “astroturfing” – the artificial manufacturing by monied interests of what purports to be a grassroots movement – poses far greater dangers to our society than one silly made-up holiday.
Still, after the non-stop delights of the past four months I’ll take the holiday, don my Baby Yoda T-Shirt, and try and enjoy myself. We have to take our joys where we can, in this world that’s clearly teaming with Sith lords, Hutts, and nerf herders.