January 27, 2022

May the Fourth be with you

Star Wars series leaves legacy on American culture

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Vanessa Mielke and Stephen Vincent Jr. flip through Star Wars comics while talking about the importance of Star Wars and the influence it had on them. From recognizable characters, cinematic action sequences and memorable quotes, the two agree its a big part of American culture.

Stephen Vincent Jr. loved the Star Wars movies growing up, especially “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” He still loves the franchise.

It had ewoks, a small bearlike creature. But it was also the conclusion of a story. “It’s the happy ending type of deal for the heroes,” he said.

Vanessa Mielke also loves Return of the Jedi. “I was so young when I saw the first Star Wars, but I know whenever I think of Star Wars I always think of the ewoks,” she said.

Today marks May 4, or to some, Star Wars Day. Since the first movie released in theaters on May 25, 1977, it’s had a lasting effect in film and popular culture.

Star Wars drew its from many American titles, such as science fiction classics “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Metropolis”; World War II adventures like “The Guns of Navarone”; and Westerns, such as “Once Upon A Time In The West,” according to Into Film, a United Kingdombased film education organization.

But the films have done more than that.

They helped revive space science fiction as a genre, according to the Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum. In the 1950s, space science fiction appeared mostly in alien monster movies or as children’s television programming.

Star Wars comics line some of the shelves around Heroes and Villians comic shop in Cortland. Around the shop people can find other Star Wars items.

“The unexpected success of the first Star Wars movie in 1977 inspired other production houses to rediscover space adventures as a bankable genre,” wrote Margaret Weitekamp, with the museum’s space history department.

But the movies go beyond film history.

“It’s been huge,” Meilke said. Star Wars has entwined its tendrils throughout popular culture. “Where there is almost always something you can relate back to Star Wars,” she said.

Some people who haven’t even seen the movies probably could still identify a character or have heard quotes, she said. “There’s a factor with Star Wars, and I think it’s because how broad and how vibrant every character is in that franchise,” she added.

Favorite characters can range from Yoda to Boba Fett.

“I’ve always loved Chewie,” Mielke said.

The duo between the hulking 7-foot-2-inch hair-covered Chewbacca — played by Peter Mayhew, who died this week — and the smuggler turned hero, Han Solo always sticks out in Mielke’s mind. “It’s just this hilarious combination of this one creature who doesn’t speak a lick of English and then somebody else who totally understands him,” she said.

As a kid, Vincent liked Luke Skywalker. Now, he favors Han Solo. “I miss the throwback ’80s’ type of hero,” he said. “They talk smack as they’re winning the day.”

Memorable quotes can also be recalled in the movie.

Like when a small green sage-like being tells a spirit that the hero of the story isn’t their only hope. “Hmm, there is another,” said Vincent in a very spot-on Yoda impression.

“Do or do not, there is no try,” said Terry Gray, a customer at Heroes and Villains comic shop and also with Ithaca Sabers, a lightsaber fighting group.

The movies will continue.

Gray has passed on Star Wars to his children. He started with the original trilogy — episodes IV, V and VI. He then went to the prequels. “That way you save all of the surprises,” he said.