By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Star Wars is one of the most popular and beloved sci-fi franchises of all time. For more than 45 years, fans have enjoyed the adventures of Jedi, wookiees, and the Force. Since 2008, it’s had its own holiday.
George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise began life suspiciously similar to Frank Herbert’s Dune, but eventually took on a life of its own as a space opera inspired in part by the Akira Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress and other works. Now, after 11 films, several TV series, countless books and video games later, the popular sci-fi franchise continues to thrive.
In fact, the popular Star Wars phrase “May the Force be with you” has led to the designation of May 4 as Star Wars Day, due to its phonetic likeness. Where did this holiday come from? In the video series This Day in History: May, Dr. David K. Johnson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, divulges the concepts explored in Star Wars.
Which Philosophical Concepts Does Star Wars Explore?
One of the ways in which we may be fated, according to Dr. Johnson, is by the will of the universe itself.
“Perhaps the universe has a plan, a bit like the Fates from Greek mythology, the Moirai—the three sister goddesses responsible for everyone’s destiny,” he said. “With the possible exception of Zeus, not even the gods could defy their plan. The sci-fi concept most similar to this is the Force from Star Wars, the energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us.”
To some, the Force may only be what gives a Jedi their powers of telekinesis and mental influence, but the Force has a will and plan of its own. As Dr. Johnson pointed out, this became much more prevalent after Disney bought the franchise. Films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story exemplify this, like when a blind warrior-monk named Chirrut is seemingly protected by the Force as he walks slowly through a hail of gunfire to reach a switch that will enable him to send sensitive data to his allies, the rebels.
“The will of the Force, it seems, includes Chirrut reaching the master switch to enable the rebels to transmit the Death Star plans,” he said. “The troopers miss because the Force wills them to.”
Could Jedi Really Exist?
Dr. Johnson said that according to a recent survey in the United Kingdom, over 177,000 people identified as Jedi. Surely some of those surveyed provided their answers as a tongue-in-cheek, humorous response, but it still begs the question: Do people similar to Jedi exist?
“Psychic powers have been investigated, and no good evidence has ever been found,” Dr. Johnson said. “Famously, magician James Randi and his educational foundation had a standing monetary offer to anyone who could prove, in controlled conditions, the existence of the supernatural or paranormal. The prize went as high as a million dollars, but in 51 years, but in 51 years, no one ever claimed it.”
According to Dr. Johnson, whenever the question of the supernatural has come up, a natural explanation has always emerged that is simpler, wider in scope, more conservative, and more fruitful than its supernatural or paranormal counterpart.
This Day in History: May is now available to stream on Wondrium.