'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': Generations of fans unite for the new movie

The first 'Star Wars' movie having debuted in 1977 means that multiple age groups are now participating in 'Star Wars' activities like having lightsaber battles and, of course, going to see the new movie.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters
A family dressed as Star Wars characters walk along Santa Monica Boulevard at the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval in West Hollywood, California.

If there was any doubt that “Star Wars” is more than a commercial Force, one need only peruse social media. Less than two months before the Dec. 18 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” photos of children dressed up in Halloween costumes inspired by a galaxy far, far away dominated news feeds.

It was like 1977 all over again, when their parents and grandparents sported galactic and droid outfits and costumes of their own while under the then-recent spell of the original “Star Wars.” Some parents in 2015 even dressed up as “Star Wars” characters alongside their offspring, often boasting Jedi Master/Padawan or hero/villain themes.

Lightsaber Battles 2015, originated by flash-mob organization Newmindspace, is hosting Dec. 18 events in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Dec. 19 events in Seattle and San Diego. At the time of this post, more than 19,000 had RSVP’d on the Facebook event page for L.A.

Those mass gatherings of faux-saber-wielding enthusiasts will take place after countless parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends have rewatched the first “Star Wars” trilogy – and possibly the disappointing prequels – with next-generation fans. “The Force Awakens,” in turn, will serve as a bridge between the old and new by featuring the return of much-loved characters such as Han Solo, General (née Princess) Leia, and R2-D2, alongside new favorites, including ReyFinn, and BB-8.

Composer John Williams has returned to score “The Force Awakens,” revisiting some timeless musical themes. Familiar ships are returning, too, with a fallen Star Destroyer, the Millennium Falcon, and scores of X-wing and TIE fighters eagerly spotted in popular “Force Awakens” movie trailers.  

“In the past few years, we’ve really seen the Internet diversify in a way it wasn’t before,” says Luke Y. Thompson, editor of The Robot’s Voice, a pop culture website. “Star Wars fandom is easier to find ... online versus fans of ‘Akira’ or ‘Firefly’ or whatever else,” he adds. “The principle, though, is the same ... there are millions out there who share the interest, and once that awareness hit it became OK to say so in public.”

The science fiction franchise’s immeasurable influence could be also be seen in viral pictures of Star Wars sand sculptures in Japan by the artist Katsuhiko Chaen and a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ukraine that was transformed by fellow artist Alexander Milov into a paean to Dark Lord and original antagonist Darth Vader.

Where a “Star Wars” enthusiast was once a stereotypical male nerd, that fan base now spans all the way to the Obama administration, which issued a humorous response to a whitehouse.gov petition for a government-built Death Star.

Even the popular ad line might need to be changed to “Baseball, apple pie…and Star Wars.” In 2015, 25 of 30 Major League Baseball teams held Star Wars-related events at their home ballparks. Minor League Baseball (MiLB) squads, in turn, hosted 46 Star Wars-themed games this past season. (The winner of the 2015 MiLB alternate themed Jersey Joust was the Potomac Nationals’ Lando Calrissian top, with other Star Wars graphics featured on another seven of the 80 entries.)         

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