Popular culture has been defined by many in different contexts. It is influenced mostly by social media and by interactions between people. It influences the way people talk, dress, types of food they eat, how they walk: it becomes their identity. A general definition of popular culture suggests that it is beliefs and practices that are predominant in a society at a given time. Categories of popular culture include entertainment regarding video games, music, films and television, politics, fashion, and technology. When people watch a movie and identify with it, they start to dress like the characters in the film, talk like them. You notice that when a film is released, and it has an impact in the society, you will notice how people change their dress code to match that in the film, they take up phrases from the film, social media is full of fanatics who have embraced the culture in the film. This is what happened to Star Wars. Star Wars was not just another film. Since the first release of Star Wars on 25th May 1977, the world changed. Up until today, it is still impacting the lives of many which has led to a widespread culture of Star Wars (Parker, 2014).
Star Wars is a film series whose concept was developed by the legendary George Lucas. It features adventures of beings in another galaxy. Three films released by Star Wars included: Star Wars, The Empire strikes back and Return of Jedi which started the wave of followers. These films swept people off their grounds both young and old, big and small. Even those who paid little attention to such movies were drawn in. Since then other films have been released, books are written, Star Wars cards produced, costumes designed all of which have contributed significantly to its popular culture.
John Storey in his bid to uncover popular culture wrote the book "Cultural Theory and Popular Culture." Here he defines popular culture in six ways that he deems agreeable. The six definitions have their strengths and weaknesses with different objects of contemplation being considered. In the first definition Storey defines popular culture as a culture that is favored by many as well as liked by many people. This basic definition arises from the word popular which refers to well known or familiar with people. Storey defends his definition claiming that the difference between culture and popular culture is what defines popular culture. Regarding popularity, Star Wars is second to none. It is the leading Hollywood movie regarding sales with sales of up to $32 billion in 2016. In 2015, $243 million was generated from the sale of consumer packaged goods. The film "The Force Awakens" was a sensation in North America referred to as the most successful movie of all time holding the record for the biggest opening weekend. On Facebook, Star Wars official page has about 19 million followers, on Twitter, it has 3.9 million followers, on Instagram it has 9.1 million followers, and on its YouTube page, it has 2.6 million subscribers. If that does not define popularity, then I do not know what does. Star Wars is one of the most popular films in the world which has contributed to its popular culture (Zyck, 2017).
In the second definition, popular culture is referred to as the leftover culture after high culture has been decided. When popular culture first came into the fold, it was associated with poor education and lower classes. This led to the belief that it was a culture of those without higher education hence this definition by Storey. This definition has many problems as the definition of high culture is cumbersome. Popular culture and high culture are intersecting sets which make it very hard to define. Star Wars, for instance, can be considered as both high culture as well as popular culture. The problem with this definition is that it considers the people involved rather than the product. To determine if Star Wars is a popular culture in this case we have to analyze the background of the people rather than the product which is the film. Do we consider the quality of the film or the quality of the people to discern? Films are universal to humans and may be good or bad which makes this definition inadequate. Star Wars is followed by people across the globe who form this popular culture which makes it hard to define whether it is high culture or the remnants in the name of popular culture.
The third definition equates popular culture to mass culture. Mass culture, in essence, is culture brought about by changes in technology that use mass cultural production. When Star Wars was being launched in 1977 technology had greatly advanced which allowed people to access and view the film. Over the years social media has provided an avenue for sharing which constitutes mass culture. Mass culture developed due to exposure to the same media and broadcasted to individuals as opposed to interactions amongst people. Star Wars was broadcasted by Television targeting individuals who then came together and formed their own culture (Wetmore, 2017).
The fourth definition suggests that popular culture originates from the people. The culture brought about by Star Wars was as a result of people embracing phrases such as "The force awakens" and using it in their daily lives, wearing costumes from the film. It is, therefore, people who combed through the films and created a culture from it. The fifth definition of popular culture is described as "a site of struggle between the resistance of subordinate groups in society and the forces of incorporation operating in the interests of dominant groups in society." There are people in the society who look down on Star Wars due to the common association of cartoon and imaginary characters. This shows the struggle between the followers of Star Wars and those who look down on it (Taylor, 2015).
Lastly, popular culture is informed by recent thinking around the debate of postmodernism. Star Wars showcases a galaxy no one knows about purely imaginary or Scientific which shows its postmodernism. People are attracted to this concept of a different galaxy and identify with these characters who define their culture (Parker, 2014).
Star Wars rise to popular culture has emanated from its effect on different people be it science, literature, film and generally on the way people live and interact. To start with, it impacted the world of literature with over two hundred and fifty books written about Star Wars (Storey, 2018). These Books cover the events of the movies while others go back in time to events leading up to the films. Other books go beyond the films to a time not covered in the films. Star Wars also led to the emergence of groups such as The Vader's Fist which is a costume organization that performs in events. A picture of this group is shown below:
Another group is The temple of the Jedi Order which is a religion that follows Jediism. This group refers to the force in star wars films as the force of living creation in Jediism (Clark, 2013).
Star Wars influence on the film industry is another reason for its popular culture. It stirred advancement in technology that is used in modern film and industry with some examples shown in the photograph below:
Leia who is a female character in Star Wars influenced many female lead characters in other movies. Her strong and commanding nature has been taken up by actors such as Sarah Connor in Terminator, Leeloo in the fifth element, Ellen Ripley in Alien. In The Big Bang Theory, references are made to Star Wars more by Sheldon Cooper who further depicts the huge following of Star Wars (Lamble, 2016).
Star Wars has also led to forming a religion. Religion is about a set of beliefs with central figures who have stories that people believe in. Luke Skywalker may be seen as Adam (Price, 2017). The popularity of Star Wars is associated with its religion-based stories. The force in the movie is meant to awaken spirituality of young people due to the hunger for spiritual experience. This religion mentality is what has made people adopt it as a culture. With Jedi as a spiritual leader and cities such as The Holy City of Nijedha Star Wars forms a sort of religion which is what led to the rise of Jediism (Schnelbach, 2018).
Since its first release in 1977, Star Wars has dominated the box office with tickets for The Last Jedi sold out in record time. People have looked at Star Wars as a culture by living the life of the characters in the movies. Many families introduce their children to it, and it defines their childhood and ends up becoming lifelong fans. What has made it so popular is that it has a character for everyone not only children (Crossman, 2018). People grow up with it and live to use the phrases in the films and read its comic books and fill their cloth collection with costumes of Star Wars. Its continuity is what has also drawn huge audiences as it continues to captivate new followers while thrilling old fans. It goes beyond the science fiction fans which other films presented. With its huge fan base, even those who have not watched the films watch it just to fit in and understand what all the fuss is about and end up swallowed by this pool of fans. With ties to religion, Star Wars has formed a popular culture which has been brought about by its characters, its words and the day to day lives of characters. Star Wars has seven movies, 50 video games, TV Shows and comics that have made an impact in the world and formed a culture that as history has shown there to stay (Asher-Perrin, 2014).
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