May 4th is a special day for fans of the Star Wars hexalogy. The date has been chosen by fans around the world to correspond to the Jedi motto “May the Force (be with you).
Over the years, celebrations of Star Wars day have gained audiences and a structure. For instance, in 2011 and 2012 has been organised the Intergalactic Star Wars Day in Toronto. It had trivia games, a costume contest and projections of short movies about the Star Wars universe. The proceeds of the event were given to charity. Unfortunately, there is no event this year.
To counter the celebrations, the Star Wars’ official Youtube page has released a Public Service Announcement video jokingly entitled “Say No to May the 4th“.
Styled as a vicious attack ad, the video criticizes celebrators and the Force, respectively dubbed “traitors to the empire” and a phenomenon “used for mind control, levitations of deadly weapons and haunting of the living.”
Going even further, the videos remind the audience that wearing Jedi costumes is “a punishable crime under the Emperor Subversive Apparel Act.”
A film turned religion
Since 1977, the Star Wars fiction has taken on a life of its own: its canon universe and extended fandom, shines with an almost unrivalled cultural influence that goes beyond the borders of traditional movie-goers or fictions fanbases. Among some of them, light sabre classes are now a reality.
Some go further and incorporate the Jedi philosophy from the Star Wars universe into their lives. it started as a joke with the Jedi census phenomenon where, starting in 2001, people wrote “Jedi” in government census forms. In England and Wales, 390,127 people identified themselves as Jedi in 2001. Ten years later, the number had fallen to 176,632, in seventh place in the survey.
As a result, several Jedi-related cults have seen the light of day with overlapping philosophies inspired by the movies.
Sociologist of religion Carole M. Cusack wrote about Jediism: “The Jedi groups tend to emphasize the religion’s compatibility with other faiths,” and quotes another researcher who says Jediism’s appeal lies primarily in adherence to the ideals espoused rather than in a literal belief in the events or characters of the hexalogy.
For instance, the Church of Jediism states on its website:“We believe that we are all connected by the force, not just people but plants and animals too. It’s what binds us, so when we die we believe that much like your body goes into the soil to fertilize and make way for life, your soul and spirit give into the universe joining the flow of the force which joins us all.”
Star Wars in Navajo
Star Wars’ influence continues to spread, more than 35 years after the release of the first movie. Recently, the largest Native American tribe in the United States started a project to dub the first Star Wars movie, actually the Episode IV, in Navajo.
Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, said he first came up with the idea 13 years ago as a way to preserve the consonant-rich Navajo language, believed to be spoken by about 170,000 people, according to government figures.
“We thought this would be a provocative and effective way to help try to preserve the language and at the same time preserve the culture,” Wheeler told Reuters. “What better movie to do this than ‘Star Wars?’”
Wheeler said he believes the popular science fiction movie will resonate with the Navajo people with its universal theme of good versus evil.
A team of five Navajos then spent 36 hours translating the original script, hampered by the many words in English that do not translate word for word into Navajo. Instead, several words in Navajo are sometimes needed to convey the proper meaning.
May 4th is not the only day in May dedicated to the Star Wars universe. May 25th is dubbed by many fans International Day of the Jedi as it is the birthday of the release of Episode IV in 1977. It is also Geek Pride Day. A few online Star Wars-themed portals have even suggested turning May 5th into another holiday: “The Revenge of the 5th”, mimicking the title of Episode III Revenge of the Sith.