By Abbie Hurwitz
The Force is with us—wherever we go.
When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope premiered in 1977, no one could have predicted the cultural impact this movie franchise would have. But 38 years later, as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens opens worldwide, it’s clear that these films have had a gigantic effect on pop culture worldwide.
“Nothing like it had ever appeared before and it completely changed the way movies are marketed. Tie-ins with products and action figures, everything we see today—that started with Star Wars,” said English Teacher Mr. David Della Fera.
Star Wars’ largest impact has been on the film industry. Before the release of Star Wars, the special effects in Hollywood were slow to improve. After the groundbreaking effects that George Lucas brought to Star Wars, companies such as Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic followed up with their own special-effects innovations, according to wired.com. The impressive display of effects did not end with A New Hope. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Lucas introduced computer animation, which has only grown since that film’s release.
Beyond its impact on movies, Star Wars has had an effect on the political culture. References were first seen during the Reagan administration when the Strategic Defense Initiative was nicknamed “Star Wars,” according to coldwar.org. Because of the innovative technologies used and its attempt to put weapons in space, people made an easy connection to the film. More recently, presidential candidate Ted Cruz stated that all candidates should decide which Star Wars character they would be, believing that the only correct answer is Han Solo, according to abcnews.com.
References are found high and low in all sorts of popular media. TV shows and movies such as The Flash, Modern Family, Gilmore Girls and Captain America: The Winter Soldier have all made references to the film according tostarwars.com. These references go beyond mass media, appearing even in the requirements of MIT Creative Writing Professor Junot Diaz, who deems it necessary for all of his students to watch Star Wars before taking his class.
The movie even has its own holiday: May 4. Early every spring, Star Wars fans say, “May the Fourth be with you.”
Star Wars has truly defined and changed our culture. So the next time someone floods your Twitter timeline with Star Wars puns or speaks like Yoda, fear not: Here to stay Star Wars is.