In a recent appearance with Charlie Rose, George Lucas got his theology on when talking about Star Wars. Check it out:
When I was trying to pitch Star Wars, I had an idea about psychological motifs that are in mythology. The great thing about mythology is it’s an oral medium, up until they learned how to write. But before that with Homer and everybody, they would just tell the stories… Passed down from father to son, father to son. And it told the people what the rules are. It’s the same thing as the Church, all the things we’ve got that make us a community, that we all believe in and share. What they used to go from a family to a tribe, and tribe to a city. So I said, “I wonder if people still think the way they thought then?” I think I proved they do.
It wasn’t until Freud came along that people realized that, “Oh, these are psychological motifs that have been around for a long time.” And they’re just as strong today.
What’s a hero. What’s friendship. What’s sacrificing yourself for something larger. They’re all very basic things. Well, why make a movie about that, it’s very obvious… but it’s actually not. Unless you have somebody tell you every generation this is what our country believes in. This is what we believe in. With Star Wars, the religion and everything was taken and put into a form that was easy for everybody to accept… It went everywhere in the world. Because they could say, “Oh, the things I believe in are the same as that.”
Most people in the world believe exactly the same thing. They share the same beliefs. Why do we think the way we think, why do we do what we do, why do we form our societies the way we do. It’s something I did when I was about eight years old, she was putting me to bed. I asked her a question. I said, “Mom, if there’s only one God, why are there so many religions?” And it’s a question that’s fascinated me ever since. If you really look at it and say, “What’s the difference between a Shia and Sunni? What’s the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant? They aren’t any different. We all believe in the Jewish God. But what about the Jewish God and the gods that came before? Buddhism is a little bit different, but in the end, everybody expresses it a little different, but basically it’s, “Don’t kill people” and “Be compassionate and love people.” That’s basically what Star Wars is.
Sounds like the Jedi-In-Chief would like my series Theology of Screenwriting.
Beyond the surprising connections Lucas draws between Star Wars and theology, there are three big takeaways from his comments:
* Universality: Stories that traffic in universal themes are more likely to resonate with big audiences. Or depending upon the theme, connect deeply with a small, but specific group.
* Psychological motifs: This is so much up my alley, what I teach, how I write because at the end of the day, while we want interesting plots with twists and turns, I am convinced what really compels us to respond to a movie are the characters and their psychological lives. We can identify with the characters and that sucks us into the story through their transformation-journeys.
* Mythology: Lucas sounds very much like Joseph Campbell in drawing the historical connection between stories passed on from generation to generation. Indeed, how it is incumbent upon each generation to come up with their own stories that will almost inevitably use mythological themes as part and parcel of their narratives.
Hopefully the new batch of Star Wars movies will find a healthy balance between technology and eye candy, and universality, mythology and psychological motifs to give each movie depth and emotional meaning.
HT to Indiewire for the link to the interview.