Thursday, May 19, 2005

Our American Culture

I’m sure a number of blog posts will have something to say about the final Star Wars movie. It opened today in theaters everywhere to great hoopla and much anticipation among fans.

(What to you call a Star Wars fan? Star Trek fans are “Trekkies.” I don’t think I’ve seen a one-word nickname for all those Jedi wannabes.)

It’s an interesting phenomenon how certain art forms become part of our culture. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s an example:

If you see or hear a reference to “American Gothic” you immediately know what that painting looks like. (For those of you who are culturally challenged, that’s the painting by Grant Wood of the older farm couple with the long faces and the dour expressions standing in front of a white house. He’s holding a three-tined pitchfork, and… Oh hell, just click HERE and see it for yourself.)

There are lots of musical examples. Many songs from the second half of the 20th century (that’s the 1900s, and I’m specifically thinking of 1950-1980) are instantly recognized by most Americans.

In fact, I tried to capitalize on that in my novel, CHERISH IS THE WORD. I included as part of the story line a bunch of snippets from different songs of the 50s and 60s to show characters’ moods and thoughts. The title song becomes the story’s climax. The whole story in a secondary sense is a tribute to 60s music.

Many books have become cultural icons as well. One series that immediately comes to mind in that vein is Tolkein’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Who doesn’t know what orcs are?

(Yes, I know it was made into a much-viewed movie trilogy. I watched each of them too. But Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, Aragorn and the rest were part of our culture before the movies came out.)

Movies have become part of our culture, along with a number or television shows. One screenplay writer I know once commented that movies are one of a very few almost uniquely American art forms. Sure, they’re produced around the world now, but Hollywood has defined the medium.

Star Wars attained “cultural icon” status even before these three newer prequels were announced. What kid in the 70s and 80s didn’t play with Star Wars action figures, light sabers, and ewoks? Darth Vader is the quintessential villain, and today we will learn how Anakin Skywalker was turned to the dark side of The Force.

Our culture helps define us and makes us who we are. I embrace all of these examples as well as our culture of family, religion, fair play, and many more.

But darn it, I just found out that all showings of this final Star Wars movie in Victoria, Texas are sold out for the next THREE WEEKS!

I don’t know if I can stand to wait that long to se for myself how it all plays out. Guess I don’t have much choice.

(Little in my personal culture includes patience!)


Karyn Lyndon said...

"What do you call a Star Wars Fan?"

I call them when I want my computer fixed...


Duke_of_Earle said...

Well said, Karyn. I knew somebody'd come up with a good'n.

Anonymous said...

I''ll be back. Later :)