May the Fourth Be With you: Hold on to your lightsabers, it’s Star Wars Day!

May 4, 2012

If you’re not a “Star Wars” fan then (insert slow, understated wave of the hand here) this is not the piece you’re looking for. In fact, it’s probably not a great day for you in general.

Yes, it’s May 4, otherwise known as “Star Wars Day” — the day when Star Wars aficionados, fans and pun lovers the world over say, with a Yoda-like twinkle in their eye, “May the Fourth be with you.”

Ha- ha. Get it?

No?

Okay. Maybe the Force wasn’t strong enough with my opening paragraph.

I’ll explain. Just as Star Trek fans part their fingers and say “live long and prosper” in their best Spock voice, Star Wars fans confer the films’ oft-mentioned blessing, “May the Force be with you.” In case you’re one of the few people left in this galaxy wondering what that means, the Force is the omnipresent “energy field created by all living things,” as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi described to a young, fresh-faced Luke Skywalker “a long time ago” in that “galaxy far, far away.”

There are some popular misconceptions about May 4. The day is not, for example, the anniversary of the first Star Wars film, originally released as “Star Wars,” and later given the title “Episode IV: A New Hope.” (Thanks, commenter “razellezar”!) That film’s release date was May 25, 1977. The Los Angeles City Council declared that day to be the official Star Wars Day, but fans aren’t having it. After all, “May the twenty-fifth be with you” is just, well, silly. Besides, some Star Wars fans may have other plans, since May 25 has also been dubbed “Geek Pride Day” and “Towel Day” — the latter is for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and commemorates the day two weeks after the anniversary of the death of Hitchhiker’s author Douglas Adams. Those are two pretty significant scheduling conflicts.

Star Wars Day also wasn’t created by Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic or 20th Century Fox. It was created by fans. That doesn’t mean Lucasfilm and a bevy of corporations aren’t joining in the franchise fun. In fact, the official Star Wars Web site dedicates an entire page to the day, complete with links to official e-cards, a list of day-of events, special deals and an opportunity to watch the fourth season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” along with a preview of Season 5.

If the Force isn’t strong with those offerings, perhaps it will be with Amazon.com, Williams-Sonoma, Barnes & Noble, Fathead, Lego, DK Canada, Pottery Barn Kids and Dark Horse comics — all of which are slated to either host events or offer ”May the Fourth” deals. Do you have some spare Legos around? Make a mini Darth Vader (or any Star Wars object), photograph it and send the picture to Lego. The company aims to create “the World Wide Web’s largest Lego Star Wars virtual mosaic image,” which they plan to unveil on May 5. It should be noted that the bar is high for crowdsourced, Star Wars-related content. By that I mean, if you’re standing on Earth, it’s somewhere near that star scientists observed being consumed by a blackhole. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, watch the full, two-hour crowdsourced re-creation of “Episode IV: A New Hope.” I’ll wait.

You’re back? Great. Now, you see what I mean.

In a statement released Thursday evening, Lucasfilm extended a “thank you” to fans for making May 4 Star Wars Day: “Lucasfilm salutes the many fans who have made May the Fourth, Star Wars Day. It’s their passion and enthusiasm for the Saga that has kept it alive and vibrant for over thirty years! May the Force (And Fourth) be With You.”

Lucasfilm may not always be on the same page as the saga’s legion of fans (Allow me to present exhibit A: Jar-Jar Binks), but they’re right about this. “May the Fourth” isn’t about world-record breaking mosaics or spin-off series. It’s about the fans. So, I reached out to a few to get their thoughts on what the day means to them. The Force was strongest with (and by that I mean, I received a reply from) sci-fi expert and io9 Editor-in-Chief Annalee Newitz:

“I think May 4 is a time for all of us to reflect on how we felt about Star Wars the first time we watched it,” Newitz wrote in an e-mail Thursday afternoon. “I was about 7 when the first movie came out. My father and I both thought it was so mind blowingly awesome that we went to see it again a couple of days later, and I was so excited that I actually threw up outside the movie theater. Luckily these days I keep my excitement barf on the inside, but I’ll never forget how my world changed completely when I saw that giant ship moving across the screen, its enormous hull going on forever.”

I’ll let that sink in.

The first time I saw “Star Wars,” I was well into my teens and in a family friends’ basement. When the opening credits started to roll, my face looked kind of like this kid’s. I didn’t vomit, but I also didn’t read, talk about or consume anything other than Star-Wars-related media for at least a year after that night. So, as you think back on the first time you watched Star Wars, whether it was in 1977 or just last night, from one Star Wars fan to the world, May the Fourth be with you.

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