“I’m telling an old myth in a new way” (George Lucas on Star Wars)
George’s Lucas’ own description of the Star Wars saga spells out the underlying Psycho-dynamics that have made it an epic success around the globe…In short, Star Wars is an exercise in the re-telling of the embedded Subconscious Motifs common to world Cultures.
This aspect of Star Wars is in my view largely correct, but the question is also whose Cultural Motifs is Star Wars re-telling or utilising in its narrative?
Secondly, what are the possible lessons and implications for Afrofuturism as a Sci-Fi genre in its own quest for recognition and legitimacy as a device for developing and reflecting appealing Human narratives?
Myth In Star Wars
George Lucas has credited his inspiration for Star Wars to the works of scholar, author, historian, and mythologist Joseph Campbell.
Campbell put his reflections on the history of myth into his seminal work: The Hero with a Thousand Faces in which he characterised the guidelines for the archetypal Hero which can be found in the stories of the world’s various myths.
In creating Star Wars, George Lucas cast the story in the form of the Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey & Star Wars
Briefly, the Hero’s journey can be divided into the following stages:
1. Ordinary Life
The beginning of the Hero’s journey in his ordinary hometown surroundings unaware of the road that lies ahead.Â In this way, the Hero is Humanised in order that we may empathise as the Hero faces challenges along the coming journey.
2. The Call
The Hero’s adventure begins when he/she suddenly faces a disruption or threat to their ordinary world, presenting a challenging task that the Hero must undertake to deal with the threat.
3. Refusal Of The Call
Initially, the Hero is reluctant to heed the call due to personal fears and doubts as to whether he has the ability to face the challenge.
4. Meeting The Mentor
In order to help the Hero overcome his insecurities and heed the call, a Mentoring figure appears to guide the Hero so he/she can gain the skills, training and self-confidence required to accomplish the challengingÂ task.
5. Heeding The Call
After receiving guidance from the Mentor, the Hero is now prepared to heed the call and take up the task that must be faced as he/she is now prepared to do the thing they have always feared.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
On heeding the call, the Hero faces threats, enemies and must form alliances/friendships that will enable the successful completion of the task…This is usually a painful task for the Hero.
7. The Dark Cave
In this part of the journey, the Hero must enter a particular location where he/she will face serious danger or inner conflict which they have to confront in order for their life to progress.
8. The Great Ordeal
A great misfortune is then experienced by the Hero throwing them into a deep crisis which they must survive in order for the life and world the Hero is fighting for to survive.
At this stage, the Hero must draw upon all of the skills and experiences gathered so far in order to survive the supreme ordeal.
After finally overcoming the greatest personal challenge, the Hero is ultimately transformed into a new state and emerges from the journey a stronger person.
10. The Return
The Hero returns Home and is celebrated gaining respect and vindication as an individual who has learnt many lessons and wisdom.
In the final analysis, the Hero attains self-actualization by overcoming the challenges in the journey.
In Star Wars Luke Skywalker goes through the Hero’s Journey, and in his quest redeems his Father, Darth Vader from the ‘Dark side’.
Darth Vader’s redemption appears Judeo-Christian in character as it only takes one act in the climatic scene in which he abandons the ‘Dark Side’ by assisting Luke in the final battle with the Sith Lord.
The fact that it takes one single act of contrition for Darth Vader to be redeemed appears to rest on the Christian concept of Salvation, otherwise the redemptive capacity of this single act despite a lifetime of cruelty as Commander of the ‘Dark Side’s’ Imperial Army is not capable of any meaning.
In this regard, it would appear that Darth Vader’s act is only capable of achieving redemption through the lens of a particular Cultural Prism.
Possible Lessons & Implications For Afrofuturism
In my view, part of the task of Afrofuturism is to tell Universally appealing narratives of the Hero’s journey using the African Cultural prism or some other post-modern equivalent concept which expands on it.
While we can learn a lot about the use of Cultural Motifs from Films like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings, in Afrofuturism we should not simply replicate the existing underlying Cultural motifs such as the Christian concept of Salvation at work in Star Wars in the guise of an African aesthetic.
In addition to aesthetic, the motifs that drive the actual narratives and Hero’s Journey in Afrofuturist works should perhaps also reflect the African cultural prism or some other post-modern equivalent.