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The Star Wars pop-culture desert



Star Wars

lrg-packaged-frontStar Wars spans nearly 40 years of history. From the first movie that opened in 1977 to the five that would follow, many TV series, a line of books and comics and hundreds if not thousands of toys and even now inexplicably a line of COVERGIRL makeup there’s very few places that the Star Wars phenomenon hasn’t seeped into.

I’ve been getting Star Wars memorabilia since the first movie premiered and have been a collector on and off ever since. I’ve bought the movies on VHS then DVD and then Blu-ray, have loads of Star Wars comics and quite a few toys too. In fact, I’ve got toys from the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and now ‘10s too with the new movie.

But what’s most striking about the latest toy releases is that alongside toys for characters from the latest film there’s also toys for characters who’ve had dozens and dozens of variations of toys out there already like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. And I’d wager that as more toys for the new movie are released we’ll see other familiar characters get new toys of their own as well.

bacdb037-9fe8-4006-884e-f83197cfa830Which made me think; how much of Star Wars product marketing is getting people to buy (nearly) the same thing over and over again?

I’m not immune to this. A quick look at my Star Wars action figure shelf, yes, there is a “shelf” of Star Wars figures in my office, shows that I have four different Storm Trooper figures and EIGHT Boba Fett figures. A good estimate here with these two characters is that I’ve spend more than $80 essentially buying the same thing over and over again since I had my own money to spend.

The question is; are these re-release figures meant for me, the middle-aged collector? Or, instead, are they really for new collectors who don’t already have loads of Storm Troopers and Boba Fetts?

I get the feeling that over the long term the Star Wars movies are less about telling a story and more about creating new characters for upcoming toy lines and video games and theme park attractions too.

91ymwv-55gl._sl1500__5b1_5d_30733cf0-1621-4055-8e3c-42710cde8854Which I suppose is all right. There was about a decade from the mid-‘80s to the mid–90s that Star Wars was a non-entity. The original movies played a few times a year on cable and that was about it for the franchise. The public had moved on to new things.

But slowly, from Lucas “enhancing” the special effects in the original trilogy and re-releasing those films to him doing a whole new trilogy from ’99-’05 Star Wars came back into pop-culture preeminence with new toys, TV series and video games too.

But after the new movies ended much like with Star Wars slipping from view in the ‘80s happened again over the last decade. To be sure this wasn’t as bad as things were from the ‘80s to ‘90s when Star Wars was a non-entity since this time there were still animated TV series, video games and a few toys out there. But in terms of popularity over the last decade I doubt Star Wars was at the top of mind of anyone but the most ardent fans.

But with the upcoming release of the new film and all the excitement that it’s bringing, Star Wars has once again become a preeminent pop-culture touchstone for many people out there and the fans are once again excited about all things Star Wars.

And I suppose if that means that there’s more Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker toys to buy again alongside the new characters and if the original films that were available on VHS and Betamax and LaserDisc and DVD and Blu-ray and now digital download…well, to me that’s better than revisiting the Star Wars pop-culture desert we’ve been living in the last decade.

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