Any story that will last is about "us." Regardless of race, gender, creed, time, or place, the stories that we tell approach universality. David and Goliath can be inspiration for a middle school girl being bullied at school, and King Kong and Ann can remind of the wordless joy that is being in love. The same is true for any coming of age story: the best ones transport us back to a time and place where we were starting to become an adult, with the world starting to look larger with trepidation and smaller with confidence.
Joseph Campbell, the vaunted American mythologist, even has his intellectual DNA in the greatest coming of age story of our time. George Lucas has said "I modified my next draft [of Star Wars] according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs" from Campbell's Hero With A Thousand Faces. (Those so interested can read more here.) To boil the weighty, deep, and luxurious (original) Star Wars Trilogy to its barest of bones, boyish Luke Skywalker is pushed into manhood by circumstances outside his control; he must confront loneliness, arrogance, love, fear, and self-determination to become a man. In the trilogy, we see him grow from whiny white-clad farmboy to confident black-clad monastic warrior. It is, for us, a mythic yet vaguely universal path from childhood to adulthood, from wobbly immaturity to stable adulthood.
Except for the damn yub nub.
|The Audacity of Yub-Hope|
Return of the Jedi, which sees Luke attaining the mantle of adulthood, ends, of course, with adults partying with walking teddy bears. In its original release, everyone sits around, sings "yub nub," has an Ewokian barbeque (hold the Solo, thanks), and pats themselves on the back for toppling the Imperial government. To be fair, the Special Edition does intercut freedom celebrations from across the now-former-Empire, including the iconic toppling of Palpatine's statue on Coruscant.
Yet... there we are... manly Luke, having made peace with the ghosts of his past (literally), able to now step into the world with proper knowledge of all that is around him (no more kissing the future Mrs. Solo, alas).... and he's hanging with midgets stuffed into stuffed animals.
Now I know, the Ewoks are the Lucasian analogy to the Vietnamese, who by local knowledge and earthy determination turned aside the imperialist Americans. They are meant to remind us that even the least likely of peoples has in them the desire for self-determination and freedom, the audacity of hope.
Does Lucas portend what comes after the highest heights of manhood? Does the ending of Jedi foretell of some second act of adulthood? Many marriage ceremonies refer to 1 Corinthians, which speaks of giving up childish things. Did the Lucas of the early 1980s, his family falling apart through divorce of his wife and split custody of their daughter, wonder if the heights of manhood pass all too soon, that childish things must be embraced again? (Is that what caused Howard the Duck?!?!)
Or perhaps it is just sloppy storytelling, the product of a man defined by Star Wars, leaving it behind him, forever and ever, amen (or not). Think of all the iconic images of the original Star Wars Trilogy: the giant Star Destroyer, twin suns, Darth Vader, the Death Star, X-Wings, the Millennium Falcon, Hoth, lightsabers, Bespin, "I know," Jabba's Palace, walkers... and we are left with teddy bears muppets that sing?
Order me all you want, Mr. Lucas, for I cannot "celebrate the love (celebrate the love)." All I can do, with jaw set and foul words upon my breath, is moanfully utter the two words that most soil Star Wars.