The Trials and Tribulations of Luke Skywalker: How The Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm Have Failed to Confront Joseph Campbell’s Troublesome Legacy
Issue: Vol 23 No. 3 (2020)
Journal: Implicit Religion
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The present contribution offers some critical reflections on the influence of Comparative Religion scholar Joseph Campbell’s (1904- 1987) monomyth, or hero’s journey, on George Lucas’ Star Wars space opera. Like other celebrated 20th-century scholars of religion, after his death Campbell was revealed as an ultraconservative racist intellectual. However, Campbell had already been turned into a liberal icon thanks to Lucas’ own sponsorship and active support at least since 1983. After a recap of the recent history of Lucasfilm Ltd. and a brief discussion about the intersection of canon, fandom, and authority in Star Wars, the present article provides a preliminary answer to this puzzling relationship by contextualising Lucas’ own fascination with Campbell’s work within the larger post-war percolation of camouflaged radical-right ideas and authors, especially religious scholars, through Western democratic societies. The article contends that Lucas and new Lucasfilm owner The Walt Disney Co. have so far failed to confront Campbell’s problematic legacy and examines three main options to tackle this moral issue.
Author: Leonardo Ambasciano
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