Do you speak Bocce? Or know how many parsecs the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in? Or dig the band Nerf Herder? Then you’re probably well aware that today is Star Wars Day.
May 4th (May the Fourth Be With You — get it?) has become the established excuse for all walks of Star Wars fandom to celebrate the spirit of the franchise by participating in special events, themed parties, one-day sales and exclusives and the like. Basically, flaunting their self-expression and letting their galactic freak flags fly.
The Star Wars pop culture universe is massive. That may come across as intimidating to many newbies who don’t know where to start. But that's arguably what’s most appealing about this 41-year-old juggernaut. You can like it, love it, live it, breathe it. There are Star Wars movies, TV shows, books, comics and video games that appeal to multiple generations, and the amount of art, fan films, cosplay, construction and customizations that die-hards create to make Star Wars their own is staggering.
Star Wars Day started decades ago as a grassroots celebration that was heartily embraced by the film’s production company, Lucasfilm. It evolved into a global event. The punny “May the Fourth Be With You” is a riff on the film series' recurrent Jedi line, “May the Force be with you.” The Star Wars Day reference dates back to 1979, according to StarWars.com, when author Alan Arnold was chronicling the making of The Empire Strikes Back in the U.K. at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s election victory as Britain’s first female prime minister. Arnold remarked that her win was further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all, proclaiming, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
For stalwart fans like me who have been with the franchise since the beginning, I believe that we are indeed living in a golden age of Star Wars excitement. Walking into that movie theater when I was a kid in 1977, seeing that title card with A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… come up and then hearing the blast of John Williams’ iconic score, my world was changed forever. Watching George Lucas’ cinematic masterpiece changed the trajectory of my life and career, like so many others of my generation. It influenced an army of imaginative souls to pursue their creative passions in a concerted effort to one day make audiences feel just as elated as we did walking out of those theaters.
And like every individual who was so profoundly affected by their first Star Wars film experience, I’ve been chasing after that high ever since.
Cynics complain that Star Wars has become essentially a soulless franchise of corporate greed. Sometimes it’s hard not to disagree. We are inundated with an overflow of merchandise. Many fans are polarized over the storyline direction of the new movies under the Disney banner (which may even change perspectives on Lucas’ oft-vilified prequel trilogy). The spinoff TV series just keep coming, with a new animated one (Star Wars Resistance) arriving this fall. The Mouse House has razed a huge swath of Disneyland, Westworld-style, to create a major new narrative with its in-the-works Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land and themed hotel attractions. Face it — the American Way is to make mountains of cash on a product and then milk it ad nauseam to meet, if not coerce, consumer demand. And that demand has delivered more Star Wars–related stuff than I could ever have possibly desired. But Star Wars is in no way the first movie franchise to have its perceived integrity swallowed by the specter of success. And c’mon, hating Star Wars is like hating Christmas. Do you really want to be a Scrooge at heart? Let the people have their fun.
Having Star Wars so present in today’s pop culture landscape has taken on an unexpected meaning for me. My 6-year-old son is a chip off the old block, so I’m fortunate enough to relive my Star Wars experience vicariously through a fresh pair of eyes. And I get to enjoy brand-new movies with him in the theater every year, too. Next up: Solo: A Star Wars Story on May 25.
For me, Star Wars Day is ultimately about family. l’ll be celebrating by watching the Despecialized Edition of A New Hope (the one without the enhanced special effects from the tinkered-with 1997 theatrical rerelease). Before that, I think I’ll indulge in a Solo: A Star Wars Story–inspired calorie-fest (perhaps a Blaster Fire Burger and Crystal Crunch Milk Shake in a Chewie/Millennium Falcon–topped collector mug) at Denny’s. And once my kid is asleep, I may just steal away for a night of cosplay, revelry and blue milk at the Scum & Villainy Cantina in Hollywood, blasting Meco’s Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album all the way there and back.
What will you be doing?
Here are some Star Wars Day entertainment options in Los Angeles if you’re taking your Landspeeder to Mos Eisley (or if you just want to switch on your home targeting computer):
1. Star Wars Movies on TBS: Starting super-duper early (at 2 a.m. on May 4) TBS is airing the first seven Star Wars films of the Skywalker Saga (omitting The Last Jedi and Rogue One) back to back.
2. The Void in Glendale and Anaheim: Ready, Player One? Put on a VR headset and you can adventure in a galaxy far, far away in this insane, immersive, full-sensory, hyper-reality experience from Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and the Void. Two locations: Glendale Galleria (across from JC Penney), 1164 Galleria Way, Glendale; and Downtown Disney (next to Sprinkles), 1580 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim.
3. Scum & Villainy Cantina: The pop-up bar (which has become a permanent resident) modeled after the Star Wars Cantina opens its doors at 2 p.m. today with no cover charge. Free SAVC (Scum & Villany Cantina) May the Fourth 2018 pins will be handed out while supplies last, along with tickets for door prizes until 9 p.m. A trivia contest and more surprises await plus special guest original Cantina denizen Angela House (Brea Tonnika)! Cosplay strongly encouraged. Under 21 until 7 p.m. 6377 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.
4. Das Bunker Star Wars Night at Union Nightclub: The edge-of-Ktown club will go Star Wars–crazy with six themed areas, four dance rooms, themed cocktails, a green-screen photo booth and costume contest. 18 and over. 4067 W. Pico Blvd., Arlington Heights.
5. OUE Skyspace Los Angeles: Interact with Star Wars characters and take in the otherworldly view at the top of California’s tallest open-air observation deck. Tickets include a ride on the Skyslide, a themed drink at the Skyspace Bar (for those 21 and older) and a limited-edition T-shirt. 633 W. Fifth St., 840, downtown.
6. Jedi Mind Tricks for Kids: The leading alternative, independently owned toy store and events space in Los Angeles, featured in L.A. Weekly's “Best of L.A.” issue, is throwing a kickoff party to celebrate the launch of its new Jedi Academy class series, for kids 6 to 10. Today, kids are encouraged to dress up, and they will be treated to Jedi lessons by characters from Action Events LA from with light sabers, snacks and goody bags, as well as chances to win Solo: A Star Wars Story movie tickets, Star Wars T-shirts and bags provided by Disney. All ages welcome but this is especially fun for ages 4 to 12. 3:30-5:30 p.m., Miracle Mile Toy Hall, 5464 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire.
7. Disneyland After Dark on May 9: If you missed last night’s big Star Wars celebration at Disneyland, a second night has been added. The after-hours event (starting at 6 p.m.) on Wednesday, May 9, encourages Star Wars–themed attire and features a galactic dance party, character appearances, a commemorative lanyard, special photo ops, specialty food and drink, brand-new Solo pins for purchase, and much more. Disneyland, 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim.
8.-10. More Star Wars Day Stuff: There are plenty of one-day deals on Star Wars merchandise online or in stores. Look for the social media hashtag #StarWarsDay and go to StarWars.com for even more fun, activities and programming.
May the Fourth be with you!
David Weiner is a Rondo Award–winning writer who was executive editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and senior editor at ETonline. For fun he runs the genre pop culture site ItCameFromBlog.com and spends too much money on eBay trying to reclaim pieces of his childhood.