Whose Film Is It, Anyway? Canonicity and Authority in Star Wars Fandom

  • Author(s): John C. Lyden
  • When: 2012-08
  • Where: Source
  • If there is any popular culture phenomenon that can be referred to as “religion,” it would be the fandom associated with the Star Wars films. In the 2001 census in many English-speaking countries, a number of people identified their religion as “Jediism,” including 70,000 in Australia, 21,000 in Canada, 53,000 in New Zealand, and 390,127 in England and Wales (“Jedi Census” 2012). This may well have begun as a joke (Emery 2001), but it is also clear that at least some of those who support this movement take it seriously, such as the online Jedi Church (“Jedi Church” 2012). More significant, perhaps, is the number of fan activities related to Star Wars which might express some of the “markers” of religion, such as communal identity, a system of beliefs and values, myths and ritual practices. One cannot attribute all of these to marketing, as a number of fan activities clearly do not originate from corporations such as Lucasfilm but are generated by the fans themselves. Although it is hard to track all of this, one can find a sampling in fan-made videos posted on youtube.com and other web sites, fan stories based on Star Wars categories, fan art and comic books, fan-designed games, costume events (including weddings), and various artifact recreations (Figure 1).1 The interactive nature of the internet has allowed these activities to develop in unforeseen ways, as it is possible to easily post content that can be edited by users around the world who can interact in real time, and who can network in ways that formerly would have been impossible.

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