When Star Wars was released in May 1977, Time magazine hailed it as "The Year's Best Movie" and characterised the special quality of the film with the statement: "It's aimed at kids - the kid in everybody" (Anon., 1977). Many film scholars, highly critical of the aesthetic and ideological preoccupations of Star Wars and of contemporary Hollywood cinema in general, have elaborated on the second part in Time magazine's formula. They have argued that Star Wars is indeed aimed at "the kid in everybody", that is it invites adult spectators to regress to an earlier phase in their social and psychic development and to indulge in infantile fantasies of omnipotence and oedipal strife as well as nostalgically returning to an earlier period in history (the 1950s) when they were kids and the world around them could be imagined as a better place. For these scholars, much of post-1977 Hollywood cinema is characterised by such infantilisation, regression and nostalgia (see, for example, Wood, 1985). I will return to this ideological critique at the end of this essay. For now, however, I want to address a different set of questions about production and marketing strategies as well as actual audiences: What about the first part of Time magazine's formula? Was Star Wars aimed at children? If it was, how did it try to appeal to them, and did it succeed? I am going to address these questions first of all by looking forward from 1977 to the status Star Wars has achieved in the popular culture of the late 1990s. I will then look backward from 1977 to the long period of gestation of the Star Wars project and its gradual transformation into a children's film; that is a film primarily, but not necessarily exclusively, addressed to children. Finally, I am going to return to the year 1977 and examine the initial reception of Star Wars as an adventure for the whole family and as a model for Hollywood's future.
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2001|