This paper will examine the success of the Star Wars franchise by comparing two of its films: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015). During the nearly 40 year period in between each film’s release, there was significant socio-political change that had occurred. Therefore, in order to continue to appeal to its existing audience, as well as adopt new audiences, Star Wars had to deviate from the traditional characters and storylines of A New Hope and instead, focus on diversity and representation in The Force Awakens. Using socio-political and feminist approaches, I will analyze Star Wars’ place as a strong force in American popular culture in both the late 1970s and in 2015. By fitting into the specific cultural landscapes of these times, the Star Wars films asserted themselves as works that satisfied what people were looking for, whether it be a fascinating fantasy adventure film or a film that conveys the importance of on-screen representation. I will compare the two time periods’ socio-political climates through my analysis of how male, female, and BIPOC characters are depicted in each of the films. At the end of the paper, I also discuss the importance of representation, both on the screen and in marketing. By understanding the ways in which films respond to and influence our socio-political landscapes, we can become a more socially-conscious audience.
Pang, Erica, "Star Wars: From Fantasy Film to Statement Showcase" (2020). Pop Culture Intersections. 50.