CLICK HERE TO FIND A POWERPOINT that is based on Buys, Erik. “Star Wars: Between Myth and Gospel.” In René Girard, Theology, and Pop Culture, by Ryan G. Duns and T. Derrick Witherington, 13-26. New York: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2021.
Find the notes for the powerpoint presentation by clicking here.
This chapter deals with the first six episodes of the Star Wars film saga. It explores how George Lucas translated the work on mythology of his mentor Joseph Campbell into the space adventures of his alternative universe.[i] It also shows how this approach to mythology is challenged by René Girard in light of the Gospel.
Campbell points out that mythical narratives, despite surface differences, basically have the same shape. His concept of the monomyth summarizes the structural similarities between myths from around the world.[ii] The monomyth represents the supposedly one (hence “mono”) story (hence “myth”), told over and over again in many cultural guises. It is a container of the narratives people rely on to make sense of their experiences. Essentially, the monomyth proclaims that members of a society must be prepared to make individual or collective sacrifices to establish a cultural identity. Individuals who redeem society by making those sacrifices become heroes. The hero myth is a common variation of the monomyth.[iii]
Girard agrees with Campbell that a mythical narrative about the redemptive violence of heroic sacrifice lies at the heart of cultural identity formation. Unlike Campbell, however, he does not consider that ever-present narrative as a mere expression of human self-understanding, but as a persistent untruth. Moreover, again according to Girard, Christ’s Passion does not endorse the myth of redemptive sacrificial violence, but actually reveals the divine grace of a redemptive non-violent love.[iv] The Gospel uncovers the lies behind the ever-recurring mythical imagination and liberates individuals and communities from a deceptive sacrificial self-understanding.[v] As the analysis in the second chapter of René Girard, Theology, and Pop Culture makes clear, the first two Star Wars trilogies form a tragedy that situates itself between the deceitful mythical justification of sacrifice and the Gospel revelation of the scapegoat mechanism.
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[i] Bill Moyers, “The Mythology of ‘Star Wars’ with George Lucas,” Bill Moyers, June 18, 1999, https://billmoyers.com/content/mythology-of-star-wars-george-lucas/.
[ii] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Novato: New World Library, 2008), 1-37.
[iii] Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 151-206.
[iv] Chris Fleming, René Girard: Violence and Mimesis (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), 115-124.
Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), 128-132.
[v] René Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 135-172.