Today we celebrate both International Star Wars Day ("May the Fourth Be with You") and Eid al-Fitr.
INTERNATIONAL STAR WARS DAY
Here’s a little-known—and, to my mind, unfortunate—fact: the first recorded use of the sentence “May the Fourth Be with You” occurred as a tribute to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in TheLondon Evening News. You can read all about it in “May The May The 4th Be With You: A Cultural History” on starwars.com
But that's the past. The immediate future is the new six-part series Obi-Wan Kenobi, which premieres on Disney+ with two episodes on May 27. Here's the latest trailer, which appeared today.
GRIEF, FAITH, AND HOPE IN STASIS (ON TATOOINE)
By AMRITA ANAND
Star Wars characters are no strangers to crises of faith. As we count down the days to the premiere of the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi on May 27, we sense, from the trailers and commercials that we've seen, that the legendary Jedi Master is undergoing just such crisis under the twin suns of Tatooine in the aftermath of Order 66, which wiped out the Jedi. Ewan McGregor’s comments about the character's being “lost” following the events of Revenge of the Sith suggest that the series will present a character arc in which Obi-Wan regains his faith despite the bleakness of his present life and prospects.
In fact, however, this kind of arc is nothing new for Obi-Wan, as readers of the Marvel Comics series Star Wars (2015) know. The series intermittently publishes issues under the anthology title “The Journals of Ben Kenobi,” and the first issue in this series (#7) is perhaps its most compelling as it condenses the process of regaining faith and hope into its short storyline. Obi-Wan, some ten years after the Empire’s birth, begins to “fade” into Ben, whom he considers a “relic” caught in the monotony of a life he never quite anticipated, despite all his Force-sensitivity.
From the Marvel Comics series Star Wars, issue #7
A drought on Tatooine effectively turns him into a bystander, a role that is entirely foreign to him, as someone used to action and to helping innocents both as a Jedi and a General of the Republic—and one for which he considers himself completely unsuited.
It takes little for Obi-Wan to be reminded of his purpose within the scope of this comic—upon saving Luke from imminent danger, he manages to reorder his thoughts and regain his sense of direction. Interestingly enough, it is the ability to act on something immediately that brings him contentment, therefore lending itself to the reading that the inactivity he endures being the most difficult aspect of residing on Tatooine. But would this grant him conviction in the long term? The scope of Issue #7 is rather limited to a specific event—how would it translate to a larger arc and setting as is promised by the show?
Obi-Wan Kenobi offers the possibility of a new angle on his crisis of faith—after all, moving from Tatooine into a possible adventure would certainly provide him with enough action to sate the monotony that threatens to consume him. Whether that is all that his journey will offer him, in light of a more long-term understanding of his crisis, remains to be seen.
RAMADAN AND REMEMBRANCE
Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr—the festival of the breaking of the fast—at the conclusion of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Here in the UAE, Eid began on May 1, and workers in the public sector have vacation from April 30 through May 6. Ramadan teaches Muslims the value of self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, generosity, and charity. I think we'll see in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series that these are values that Star Wars also promotes and associates with Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Jedi Order.
This Ramadan will be my last as a resident of Abu Dhabi: my wife and I will be returning to NYU in New York this July, leaving the desert behind for the place my parents regarded as the world's cultural capital. In a way, it strikes me as a move that echoes the shift from the outlying, emerging worlds that were the subject of George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy for the Core Worlds of Naboo and Coruscant where much of his prequel trilogy was set. I suppose it might also be a version of the exile-and-return pattern that we've investigated in an earlier newsletter, though at the moment I'm feeling a little more like someone who's been exiled from home than someone who's returning home.
Ramadan has been an occasion for me to think deeply about my parents and their pursuit of knowledge and happiness in New York, as well as to reflect on my years in Abu Dhabi. A little while back, I made a video that sought to capture what I've been thinking about their educational journeys and mine. It seems appropriate to share it with you today.
REVENGE OF THE FIFTH
Star Wars fans do love a pun, and so tomorrow is the day on which many of them will be celebrating not Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Jedi, but rather Darth Vader and Dark Side of the Force.
I'm going to go really dark, however, and note that tomorrow I'll be watching the conclusion of the second season ofStar Trek: Picard and the premiere of the latest Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds.
HAVEN'T HAD ENOUGH YET?
For further discussion of Star Wars and my book Lucasfilm: Filmmaking, Philosophy, and the Star Wars Universe (Bloomsbury), check out the following: