Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars and the Trouble with Boys by ProQuest


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									                    Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars
                     and the Trouble with Boys

            PAMELA BETTIS                                      BRANDON STERNOD
      Washington State University                   California State University, Stanislaus

     Scholars claim that the six films comprising the Star Wars epic are the United
     States’ most important modern myth. The films have meaning for contempo-
     rary lives and serve as reflections of the fears, anxieties, and hopes surround-
     ing what many perceive to be a crisis of masculinity manifested in the current
     boy crisis. This article describes how the films explore possibilities for a dif-
     ferent kind of boyhood and how they contribute to understanding competing
     explanations for the boy crisis.

     Keywords: boyhood, boy crisis, film studies, masculinity, gender

     A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … Or is it? This well known phrase, for-
ever associated with the Star Wars film saga, informs the audience at the beginning of
each film that the events to be depicted take place somewhere very distant from our own
world, both spatially and temporally. We disagree, believing that the six films have
meaning for our contemporary lives and serve as reflections of the fears, anxieties, and
hopes of contemporary American society, especially those fears surrounding what many
perceive to be a boy crisis and a related crisis of masculinity. Thus it is not surprising
that the series has earned $4.3 billion at the box office world-wide. Associated mer-
chandise has generated three times that amount. Many scholars claim the series is the
United States’ most important modern myth (Brabazon, 1999; Johnson, 1999; Leming,
2002; Lev, 1998).
     The six movies reflect the changing understanding of masculinity in the United
States, the social resistance to such transformations, and the potential future for boys
and men. As a whole, the Star Wars epic represents the continual construction and re-
construction of masculinity since World War II. The original trilogy of films (1977-
1983) and its masculine archetypes of the hero, Luke, the adventurer, Han, and the
villain, Darth Vader, presented one-dimensional, simplistic representations of mas-

      Pamela Bettis, Washington State University; Brandon Sternod, California State University, Stanislaus.
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pamela J. Bettis, Cultural Studies and
Social Thought in Education, 338 Cleveland Hall, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, 99164, US.
Electronic mail:

THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2009, 21-38.
© 2009 by the Men’s Studies Press, LLC. All rights reserved.
thy.0301.21/$14.00 • DOI: 10.3149/thy.0301.21 • Url:        Θ

culinity that were derived from the 1950s, another time of male panic for white, con-
servative, heterosexual American masculinity that was supposedly challenged by left-
ist and Communist political ideological incursions during the Cold War a
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