Yes, the process of providing new entry points for the series has produced a lot of bad art. But it also has kept a creaky old story cool among the group that matters: young people.But that's probably why it's not worth getting worked up about whatever new indignities the franchise is about to suffer. Those who love the original three movies but despise the prequels have had to live with a seemingly degraded Star Wars universe for more than a decade now. And while it's fun in a sad way to snipe on the awfulness of Hayden Christensen's acting and the cravenness of George Lucas, anyone who's put on Empire Strikes Back since 1999 knows that for however many kids buy Boss Nass figurines, the old movies are still good. More importantly, Disney's acquisition of Star Wars confirms something that's been true about the series for a while now. It's left the realm of specific-to-its-time pop-culture product and become something bigger and, yes, better: a folk tale. Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces led Lucas to write a story that was inherently mythical, and the way that story has spread and endured proves just how well he succeeded. The number of fans who fell in love with the original trilogy when it first screened dwindles each day in comparison to the number who found it through parents, friends, or older siblings—and through action figures, video-games, or, gulp, the prequels. Of course, that fact just shows how much modern folk tales are paradoxes. "Folklore" by typical definition refers to a story that belongs to everyone and no one; seemingly authorless, it's passed from person to person until it suffuses a culture's very fabric. When adults screen Return of the Jedi in their living room for their nieces and nephews who then doodle Ewoks on their homework, that's the old idea of folk transmission at work. But Disney has made its fortune in large part from actually owning folk culture, from the kind it created in-house—Mickey and Minnie—to the kind its acquired through purchase, like the Marvel superheroes. The other big part of its business has come from profiting off folklore it doesn't actually own, like the Grimms' tales, by updating it for modern times and marketing it in modern ways.
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When 2015 rolls around, Disney's new film could feature nothing but Jar Jar Binks relatives for characters, and it still might well help mint a whole new generation of fans. This process of providing more and more entry points for the series has made Lucas insanely rich and produced a lot of bad art. But it also, incredibly, has kept a creaky old story cool among the group that always has final say in what's cool: the young. Adults may not like it, but they don't need to be converted.
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