The legend goes like this: George Lucas was struggling with the story for Star Wars. He knew the ideas he wanted to tackle with the series; he wasn’t exactly sure, though, how to convert them into a screenplay. Then he remembered an academic text he’d been assigned to read back in college: Joseph Campbell’s deep exploration of universal mythologies, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In a combination of procrastination and desperation that will be familiar to any struggling artist, he reread the book. And then, suddenly—finally—he knew what he had to do: He had to narrow his epic to focus on its hero, Luke Skywalker, and the journey Young Skywalker would take. Lucas had to make Star Wars an example of what Campbell called “the monomyth.”
It was a decision that would make Campbell, not to mention Lucas and his stars and the fictive universe they created together, famous. So much so that, two generations later, anticipation for the latest Star Wars film has reached appropriately stratospheric proportions. Just one of the film’s multiple trailers has garnered 66.5 million views on YouTube. Websites attempting to sell advance tickets to the mid-December screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have crashed from the influx of fans. For months, the world has been awash in Star Wars Mania.
And yet the most striking aspect of the run-up to December 18 has been not the low-grade hum of anticipation for the new Star Wars tale, but something much more palpable: the stuff. All the stuff! So. Much. Stuff. A search for “star wars the force awakens” on Amazon will net you more than 15,500 results. (Change that to “star wars” alone, and you’ll get nearly 1.5 million.) Target has dedicated a section of its website to Star Wars merch (“here, your favorite Star Wars gear is”). Within that mini-store you can buy not just Star Wars bedding and a Star Wars-themed pizza cutter and an R2D2 thermos, but also “Chewbacca-spiced latte”-flavored Coffeemate and Yoda-branded Kraft macaroni and cheese and a can of Campbell’s ‘Star Wars Dark Side’ soup (10.5 oz, heat-and-serve, $1.04).