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Miller, M. Sprich, R. (1981). The Appeal of Star Wars: An Archetypal-Psychoanalytic View. Am. Imago, 38(2):203-220.

(1981). American Imago, 38(2):203-220

The Appeal of Star Wars: An Archetypal-Psychoanalytic View

Martin Miller, M.D. and Robert Sprich, Ph.D.

Star Wars is the greatest commercial success in the history of the film industry. Revenue from the film itself and from spin-off products such as posters and toys now exceeds 400 million dollars, and this figure is still growing. Other films such as Planet of the Apes had inspired temporary fad-buying of posters and toys. But the Star Wars phenomenon is of an entirely different order of magnitude: more than three years after the appearance of the film, major toy stores still have an entire section devoted to models, action-figures and games based on Star Wars. We have talked with several pre-school children who have never seen Star Wars but who can discuss its plot in detail because their peers spend so much time talking about it among themselves. It is clear that this film communicates something of vital interest to children—and to the child in many adults.

The early reviews of Star Wars were generally enthusiastic—Time hailed it as “Movie of the Year” in 1977—but failed to explain why the total impact of this film should so far exceed the sum of its parts. One reviewer praised Star Wars as “perfect escapist fare.” And this theme continues to be stressed. For example, an article in the March 1979 issue of The Atlantic Monthly concludes:

Star Wars has been taken with ominous seriousness. It should not be. The single strongest impression it leaves is of another great American tradition which involves lights, bells, obstacles, menace, action, technology, and thrills. It is pinball—on a cosmic scale.

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