Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

May The Fourth Is NOT “Star Wars Day”

The PopCulteer
May 4, 2018

I try to stay positive in PopCult. There are plenty of guys my age who are happy to be the cranky curmudgeon, and I feel like it’s too easy to complain when there’s so much cool positive stuff out there in the world to write about.

But I have to depart from my postive leanings today because of a really, really lame pun that has turned me quite peevish.

May the Fourth is not “Star Wars Day.” It never was. People think it is because of an excrutiatingly lame pun, originally leveled at the expense of Star Wars fans, that never should have risen above the designation of being anything more than a particularly unfunny “Dad joke.”

Yet, it has become such a cultural cliche that it makes me want to puke…just a little. And that’s coming from someone who normally loves really awful, stupid, annoying puns. This pun is awful, stupid and annoying, but now it’s also become wretchedly unfunny through repitition. The sad fact is that most of the “Star Wars Day” memes were created by alt-right white supremacist groups on 4chan who thought it would be “hilarious” if they could find some way to make it overshadow Cinco de Mayo.

It gets worse. This awful pun has become so ubiquitous that people have actually convinced themselves that May the Fourth really has something to do with Star Wars beyond merely being a bad lisping pun with a mildly racist secondary purpose.

And let’s make that clear. “May the Fourth be with you” was originally coined to make fun of nerdy Star Wars fans who had a lisp.

Yet, every year, on this day, Facebook is filled with heartfelt memories, some of them by dear friends, about how they saw Star Wars on May the Fourth, 1977, right here in Charleston.

Those heartfelt memories are a load of bollocks.

Star Wars opened in major cities on May 25, 1977, and it didn’t open in Charleston until the middle of June. I was there. I was a rabid Star Wars fan who had the first four issues of the Marvel Comics adaptation before I had a chance to see the movie.

I was fifth in line to see the movie when it opened, at the Capitol Theater, on that day in June, 1977. I would’ve been second, behind my brother, Frank, but we decided to run over to the Arcade Book Store to buy comics since there was nobody else in line when we got there.

And the books I bought, which included DC’s Five Star Super-Spectacular and an issue of Ragman, did not come out until the middle of June, in case you were wondering. I have a knack for remembering things like that.

It seemed like it took forever for Star Wars to come to Charleston, but it was so important to me then that I made sure I was there on opening day. I considered it a life-changing event. I was such an eager fan that I was the “gofer” when my brother and two friends published the first Star Wars fanzine in West Virginia, Continuum (Scan at right courtesy of Mark Wolfe). Yes, that is the Millenium Falcon blowing up the State Capitol Building.

I was a die-hard Star Wars fan up until about halfway through Return of the Jedi. The Ewoks showed up and knocked it down a few pegs, putting it behind Captain Marvel, The Beatles, Max Fleisher and Tex Avery cartoons and DEVO on my ever-changing list of favorite things in the world.

I’m not kidding. Those Ewoks really did a number on my give-a-crapper about Star Wars. The Empire Stikes Back was so good, and Return of the Jedi was so not good, that it taught me a valuable life lesson about how even cool things can suddenly start to suck. Then George Lucas screwed up Howard The Duck so badly that I completely lost faith in him as a filmmaker and was not surprised in the slightest when he came up with something as lame as Jar Jar Binks.

Thanks to the obsessive fandom of an ex-in-law, by the time The Phantom Menace hit theaters, I’d pretty much lost all interest in Star Wars, other than just observing it as a pop culture phenomenon. I don’t hate it, but I’m not in any rush to catch up with it. I sort of like the new movies when I get around to watching them about a year after they come out on DVD, usually when I’m watching my nephews. I am at peace with Star Wars.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find “May the Fourth be with you” as offensively vapid as “Bazinga” or any other cheesy, manufactured geek-culture catchphrase.  I loathe it as much as I do those freaking Ewoks.

Back in the day, when I considered Star Wars right alongside The Beatles as the most influential thing in my life, Star Wars fans had an air of dignity about them. They loved Star Wars, but they didn’t make fools of themselves like the Trekkies did, with their rubber Spock ears and speaking Klingon.

Man, time changes everything. Now the Star Trek fans seem like calm elder statesmen in comparison to the Disney-fied Star Wars mania. Whatever imagined dignity there was in loving a movie with a tall guy in an ape suit, a muppet and cool space explosions has evaporated.

Maybe it’s the mainstream acceptance, where Star Wars is now so universally-loved that it’s become “the establishment.” Maybe it’s just the bitter realization that everyone likes what you used to like so it’s not “special” anymore. I don’t know. Whatever. If it makes people happy and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m all for it. I just don’t know that I can ever regain my own passion for Star Wars.

I do know that I won’t be going out today. The reason is, if anybody comes up to me and says “May the Fourth be with you” to my face, it’s going to take all my self control to not throat-punch them until their ears bleed.

Seriously, cut it out. It’s embarrassing.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    Like you, we didn’t get Star Wars until into June here in Tucson, which wasn’t really considered a “premiere” town until Return of the Jedi came out in 1983. When Empire Strikes Back came out in Tucson, there was some idiot in the line who had been to see it in Phoenix, and decided it would be funny to blow plotlines. He was standing there saying, “Well, I guess they won’t be able to use Han Solo in the comics for a while”, and “You’ll never guess who Luke’s real father is!” He was about three people away from me, and I finally said, “Sir, there are some of us here for whom this is our first showing, so would you kindly SHUT THE F*!% UP RIGHT NOW!” I got applause from a dozen people in every direction, and he decided he’d better shut his hole if he wanted to get out of the parking lot alive.

    I like Star Wars, I didn’t mind the prequels, and I don’t dislike the new movies. As for “May the 4th”, whatever its origins, all I ever did about it was hit the Disney Store a couple of times because they had some special free premiums on the day, but I finally decided it wasn’t worth standing in line for. And at the very least, anyone who thinks that it commemorates the premiere date of the movie, instead of just a bad pun, needs a little pop culture history lesson.

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