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A (S)hero's Journey: Paths to Re-writing Myths in the Star Wars Franchise



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The Star Wars franchise shares a common storytelling thread with ancient myths, which have consistently centered on individuals experiencing life-changing journeys that influence their—and others’—world forever. How did Star Wars, now owned by the media conglomerate Disney, contribute to the process of making myths persistent throughout history? The key to this persistence seems to have been media adaptations: the franchise has re-written and re-interpreted tropes from previous mythologies and cultural products using the intertextual practices of contemporary visual media forms (film, TV series and animation). By using theories of intertextuality and adaptation, my dissertation analyzes how Star Wars re-writes and adapts two dominant mythologies in American culture—the Campbellian monomyth and the American Western mythos—in the new movies of the saga and in the series The Mandalorian and Forces of Destiny to explain the process of mythical re-writing in contemporary media. The aim is to advance the field of cultural studies by investigating how and why mythical representation has survived in Star Wars through the commodifying cultural mechanisms involved with re-distributing myths in contemporary media. I will also analyze the larger issues that mythical portrayals in Star Wars represent about American culture, especially their ability to depict American identity. My dissertation sheds light on how mythical storytelling in the new Star Wars movies, The Mandalorian and Forces of Destiny helps disrupt old dominant American ideologies of male- and white-centred heroic models to offer diverse representations of gender and ethnicity. My analysis shows that despite contradictions the new Star Wars hints at positive changes in the representation of American identity. This change signifies that the adaptable polysemic nature of myths—their ability to incorporate new meanings—is key to this process of ideological shifting. Also, my analysis provides evidence that this process of mythical revival becomes possible by adopting, as in Disney’s case, cultural production mechanisms that center around media technologies and commercialized products. Disney’s commodification results in turning myths into materialistic possessions for contemporary audiences to interact with, as my analysis of the Star Wars “Princesses” dolls and the “Baby Yoda” puppet suggests.



Star Wars, Myths, Mythology, Western genre, The Mandalorian, Forces of Destiny, Cultural studies, Media studies, Adaptation, Intertextuality, American culture, Toys, Fantasy genre, Cinema



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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