“conquered the galaxy.” American Graffiti was itself a massive hit and helped to usher in an era of baby boomer nostalgia about that generation’s barely completed childhood.For all the discussions about prompted by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’ve been surprised that nobody drew a line connecting George Lucas’ first great triumph, American Graffiti, and the franchise that
In my latest Daily Beast column, I argue that the first Star Wars trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) is a celebration of the generational exceptionalism embodied by American Graffiti but that Lucas changed things up in the second trilogy (released between 1999-2005). As Lucas’ frequent collaborator Steven Speilberg said while promoting Saving Private Ryan:
“It was as simple as this: The century either was going to produce the baby boomers or it was not going to produce the baby boomers.” Only a baby boomer could reduce World War II to a footnote in the history of a cohort not yet born.
While most fans merely suffered The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, those movies represent a piss take on what happened to baby boomers who cut their teeth protesting Vietnam and ended up bombing hell out of the world during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
No one would confuse George Lucas with a deep thinker (his filmography includes such neutron bombs as Howard the Duck, Labyrinth, and Willow), but he has managed what is arguably the most ruthless and withering appraisal of the baby boom generation from young rebels to imperial overlords. The first six Star Wars movies document in imaginative form how antiwar activists became the cryptkeepers of Abu Ghraib, how hippies who called bullshit on LBJ and Richard Nixon staffed a Bush administration that sanctioned waterboarding and an Obama administration that generated a “kill list” not subject to any sort of due process.