I was in 9th grade, on a date with my boyfriend. I was less interested in what movie we were seeing, than in what I was wearing – (wide leg jeans, wedge sandals, a red velour sweater, remember those?) – and the fact that I was on a date with an 11th grader! That made me cool! The theater darkened and the music soared, as yellow words scrolled up the black movie screen… Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
No people, no scenery, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope started unlike any movie I had ever seen. And that was just the beginning of the way Star Wars did things differently.
Movies, captivated me as a teen, like books, they offered a place to escape, and I loved getting caught up in stories. But this one was different.
Boomers craved escapism and happiness in the late 1970’s, ambiguity and anger over the Vietnam war and disillusionment with government, created angst with little sign of relive. So, a fantasy world was just the ticket, and the impact was vast.
Luke, Leah, and Han Solo took us to another world in hyper speed, a world where good and evil were clearly defined, and we rooted for the underdog, a savvy princess, and a reluctant hero.
Star Wars was a phenomenon that captivated Boomers. In fact, I remember getting up at the crack of dawn, six years later, bundled up with coffee and donuts to get in line for the morning release of Return of the Jedi. (Theaters didn’t show the new releases until 8:00 am rather than midnight like they do today.)
Sixteen years later, I made an R2D2 costume for our daughter when our kids and their friends dressed up as Star Wars characters when we shared these epic tales with them leading up to the 1999 release of The Phantom Menace. Last month, these kids, now adults, re-created this epic picture at our daughter Emily’s wedding.
Star Wars had a huge impact on Boomers, and shaped their millennial kids in the following 3 ways:
Fiction Became Science Fact
Star Wars showed us a world where technology was a ubiquitous part of the day-to-day lives of the characters. No longer was science fiction this homogeneous world of gadgets and doodads that appeared out of reach for a few centuries. In Star Wars: A New Hope the characters on screen were using digital tools when we didn’t know what digital was.
The devices were beat up and dirty. They looked like a normal part of the landscape despite being in a “futuristic past.” You know, “a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away.”
We were all using rotary dial phones when Star Wars made its debut. Rotary! We hadn’t even graduated to push button and those 25-foot-long cords stretched to oblivion from hiding in our rooms while being literally “on the phone.”
From holograms to iPads, from robots to drones, WiFi, iCloud and smart phones, the movies showed us the way, and scientists did their best to make those things a reality.
Movies shifted our expectations of ourselves as they opened up new possibilities we could aspire to. Boomers embraced fantasy, futuristic thinking, and a possibility mindset. Thus, our millennial children grew up a different outlook on their ability to impact their world.
Heroes Became Mainstream
Star Wars changed the way Boomers looked at the world, and radically shaped the one we created for our kids. We were captivated as Luke, Leah, and Han Solo took on and defeated the Empire and Darth Vader. Ordinary people saving the world! We embraced this possibility and ordinary hero thinking and then planted these seed in our children’s minds.
Leaving his uncle, Luke took off on a journey dramatically different than what was expected of him. A fantasy for Boomers, became reality for our kids. Millennials view life as journey, a search for meaning, and have a profound desire for impact.
After Star Wars, a common story line became an unlikely hero – usually younger – taking on the establishment in some way or another. More specifically, a young or small person, usually without parents, must find a group of wise adults to help them, and their small band of friends, to overcome an evil force, person, or establishment. These journeys always include using technology, magic, cunning, along with bravery amid feeling ill-equipped or unprepared.
No longer thwarted by life and circumstances, anything was possible, as the hero’s journey was accessible. Being an average kid was no longer an option. Millennials dreamed of being heroes, taking on the bad guys, and having the tools and technology to win.
Warriors & Heroines:
Star Wars also introduced us to our first female action heroine – Princess Leah. Women’s roles in cinema and literature shifted from a helpless princess waiting to be saved by a man, to becoming a warrior princess who could save herself.
Just look at the TV, movie and literary franchises since 1977 to gain ground: Xena; Warrior Princess, Twilight, The Hunger Games, the new reboot of Battlestar Galactica.
From Carrie Fisher, to Hermione, and Jennifer Lawrence, women’s roles in literature, television and movies shifted from demure and semi helpless (not Katherine Hepburn mind you), to warriors and savvy, independent women from Sex & The City. Sexy yet strong. Smart powerful women who could command a boardroom as easily as wear a ball gown
The Millennial women I know and coach, are puzzled by the limitations they hear women of older generations live within. Most millennial women were raised as equal to boys – assuming equal capability and opportunity. They don’t have a build in gender bias. They believe they can do what the guys do, or even better.
In 2017, the Star Wars franchise renewed their story telling with Ray, an outcast, from a nothing planet, with little idea who her parents were becoming the next Jedi.
Star Wars changed us and impacted the way Boomers raised our kids. Millennials embrace technology, possibility, and science fiction is cool! Millennials saw themselves in the heroes on the big screen and began to dream of more for their lives, and women ran armies, wielded guns and save the world. Things have come a long way since 1977 and our millennials will never be the same.
Understanding the influencers that shaped Millennials will help improve your relationships with them at work and at home.
Check out these 13 Tips for Better Communication with Millennials