May 4 – as in May the Fourth – has become the de facto “Star Wars Day,” a celebration for all things from the fictional galaxy far, far away. In recent years, social media has often been overwhelmed with a massive wave of memes, posts, and colorful commentary.
Yet, this year it barely was a blip on the social platforms.
Real world events, including the war in Ukraine and the leaked SCOTUS draft, are likely overshadowing Star Wars this year. It could also be argued that there is some over saturation of the franchise as well.
“We’re seeing that reality always has a way of sinking in, especially when things are so intense and right now they’re pretty intense,” said Jason Chung, B.C.L., LL.B., assistant professor at the Pompea College of Business at the University of New Haven.
“We’re also seeing higher inflation rates and that is leaving less disposable income for hobbies,” added Chung. “While Star Wars has remained popular, the lack of mainstream interest on social media is a reflection of the general mood and even the zeitgeist right now.”
Star Wars Day isn’t really all that old either. Though the slogan had reportedly popped up a few times over the years, it wasn’t until 2008 that a Facebook group chose May 4 as “Luke Skywalker Day” and adopted the “May the Fourth” slogan. Disney, which bought the franchise in 2012, joined in with the celebrations in 2013.
It was thus born into the social media era, but that was still more than two years before the sequel trilogy hit theaters, and long before the wave of Star Wars TV series. This franchise has always been built around selling products – so much so that George Lucas literally became rich not from the profits of the films, but from the licensing opportunities his movies generated.
Yet, with a slew of TV series on the Disney+ streaming service, Star Wars is never far from the public consciousness. That isn’t to say that the Mouse House didn’t still use the day to promote its latest series Star Wars: Obi Wan Kenobi, which will debut later this month. A new trailer was dropped on social media, and was seen more than 1.5 million times by Wednesday afternoon.
The oversaturation of the franchise could also be playing a role in the lack of interest this year.
Subscribers to Disney+ have no shortage of Star Wars content to watch, with more seemingly on the way at near “jump to hyperspace” speed. Add in the slew of games, action figures and everyday is Star Wars Day.
“Ultimately this is when you have ubiquity that may boost viewership and even get new subscribers, but it comes at the expensive of the uniqueness and something that is special,” suggested Chung. “This is increasingly common across most forms of media, especially with these fan-friendly franchises.”
Perhaps too, at least on social media, real world events are getting noticed. For years, fictional works from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones have overshadowed real historic events. Few noted the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor last December or the 80th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April on social media.
Twitter and Facebook aren’t exactly the places to learn about history, but it seems that Star Wars Day wasn’t able to break through this year either.
“I wouldn’t say that fiction overshadows history, but culturally there is more affinity to pop culture than to historic events,” Chung continued. “But that is simply the ubiquity of these franchises.”