May 4: Star Wars Day 2023 - ‘May the Fourth be with you’ - origins and its links to Margaret Thatcher
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Star Wars is one of the most popular and loved film franchises ever created. The brainchild of George Lucas, Star Wars has dominated popular culture for over four decades.
It is perhaps not surprising that because of this, the sci-fi franchise has picked up its very own ‘holiday’ throughout the years. May 4 has been lovingly taken by fans of the series as ‘Star Wars Day’ due to the close similarity between its name and a popular phrase spoken by characters throughout the films.
‘May the Force be with you’ was first said by a Rebel Army general in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’. The film was released in 1977 and was the first of what has become a franchise known all over the world.
Since this first instance, the phrase has grown over the years from an unofficial greeting between fans of all ages, to an almost official fan holiday. Through the 1980s it became used as a way of showing celebration for America’s Independence Day- with publications leading with the line ‘May the Force Be With You’ on July 4.
Another lesser-known instance came from within Lucasfilm in 1982. Randy Thom was working as a sound recordist on ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ (a title which was changed to ‘Return of the Jedi at a later date) Thom joined the production unit in northern California as they shot in the redwood forest doubling for the moon of Endor.
May 4, 1982, happened to be a working day, and Thom recalled thinking of the pun on his own when contemplating the date. He shared it with others on the set, and would continue to write an annual message to the company declaring “May the 4th Be With You” for years to come.
May the Fourth and Margaret Thatcher
Although very much American in its origins, Star Wars and the ‘May the fourth/ force’ line gradually crept in overseas. One of the first instances of it being used in the mainstream in the UK was in 1979 when May 4 happened to be the day that new prime minister Margaret Thatcher took office.
The London Evening News declared in a full-page ad: “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!” What adds to the Star Wars coincidence is that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’ was in production at the nearby Elstree Studios- making it entirely possible that copies of the paper made it to the studio.
May the Fourth in the 21st century
May 4 has become a day of celebration for Star Wars fans around the world. Many choose this day to host parties and events to mark their favourite franchise.
Lucasfims, the company behind the Star Wars franchise, do not take credit for the day and instead credit the loyal fans. Since the 2010s, however, they have taken on more of a role in the unofficial holiday to promote and sponsor events.
The Star Wars franchise has expanded a huge amount since ‘A New Hope’ first burst onto cinema screens. Now, fans old and new can enjoy comics, TV series and video games as well as the classic films.