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May the 4th Be With You
When Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister of the U.K. on May 4, 1979, the Conservative Party took out a newspaper ad in the London Evening News that read, ''May the 4th Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.'' Who knew Tories were such Star Wars geeks?
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Capitalizing on the Star Wars phenomenon, ABC debuted its own gee-whiz space opera Battlestar Galactica in 1978. A battle more fierce than humans vs. Cylons began when 20th Century Fox sued BSG's studio Universal for allegedly ripping off more than Luke Skywalker's haircut. The lawsuit was dropped. The Clone Wars cheekily paid tribute with several droids aping the Cylon catchphrase: ''By your command.'' The circle is now complete.
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Unexpected Military Applications
Ronald Reagan was inspired by Grand Moff Tarkin to create the Strategic Defense Initiative, nicknamed Star Wars by Ted Kennedy. It was a national antiballistic missile shield that was never deployed, but did pave the way for missile-defense systems in use today.
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Star Wars not only created the pop-mythology template aspired to by every subsequent movie franchise, it spawned artists who've changed the face of cinema. Like sound effects whiz and four-time Oscar winner Ben Burtt, creator of that iconic lightsaber thrum and R2-D2's electronic beeps, as well as the sound designer and voice of WALL-E. Or David Fincher, an assistant cameraman on Return of the Jedi.
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The can-do-no-wrong studio behind instant-classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up was founded by George Lucas in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of the Computer Division at Lucasfilm. Though the GG was acquired and renamed by Steve Jobs in 1986, Pixar paid tribute to its heritage in Toy Story 2 when Emperor Zurg reveals to Buzz Lightyear that he's his father. Sound familiar?
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Creation of the parody industry
Okay, the movie parody existed before Star Wars with films like What's Up Tiger Lily? and, well, the Mel Brooks canon poking fun at overripe genres. But franchise-specific parodies really took off only after Star Wars, led by Brooks' Spaceballs--for better or worse. On a brighter note, Star Wars has inspired geeky hilarity on the small screen from 30 Rock to Robot Chicken.
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The Chewbacca Defense
Perhaps the most ingenious reference to that Galaxy Far, Far Away occurred in the season 2 South Park episode ''Chef Aid,'' in which Chef is sued by a record label (represented by Johnny Cochran) for harassment after he insists upon being credited for an Alanis Morissette song he wrote. Cochran unveils his Chewbacca defense in court, asking why a Wookiee from Kashyyyk would live on Endor. No relevance to the case, you say? Precisely! It's a perfect send-up of the derailment tactics Cochran used during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
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A Real Jedi Order?
In the 2001 U.K. census, 390,000 Brits listed their religion as ''Jedi.'' The Force is strong, huh? Actually, most of those citing kinship with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi were in fact protesting the very inclusion of a question about religion on the census form. Still, ''Jediism'' as a legitimate New Age religion does exist but was deliberately excluded from protection by the U.K.'s Racial and Religious Hatred Act, leaving the door open to a possible Order 66.
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The CNN Hologram
Sadly, we still don't have lightsabers. Or floating cars. Or Mr. Chips-accented protocol droids. And the space program isn't going to be making the jump to light speed anytime soon. But we did get will.i.am as a hologram on CNN during their 2008 election coverage. Yay?
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The Force is With Gaga
It really shouldn't surprise anyone that Lady Gaga is a Star Wars fan. After all, she could easily exchange outfits with Queen Amidala and nobody would be the wiser. But Padawan Monsters rejoiced when they saw she included FEX-M3, a poison used by Boba Fett in the novel Star Wars: Legacy of the Force?Bloodlines, in her ''Telephone'' video's toxic sandwich recipe, along with poisons from Dune and Command & Conquer. Also, the giant anglerfish that ate her during her Monster Ball concerts may in fact be one of Phantom Menace's Opee sea creatures.