What if we told you that you could gain college credit just by watching all nine of the Star Wars films? You might call us deluded and crazy. Why, you may even go so far as to call us half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herders, but that wouldn't make the reality any less true for the college students at the University of Akron who have registered for The Films of Star Wars summer course. The class was created and is taught by associate Professor Juan E. Contreras, M.A. who uses George Lucas' massive mythos to delve into deeper, real-world topics.
"The summer course is designed to explore different aspects of filmmaking, the industry, and storytelling," he told SYFY WIRE over email. "We explore Star Wars as a modern myth that reflects our cultural values and beliefs, and how storytellers use history, religion, and politics as tools for storytelling. We also look at the portrayal of women and minorities in films and in Star Wars. Overall, it’s an interesting class that approaches many topics in film and storytelling, all through the lens of Star Wars."
As part of the course, students are required to watch the nine installments in the franchise so far over the course of the semester: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and The Last Jedi. Now that's what we call homework!
“I think it’s important to understand the modern myths in our culture that carry our values forward," he said in a statement on the university's website. "Stories are a reflection of our culture, our concerns, our struggles, our triumphs, and our dreams. A class like this can help students appreciate that, and learn some insights that can help them become more effective storytellers."
Contreras also explores the oppressiveness of totalitarian regimes in the galaxy far, far away.
“Traditionally, oppressive regimes have attempted to force minority groups into submission, and those groups become second-class citizens," he said in the same statement. "In The Last Jedi, you see The First Order, much like the Empire, mainly led by white males, while the Rebellion has female leadership, and even an alien admiral. Students will explore these portrayals of women and minorities, and analyze their relevance in the world today.”
Contreras has been teaching the class since the summer of 2016. With Solo: A Star Wars Story and Episode IX on the horizon, we wonder if the required number of movies to watch will be bumped up to 11 in future versions of the class.