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Fiorina, Carson hope the force is with them

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Republicans Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are both expected to announce presidential bids on Monday, a date that has particular significance to fans of Star Wars.

{mosads}May the Fourth has been appropriated by Star Wars fans because of the “may the force be with you,” Jedi farewell and tagline from the popular movies. Each year on May 4, fans of the movie use the date to celebrate all things Star Wars.

Typically May 4th passes unremarked by all but the most devoted lovers of George Lucas’s science-fiction franchise, but this “Star Wars Day” is the last one before the December premiere of “The Force Awakens,” the sequel to 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”

Interest in the new film is strong, with its trailer getting a record-setting 88 million online views in its first 24 hours, according to Star Wars’ Facebook page. Since going live on April 12, by contrast, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton’s announcement video has been watched 4.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pop culture historian and journalist Patrick Reed says the neurosurgeon Carson and former HP CEO Fiorina could benefit from heightened media attention paid across the board Monday in anticipation of a new “Force Awakens” preview or announcement.

“It could actually be better because there will be more nerds reading the newspaper. A fan website might have an ad or a sidebar on Carly,” he says.

Reed says the first use of “May the Fourth” was a half-page ad in The London Evening News 36 years ago congratulating the new British prime minister, elected on that date.

“Its first political use was for Margaret Thatcher, when she came to power on May 4, 1979. So it was initially a conservative slogan, playing off of Star Wars, taking it and running with it,” he says.

Official Star Wars website blogger Bryan Young says all 2016 contenders should take in the series’ tone for greater success at the polls. Its overarching theme of hope amid adversity, he argues, is one that resonates with Americans.

“Whether our candidates are left, right, or center, I think Star Wars fans are such that they would want a positive take on things,” Young says.

“A candidate that taps into that optimism in any party would be able to win over win over Star Wars fans, I think,” he says. “If Star Wars has taught us anything, it is to hope and believe.”

Young adds that successfully winning over fans depends on the pop culture awareness of the candidate. Truly understanding the franchise’s appeal, he says, separates Padawans from Jedi masters.

“I mean, for some, it might seem as pandering and it would really turn off a lot of voters,” he says. “I think it depends on the politician and the savviness of their political campaign.”

The blogger cites President Obama as a politician with the likely “nerd cred” necessary for mentioning Darth Vader or Death Stars.

Carson and Fiorina, for their part, remain mum on whether the Force was strong with them. Both campaigns declined to comment on the timing of their potential campaign announcements.

Eric Geller, a writer for Star Wars fan site, says the film franchise could prove a valuable frame of reference for candidates given the buzz around this year’s upcoming “Episode VII.” The series’ broad appeal, he says, could reach a wide segment of possible voters.

“George Lucas based it on the timeless story of the hero’s journey, and for that reason, everything that has spilled out from his first movie has resonated with the most fundamental, widely-shared principles and beliefs of humankind: redemption, courage, family and so on,” he says.

Fiorina and Carson are both positioning themselves as outsider candidates — neither has ever held elected office — and could find allegory with a Rebel Alliance seeking to oust what the GOP views as Obama’s “evil empire.” They might, however, eschew pop-culture references as they seek to establish themselves as legitimate contenders.

Wesley Dodgens, who designs educational curriculums based on the films, says all politicians could find parallels between Star Wars and virtuous public service.

“Although the Jedi had their own flaws, I think a good president should follow their values of being stewards and servants of the people by always trying to do what is in the best interest of the people he or she serves,” Dodgens says.

“Many fans would value a candidate who displays fairness, justice, and equality while demonstrating wisdom and patience,” Dodgens adds. “These are qualities that can be found in many of the protagonists of Star Wars.”

Still, Carson and Fiorina might have chosen a date rather crammed with Lucas-love. Fan events are planned across the country, and any major announcements on the new film will take up headline space.

“We are an entertainment-driven media at this point,” Reed says. “Star Wars gets a fan base that second-tier political candidates just don’t.”


Tags Ben Carson Carly Fiorina Star Wars
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