May the 4th be with you: Fans come out for Star Wars Day

By Alana Schetzer
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 30, 2016
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On May 4, Kelly Wicks-Preshaw will go to work dressed in a slight variation of her usual uniform. Instead of an apron, which she wears to serve cakes and pies to customers in the cafe where she works, she will be dressed as the fearsome bounty hunter Bossk, from Star Wars.

Later that night, she will gather with her family and friends from her Star Wars club, the 501 TAG, and sit down to watch one of the films.

May 4 is International Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you – and is one of the biggest days on the ever-growing pop cultural calendar.

If Wookies and Jedis aren’t your thing, you can always dress up like a pirate for Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19), bring out your inner zombie for the annual Zombie Shuffle (late November), or celebrate Sesame Street Day (November 10).

Increasingly, it appears people are looking beyond religions and national history to come together, whether that be because of a mutual interest in a television show or to simply enjoy the camaraderie and atmosphere that comes with a celebratory gathering.

Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in social and political science at the University of Melbourne, says these 21st-century days of worship have similarities with religious days.

“It’s certainly a kind of devotion with worship to a set of fictional characters and associated rituals. Attendance at conventions and pop culture days also links people to others who share your interests and values, in turn providing a social function, which church once did,” she says.

“Pop cultural days give people a chance to fully immerse in their interest. It’s an opportunity for adults to dress up in costume – to be among other adults in costume – and not be mocked, maligned or institutionalised.”

Self-confessed Doctor Who tragic Benjamin McKenzie goes to conventions, screenings and fan days to express his appreciation for the cult British show.

“It has a pretty open-ended premise, so the Doctor and his companion can travel anywhere in space and time. Every episode could be set anywhere, at any time, and anything could happen. I really like its imagination and it’s been lots of different things over the years and it continues to change and evolve.”

McKenzie says that despite his love of the show and others, such as US show Firefly, it is the chance to meet and mingle with like-minded fans that he enjoys the most.

“Everyone’s so welcoming and friendly. I love the cosplaying and I love the effort that some people go to to dress up and they all look amazing,” he says.

“And just getting to meet everyone who’s passionate; I find it really heartening that so many people have this passion and I love meeting them. That’s the real reason I go.”

Many of these newly founded days of celebration come straight from television and movies, in which characters and events are celebrated.

On October 3, fans of Mean Girls dress entirely in pink and stay away from carbs; October 21 is the day Back to the Future fans lament the fact they don’t have hoverboards yet; and for those who find Christmas a little too Christian-focused, December 23 is Festivus, created on Seinfeld, for the rest of us. Devotees spend the day airing grievances and decorating an aluminum pole.

For fans of Parks and Recreation, October 13 is Treat Yo Self Day, also known as “the best day of the year”. It’s the annual day in which Donna and Tom treat themselves with clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas, and fine leather goods.

Wicks-Preshaw says being part of the 501 TAG has broadened her social circle and she has even gone on overseas trips with her fellow Star Wars fans.

“We’ve become very close to some people, we’ve gone to New Zealand together, and it’s wonderful to spend time with everyone from the club.”