The Force is strong with this one. Oh, come on, you knew that one was coming.
Anthropologist and historian Matthew Wilhelm Kapell has taken an academic look at the work of Modesto native son George Lucas and his "Star Wars" saga in "Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, and Critics." Released in 2006, the book was co-edited by Kapell and John Shelton Lawrence and includes the work of several contributors who take a critical look at Lucas' work and the fictional universe he created.
Kapell will have a book signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Modesto Borders on Sisk Road. The editor and author will speak about Lucas' impact on popular culture and his sci-fi saga.
Kapell, a doctoral student at Wayne State University in Michigan, examines the mythology of "Star Wars." His contributors tackle everything from war, foreign policy, gender roles, race, spirituality and religion, toy play and adult collecting, creative fandom, special effects.
"Much of my work is organized around contemporary myth," he said. "The stories we tell help us explain how we interact with each other and the world. To me, in a broad sense, film is myth. When I approach a project I start with three huge variables: class, gender and race. ("Star Wars") offers a framework for understanding contemporary culture."
But don't expect the book to be a glowing tribute to Lucas and the franchise. Kapell takes hard looks at the "Star Wars" mythology. A chapter, "Eugenics, Racism, and the Jedi Gene Pool," is about the inherent genetic makeup of both the good and bad guys in the saga.
"The good guys are elites and bad guys are elites, which I find very dangerous. Lucas is very good at capturing mythological structures and putting them in his stories. But sometimes he doesn't do it very well," he said.
Because of that critical take on "Star Wars," he said some fans have been turned off by his work.
"I think there are those who, because of the fact that I am critical, think I've taken the dark-side approach," he said. "But I hope that ... I can convince them that you don't have to be evil by being critical, and there are quite a few who understand that."
This isn't the first time Kapell has taken a critical eye to a pop culture darling. His first book, "Jacking in to The Matrix Franchise: Cultural Reception and Interpretation," examined "The Matrix" trilogy.
The author will return to Modesto on May 31 to be part of an "American Graffiti" tribute at the State Theatre for the 35th anniversary of Lucas' seminal film.
Despite his at-times critical analysis of Lucas' work, Kapell said he fondly remembers going to see the film six or seven times as a child. At his Modesto book signing, he plans to discuss mythology's place in popular culture and take questions from the audience.