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The influence and Cultural significance of Star Wars?

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Okay, so how influential and culturally significant do you think Star Wars is? I know it gets referenced a lot in Pop Culture and it has a couple of iconic characters, like Darth Vader and Yoda. However, I've seen people who argue that Star Wars is more influential and culturally significant then Classical Mythology, the Bible, and the Walt Disney Company. What will be Star Wars' legacy, after George Lucas passes away?

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Need I say more? ;)

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Probably a yearly convention, some increasingly tattered and damaged version of the TFN message board people, toy lightsabers next to the Nerf football and a Jeopardy question. It's too screwed up and alienating now.

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I think the general trend of the ABILITY of popular art to be influential in the long term is declining.  In a barely literate European society, classical mythology and the Bible were the only things you could count on your audience knowing about if you wanted to use some stock character or allegory within your own tale.  They ruled the cultural influence roost for thousands of years and nothing will ever match that from a longevity perspective.

Now not only is everyone literate, but literacy is, from a cultural perspective, increasingly unnecessary.  Everyone has access to everything, and cultural works are now being targeted to microdemographics instead of even trying to appeal to everyone.  Star Wars was before that last bit happened, but that last bit ensures there won't be another Star Wars.  Or Beatles.  In fact, I'd say Star Wars ranks pretty evenly with the Beatles.

The difference being, I doubt the Beatles would be nearly as popular today if people born in the 1980's and later could only listen to Wings and Plastic Ono Band, so long term, the cultural influence of Star Wars may decline faster than the Beatles.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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SilverWook said:

Need I say more? ;)?

Awesome. Is the other one just a random animal? And please say more.

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It not as culturally significant as classical mythology or the Bible or Shakespeare yet because it has yet to prove it's longevity of influence.

The real test would be if people still quote from it without knowing the source material in 200 years time.

Many words and turns of phrase in English come direct from Shakespearian or Biblical language, many tropes in fiction and metaphors in daily life come from Classical myth.

Star Wars is still relatively current.

Dickens is probably the next font of cultural interest to be appraised and some would argue that it's too soon for that.

It may fade a little over time to something like the still considerable influence of Disney's Snow White but that like the original Star Wars films is an important piece of 20th Century art.

As to wether it will remain a vibrant cultural touchstone only future generations can tell us (hopefully they will have the technology to do that by then).

I do hope it won't form a religion though.

The Star Wars Wars would be a genuinely pathetic tragedy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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CatBus said:

In fact, I'd say Star Wars ranks pretty evenly with the Beatles.

 

Many people have said over the years that Star Wars was cinema's beatlemania.  as a matter of fact, when I asked my dad how big and immersive the beatles were, he said only star wars reminded him.

If you make a top ten list of the most recognizable film characters - star wars has 4 or 5 of them.  No matter what has happened its still the most storied saga in movie history.

this is why its heartbreaking when I see a star wars fan under the age of 31 - to miss something so special (except for maybe the eve of TPM and flashes of 1997).

let me put it this way - there is a very good reason lucas was able to get away with the crap he did during the PT. 

for a long time - star trek was the cult favorite and star wars was the cultural phenomenon that captured the imagination of an entire generation.  now - star wars is rapidly evolving into a bigger cult than star trek ever was - a cult of personality.  which is exactly how lucas wants it.

click here if lack of OOT got you down

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I think one of the main things is that Star Wars came out at a time when there was not the hyper-saturated media of today; there were few blockbusters and no contemporary mythological things, and nothing that was truely "universal" at the time in that everyone could connect to it regardless of age or gender or whathaveyou. Today we have Harry Potter, which is the closest that has probably come to matching Star Wars in that respect, but it's also lost in the sea of media: there's a million other blockbusters, like Batman and Lord of the Rings and the continuing Star Wars spinoffs (prequels included), plus cable television with a devoted channel for every genre and niche, not to mention VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and torrents making every single film ever made available, in high definition much of the time, plus Youtube, Facebook, and the internet clammoring for attention. Plus, video games are huge, and have replaced a lot of traditional media like film and television to a degree--there were games in 1977, but no standout titles other than maybe stuff like Pong and Space Invaders (did this come out after SW? I know it was around in 1977), but you didn't have them in your home for the most part.

So, Star Wars really is the first and last of its kind. It's hard to say if The Matrix and Harry Potter will be remembered in 60 years from now, other than aging original-generation fans and maybe classic literature/cinema fans, just because these types of blockbusters have become rather disposable today, and this will only increase in the future as more media options become available and the market continues to fragment. Star Wars didn't have that. Star Wars didn't even have multiplexes to contend with--your town had one theatre, with one screen, and what was playing was Star Wars. So everyone saw it, and it was everywhere, in magazines and the news and on SNL and such.

Consequently, Star Wars has become a lasting part of popular culture, even if increasingly fewer people will actually be watching the films. It's like Superman or Wizard of Oz--most people have never read a Superman comic, most people have never read the Oz books, and there are increasingly large amounts of people who have never seen any of the film or television adaptations of either franchises. But they still know the mythology. The know about Dorothy and Tin Man and Munchkins, they know about Superman's costume and Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and people likewise know all about Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and the Death Star and the Force.

Is it on the same level as the Bible or classical mythology? In the contemporary sense, probably yes. More people today have probably seen Star Wars than actually read all, or even a significant part of, the Bible, especially as young people are leaving the church at a record-setting pace. People know who Obi Wan Kenobi or R2D2 are, but unless they really know their Bible or go to sunday school they probably don't know a character/person like King Josiah. Harry Potter outsells the Bible today (no joke). But of course, that is just because western society has become increasingly less tied to religion and superstition, and this trend will only continue (unless you live in the so-called Bible Belt, in which case it's harder to predict if the current religious furver will last or decline in the near future, as it has tended to be cyclical there).

On a historical scale it would be absurd to argue any of this though, as was mentioned for a good thousand years the only thing that really tied Europe together from end to end was Christianity and the vestiges of classical religion spread through the influence of the former Roman Empire. It's pretty unlikely that many people will know about Star Wars in the year 3000, although I would say if people study early film like they do early literature (canterbury, etc), Star Wars would be a contender for somewhere at the top of that list but I imagine that would be more for historical buffs and academics, the way Canterbury largely is today.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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walking_carpet said:

CatBus said:

In fact, I'd say Star Wars ranks pretty evenly with the Beatles.

 

Many people have said over the years that Star Wars was cinema's beatlemania.  as a matter of fact, when I asked my dad how big and immersive the beatles were, he said only star wars reminded him.

If you make a top ten list of the most recognizable film characters - star wars has 4 or 5 of them.  No matter what has happened its still the most storied saga in movie history.

this is why its heartbreaking when I see a star wars fan under the age of 31 - to miss something so special (except for maybe the eve of TPM and flashes of 1997).

let me put it this way - there is a very good reason lucas was able to get away with the crap he did during the PT. 

for a long time - star trek was the cult favorite and star wars was the cultural phenomenon that captured the imagination of an entire generation.  now - star wars is rapidly evolving into a bigger cult than star trek ever was - a cult of personality.  which is exactly how lucas wants it.

4 or 5 of them? That's to much. At least 1 (Darth Vader). Or maybe 2 (Yoda). But 4 or 5? No.

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zombie84 said:

I think one of the main things is that Star Wars came out at a time when there was not the hyper-saturated media of today; there were few blockbusters and no contemporary mythological things, and nothing that was truely "universal" at the time in that everyone could connect to it regardless of age or gender or whathaveyou. Today we have Harry Potter, which is the closest that has probably come to matching Star Wars in that respect, but it's also lost in the sea of media: there's a million other blockbusters, like Batman and Lord of the Rings and the continuing Star Wars spinoffs (prequels included), plus cable television with a devoted channel for every genre and niche, not to mention VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and torrents making every single film ever made available, in high definition much of the time, plus Youtube, Facebook, and the internet clammoring for attention. Plus, video games are huge, and have replaced a lot of traditional media like film and television to a degree--there were games in 1977, but no standout titles other than maybe stuff like Pong and Space Invaders (did this come out after SW? I know it was around in 1977), but you didn't have them in your home for the most part.

So, Star Wars really is the first and last of its kind. It's hard to say if The Matrix and Harry Potter will be remembered in 60 years from now, other than aging original-generation fans and maybe classic literature/cinema fans, just because these types of blockbusters have become rather disposable today, and this will only increase in the future as more media options become available and the market continues to fragment. Star Wars didn't have that. Star Wars didn't even have multiplexes to contend with--your town had one theatre, with one screen, and what was playing was Star Wars. So everyone saw it, and it was everywhere, in magazines and the news and on SNL and such.

Consequently, Star Wars has become a lasting part of popular culture, even if increasingly fewer people will actually be watching the films. It's like Superman or Wizard of Oz--most people have never read a Superman comic, most people have never read the Oz books, and there are increasingly large amounts of people who have never seen any of the film or television adaptations of either franchises. But they still know the mythology. The know about Dorothy and Tin Man and Munchkins, they know about Superman's costume and Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and people likewise know all about Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and the Death Star and the Force.

Is it on the same level as the Bible or classical mythology? In the contemporary sense, probably yes. More people today have probably seen Star Wars than actually read all, or even a significant part of, the Bible, especially as young people are leaving tIhe church at a record-setting pace. People know who Obi Wan Kenobi or R2D2 are, but unless they really know their Bible or go to sunday school they probably don't know a character/person like King Josiah. Harry Potter outsells the Bible today (no joke). But of course, that is just because western society has become increasingly less tied to religion and superstition, and this trend will only continue (unless you live in the so-called Bible Belt, in which case it's harder to predict if the current religious furver will last or decline in the near future, as it has tended to be cyclical there).

On a historical scale it would be absurd to argue any of this though, as was mentioned for a good thousand years the only thing that really tied Europe together from end to end was Christianity and the vestiges of classical religion spread through the influence of the former Roman Empire. It's pretty unlikely that many people will know about Star Wars in the year 3000, although I would say if people study early film like they do early literature (canterbury, etc), Star Wars would be a contender for somewhere at the top of that list but I imagine that would be more for historical buffs and academics, the way Canterbury largely is today.

That was an excellent answer. I really enjoyed reading it. However, I have to say that your comparison of King Josiah to R2D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi is flawed. Those two are main characters. I know the Bible pretty well, and even I barely remember King Josiah. A better comparison would be Moses. And I'm pretty sure the average person knows more about him, than R2D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In school you actually learn about these things. If your studying Medieval Europe, you'll probably deal with the influence of the Church. If your studying Ancient Greece or the Renaissance you'll probably deal with Classical Mythology's influence in visual arts and on words.

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Oh I'd go further because the characters are so distinct from each other.

You stick a pair of thick head phones on a woman and she's Princess Leia even though she only had that hairstyle on in one film and then not for the entire duration of that one film.

In that form she is recognisable even in silhouette, if you went to the added expense of a metal bikini once again almost anyone would get the reference and probably know at least the name.

R2D2 and C3PO are also instantly recognisable.

In fact most of the characters in the first film are embedded culturally.

Each film of the original trilogy added at least one on top of that.

Yoda, Boba Fett, Jabba (who's name has practically become a byword for corpulence).

I think the only one from the PT which has the same degree of instant recognition is Jar-Jar (probably not for the best of reasons).

People who haven't seen a prequel trilogy film would probably recognise him and even know the name.

It's not just the characters, most people would recognise the giant wedge of a stardestroyer as being from Star Wars without knowing what the ship is called.

If you drew a circle with a line through it with an ellipse over to one side in the upper semicircle it's the Death Star. 

I imagine by Canterbury Zombie meant to say Chaucer or The Canterbury Tales.

Star Wars is more like Malory in the sense that Lucas distilled lots of other tales and influences into a compendium addition.

The names are his but the archetypes and some of the key visual influences are from all over the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Oh I'd go further because the characters are so distinct from each other.

You stick a pair of thick head phones on a woman and she's Princess Leia even though she only had that hairstyle on in one film and then not for the entire duration of that one film.

In that form she is recognisable even in silhouette, if you went to the added expense of a metal bikini once again almost anyone would get the reference and probably know at least the name.

R2D2 and C3PO are also instantly recognisable.

In fact most of the characters in the first film are embedded culturally.

Each film of the original trilogy added at least one on top of that.

Yoda, Boba Fett, Jabba (who's name has practically become a byword for corpulence).

I think the only one from the PT which has the same degree of instant recognition is Jar-Jar (probably not for the best of reasons).

People who haven't seen a prequel trilogy film would probably recognise him and even know the name. 

I imagine by Canterbury Zombie meant to say Chaucer or The Canterbury Tales.

Star Wars is more like Malory in the sense that Lucas distilled lots of other tales and influences into a compendium addition.

The names are his but the archetypes and some of the key visual influences are from all over the place.

^Are you sure about that? Maybe in some places. But it's not like every characters become a global icon. There are probably only two. Darth Vader and Yoda. And I haven't really heard anyone using Jabba as a byword for corpulence. But maybe I'm wrong about that.

Most of these characters are only somewhat recognizable at this point. There are very few Star Wars characters that have avoided this decline.

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walking_carpet said:

...star wars is rapidly evolving into a bigger cult than star trek ever was

I strongly disagree with that view.  Star Wars may be more in the news currently, and very recognized pop-culturally, but to the global populace, Star Trek is much more engrained into our psyche. Trek is reality-based and science-based.  It's also the idealistic goal of millions.  Star Wars is just a space serial, largely directed at children.  Particularly so, post-1980.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

"Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?”

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unitl ROTJ, r2d2 and c3p0 were just as iconic as vader.   The PT hurt the droids, especially 3PO.  Maybe its a stretch but I still say 4.  if this was 1980, it would have been 8 ;) It was a modern day Wizard of Oz.

the great thing about yoda was you had this sequel to a film that was already one for the ages with all kinds of famous characters and he becomes just as famous and carries a good part of ESB.

and it was Jabba - not palpatine - that became another classic character.

boba fett was big at the time but I maintain that he didn't become what he is now until the early 1990s.

 

click here if lack of OOT got you down

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^That still seems like a huge stretch though? Are we counting every character that's appeared in a movie or just the characters that started in movies?

Characters that should be on the list that started in movies...

Darth Vader

Yoda

Indiana Jones

ET

Buzz Lightyear (possibly)

Don Vito Corleone

Scarface

Frankenstein (I know it was from a book first, but it's very different)

Wolfman

Jason Vorhees

Freddy Kreuger

There are more...

And if we're counting characters that didn't start in movies, Yoda would probably be pushed off the list.

@Bingowings Funny. Heh.

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I'm sorry Anchorhead but I have to disagree there.

Star Trek and Star Wars are probably head to head but as far as characters go, most people could probably recognise the main characters of the original show to varying degrees, the Enterprise, a TNG Klingon, Picard and that's it (maybe a Borg if they are young enough).

But most people wouldn't remember what Planet Vulcan looks like (even the matte artists on TMP forgot that one) they wouldn't know a Romulan War Bird from A Klingon Bird Of Prey.

They wouldn't know what an Andorian looks like and while they may recognise the sound of a transporter beam or the look of an OS phaser pistol, they probably wouldn't know who went out with who, what Kirk's son's name was, what Spock's mother's name was.

Most people would be able to describe Tatooine, or Endor or Hoth, give them a torch and they will make a lightsaber noise.

They know Vader is Luke's dad and Leia is Luke's sister. They could probably identify a stardestroyer, a Death Star, The Falcon. the sound of a TIE Fighter (even if they didn't know what it was called).

They know what the Emperor looks like and what he sounds like (just look at the Pope Benedict parodies of him as Palpatine).

They could describe an Ewok even though they are never called that in the film they feature in.

Star Wars is bigger than Trek it's everywhere like it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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One thing that I think is worth noting is that - though I like the PT (and love ROTS) that doesn't have the simple metaphorical or idiom stock value that the OT had, not even close.

-Darth Vader as shorthand for scary, all-powerful dude

-The Force as shorthand for religion/spirituality/wisdom

-Yoda/Obi-Wan as shorthand for wise old man

-Death Star as shorthand for weapon of the power structure


Even less common things, like Tattooine being cited as a backwater place from time to time. 


In this sense, I think the OT is much like the Bible or popular folklore - like Robin Hood being shorthand for guy who steals from the rich to give to the poor.  But the PT was just too complex and/or plain ol' messy (both in plot and characterization).  As LFL has increasingly doubled-down on the PT direction of things - by making the TCW cartoon, customizing the OT to fit the PT in the BluRays, but not the other way around, releasing TPM 3D, etc. - they're really either trying to prop up their weak spot or else they just don't know what part of the movies truly resonate with people.

So I think that, because of their true comparison to the Bible and popular folklore, the OT will live on as long as anything in our culture.  But I don't expect that people will often be citing, say, Nute Gunray as the shorthand for a corrupted, myopic businessman.

So it's all limited to the OT.

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Lee-Sensei said:

^That still seems like a huge stretch though? Are we counting every character that's appeared in a movie or just the characters that started in movies?

Characters that should be on the list that started in movies...

Darth Vader

Yoda

Indiana Jones

ET

Buzz Lightyear (possibly)

Don Vito Corleone

Scarface

Frankenstein (I know it was from a book first, but it's very different)

Wolfman

Jason Vorhees

Freddy Kreuger

There are more...

And if we're counting characters that didn't start in movies, Yoda would probably be pushed off the list.

@Bingowings Funny. Heh.

Most people wouldn't know Vito's name but would recognise him as being in The Godfather, hardly anyone would recognise either version of Scarface, Jason would probably be "that horror film guy" and the majority of people wouldn't know which film he was in or that he didn't look like that at all in the first two.

And where was Yoda before he was in a film???

It may be that people would more likely recognise the Alien from Alien than The Wolfman (they might just think he was a werewolf)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Lee-Sensei said:

^That still seems like a huge stretch though? Are we counting every character that's appeared in a movie or just the characters that started in movies?

Characters that should be on the list that started in movies...

Darth Vader

Yoda

Indiana Jones

ET

Buzz Lightyear (possibly)

Don Vito Corleone

Scarface

Frankenstein (I know it was from a book first, but it's very different)

Wolfman

Jason Vorhees

Freddy Kreuger

There are more...

And if we're counting characters that didn't start in movies, Yoda would probably be pushed off the list.

@Bingowings Funny. Heh.

Most people wouldn't know Vito's name but would recognise him as being in The Godfather, hardly anyone would recognise either version of Scarface, Jason would probably be "that horror film guy" and the majority of people wouldn't know which film he was in or that he didn't look like that at all in the first two.

And where was Yoda before he was in a film???

It may be that people would more likely recognise the Alien from Alien than The Wolfman (they might just think he was a werewolf)

No, they probably wouldn't remember him by name. They'd recognize his image though. Probably the same with Scarface. Jason wouldn't just be 'that horror film guy' though. That I'm sure of. Both Freddy and Jason are iconic. Definitely.

I never said Yoda was anywhere before films. What are you asking me?

Your probably right about the Wolfman though.

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Yeah but they would remember most of the Star Wars characters by name and by some vague notion of what they did (unlike the PT characters because they aren't anywhere near as clearly defined other than Jar-Jar).

I must have misunderstood this line of your text:

And if we're counting characters that didn't start in movies, Yoda would probably be pushed off the list.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Yes I'm certain of that.

It's a common enough comparison to be used in political satire.

Here in the UK Doctor Who has the same impact.

In fact most of the commonwealth would recognise a Dalek and that's half a century old.

The Art of Star Wars book reproduces several of the earliest SW inspired political cartoons from the Carter era. My personal favorite depicts a meeting between U.S. and Soviet diplomats, where the Russians state their intent not to use space for military purposes. The Americans look doubtful and terrified, as Vader is seated with the Russians.

And of course, Reagan got more than a few miles out of Star Wars, much to Lucas' dismay. The Gipper was alternately portrayed as either Obi Wan, Luke, Vader, or The Emperor over the course of his presidency.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Bingowings said:

I'm sorry Anchorhead but I have to disagree there.

Star Trek and Star Wars are probably head to head but as far as characters go, most people could probably recognise the main characters of the original show to varying degrees, the Enterprise, a TNG Klingon, Picard and that's it (maybe a Borg if they are young enough).

But most people wouldn't remember what Planet Vulcan looks like (even the matte artists on TMP forgot that one) they wouldn't know a Romulan War Bird from A Klingon Bird Of Prey.

They wouldn't know what an Andorian looks like and while they may recognise the sound of a transporter beam or the look of an OS phaser pistol, they probably wouldn't know who went out with who, what Kirk's son's name was, what Spock's mother's name was.

Most people would be able to describe Tatooine, or Endor or Hoth, give them a torch and they will make a lightsaber noise.

They know Vader is Luke's dad and Leia is Luke's sister. They could probably identify a stardestroyer, a Death Star, The Falcon. the sound of a TIE Fighter (even if they didn't know what it was called).

They know what the Emperor looks like and what he sounds like (just look at the Pope Benedict parodies of him as Palpatine).

They could describe an Ewok even though they are never called that in the film they feature in.

Star Wars is bigger than Trek it's everywhere like it or not.

I have discovered over the years, that even non fans recognize the Gorn, as "that lizard guy who fought Kirk" though.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Lee-Sensei said:

SilverWook said:

Need I say more? ;)?

Awesome. Is the other one just a random animal? And please say more.

IIRC, it's a raccoon.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Bingowings said:

Yeah but they would remember most of the Star Wars characters by name and by some vague notion of what they did (unlike the PT characters because they aren't anywhere near as clearly defined other than Jar-Jar).

I must have misunderstood this line of your text:

And if we're counting characters that didn't start in movies, Yoda would probably be pushed off the list.

That part of my text was exactly what I said. Mickey Mouse has been in movies. Superman has been in movies. Batman has been in movies. Donald Duck has been in movies. Spider-Man, Daffy Duck, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes etc..