The Trials and Tribulations of Luke Skywalker

How The Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm Have Failed to Confront Joseph Campbell’s Troublesome Legacy




Joseph Campbell, comparative religion, conspirituality, Lucasfilm, monomyth, Star Wars


The present contribution offers some critical reflections on the influence of Comparative Religion scholar Joseph Campbell’s (1904- 1987) monomyth, or hero’s journey, on George Lucas’ Star Wars space opera. Like other celebrated 20th-century scholars of religion, after his death Campbell was revealed as an ultraconservative racist intellectual. However, Campbell had already been turned into a liberal icon thanks to Lucas’ own sponsorship and active support at least since 1983. After a recap of the recent history of Lucasfilm Ltd. and a brief discussion about the intersection of canon, fandom, and authority in Star Wars, the present article provides a preliminary answer to this puzzling relationship by contextualising Lucas’ own fascination with Campbell’s work within the larger post-war percolation of camouflaged radical-right ideas and authors, especially religious scholars, through Western democratic societies. The article contends that Lucas and new Lucasfilm owner The Walt Disney Co. have so far failed to confront Campbell’s problematic legacy and examines three main options to tackle this moral issue.

Author Biography

Leonardo Ambasciano, Journal of Cognitive Historiography

Leonardo Ambasciano earned his Ph.D. in Historical Studies at the University of Turin, Italy, in 2014, with a cognitive and evolutionary analysis of the ancient Roman female cult of Bona Dea. In 2016, he was Visiting Lecturer in Religious Studies at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.
Since 2014, he has been involved in the Editorial Board of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography, where he started as Editorial Assistant. He currently serves as Managing Editor and keeps working at the crossroad between history, social sciences, and the natural sciences.
Leonardo is the author of An Unnatural History of Religion: Academia, Post-Truth, and the Quest for Scientific Knowledge (Bloomsbury, 2019), and of various articles, book reviews, and chapters, including “History as a Canceled Problem? Hilbert’s List, du Bois-Reymond’s Enigmas, and the Scientific Study of Religion”, co-authored with T. J. Coleman, III and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion 87(2): 366-400.


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How to Cite

Ambasciano, L. (2021). The Trials and Tribulations of Luke Skywalker: How The Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm Have Failed to Confront Joseph Campbell’s Troublesome Legacy. Implicit Religion, 23(3), 251–276.