Here’s a bonus bit of analysis from last week’s Casual Fridays study. In addition to asking respondents how familiar they were with our selection of stories, we also asked them to describe some detail of the story that was independently verifiable, like how the story ended.
The reason we did this was to double-check the self-reported responses. If everyone had said they were familiar with the Fox and the Grapes fable, but then half of the respondents got the ending wrong, we would have had a reason to discount the self-reported responses. As it turned out, for most of the stories, people who said they were familiar with the stories got the question about the story’s detail right. For The Fox and the Grapes, the correlation between getting the ending right and familiarity with the story was a very strong r = .77.
The exception to this rule was Star Wars. We asked if respondents knew how it ended, and while 78 percent of respondents said they knew the ending, there was a tremendous range of descriptions of the story’s end. Here’s a typical example: “Death Star explodes, cheesy ceremony.”
In 1977 when the first Star Wars movie came out, there was no question that this would be the right answer. Since I was around at the time and waited in line (repeatedly) to see it, I’ll always think of this as the real Star Wars. To me, the others are just sequels, and I ignore that movie’s subsequent renaming to “Episode IV: A New Hope.”
But many others see the whole series as Star Wars. Therefore the ending is the end of the final movie in the series, “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” Here’s a typical response: “Darth Vader kills the emperor and dies. Luke chills out with some ewoks and ghost Yoda.”
So was there some identifying factor that determined whether respondents described the end of Episode IV or Episode VI? As the headline of this post suggests, there was. I read through all 772 responses describing the ending, and tracked their responses by age. If they said something like “Death star explodes” or “Big ceremony” I coded that as Episode IV.
If they mentioned ewoks, the Emperor, or Darth Vader dying I coded that as Episode VI. Everything else got lumped into a single category because there was a lot variation in the response. Here are the the results.
As you can see, people in my age group (40-49) are significantly more likely than any other age grouping to describe the ending of Episode IV as the end of Star Wars. People age 30-39 and 50-59 also described the Episode IV ending more often than the Episode VI ending (remember, some respondents didn’t know the ending at all). But all the other age groups described the Episode IV ending less often than some other ending (including endings to other episodes, like “Luke, I’m your father” and incorrect endings like “darth vader is defeated”). One plausible explanation of all this is that if you were a child or young adult when the movies first came out, you remember that the original movie was called Star Wars. If you’re now an older adult, you might have only watched the movie with children or grandchildren (after the entire series was released as Star Wars). And of course people younger than 30 weren’t around when Star Wars first came out, so they may only know it as a series of movies called Star Wars.
There were quite a few amusing responses to the “How does Star Wars end” question. Here’s a selection:
- Cheering all around the galaxy that they stuck jar jar in for no reason
- “Luke, I am your father.” (That’s at the end, right? I can never keep track.)
- Darth Vader kills the Emperor and dies, the others live somewhat happily ever after
- Luke sees Vader in all his Jedi-hologram glory and realizes his father is no longer a part of the Dark Side
- LUKE KILLS VADER
- death star#2 goes boom, darth vader goes boom too, and everyone is all happy
- Han Solo blows up the Deathstar (Okay maybe it was Luke but Han is better).
- Luke and Leia are brother and sister. Gross!
- Primitive Ewoks bring down Fascist Galactic Empire. Cuddly improbability.
- Jedi save the galaxy! Everybody dances around on Endor.
- When George Lucas decides he has earned enough money
- The good guys win, luke i am your father blah blah blah
- vader is luke’s father! zomg!
- Luke blows up the death star and R2 gets waxed.
- Some big space thing gets blown up.
- ewok celebration! (6) Or luke being born… (3)
- Luke kissed his sister
- lucas sells his soul by making 3 terrible prequels
- But too many “star war’s” to parse this question
- Amateur fighter pilot ignores orders, listens to the voices in his head and slaughters thousands
- Death Star go boom! Leia impersonates Triumph of the Will.
- luke, han, leia and chewbacca get medals
- Luke, Han, Chewy receive medals
- Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal
- Everybody lives happily ever after except the ones who die
- It does not end!