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Darth Vader (David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones) offers Luke Skywalker to join the Dark Side in

On May 21, 1980, the eagerly awaited follow-up to the smash hit phenomenon, “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” premiered nationwide across America. 40 years later, Nick and Alex look into one of the all-time greatest sequels and discuss why it holds up for so many.

History is often complicated by nostalgia. The prevalence of meme culture within online discourse accentuates the inextricable relationship between the two, particularly when enough time has passed for a media text to resurge in popularity. Take, as two examples, a double bill of films released at the dawn of the millennium: The Emperor’s New Groove and The Road to El Dorado. Celebrating their twentieth anniversaries, these films from Disney and DreamWorks, respectively, emerged in a landscape where mainstream American animated films faced a crisis of identity following the end of the Disney Renaissance era. Informed by South and Latin American aesthetics, both films heralded the future more clearly than their box office performances might indicate by capturing a past rooted less in Mesoamerican or Incan mythology than the comedy of Looney Tunes and the Hope/Crosby Road To… movies. Indeed, it is the eschewing of both cultural and historical verisimilitude which makes the transfiguration of these films into reaction gifs seem like a foregone conclusion.

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