What Star Wars and Building a LGBT*IQ Community Have in Common
Claudia Feiner draws an exciting analogy between the Star Wars hero saga and building a community. Claudia herself is the founder of Proud@Porsche, an inclusive LGBT*IQ community and shares helpful tips on how to found your own group.
A word of warning at the outset. My, possibly controversial, opinion is that there are only three true Star Wars films — and they were all made between 1977 and 1983. In fact, this post will only focus on just one of them, the 1977 movie, the first instalment of the original trilogy. But don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to have watched it to understand what this post is about.
To begin with, let me say that I founded the LGBT*IQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual and queer) community Proud@Porsche two years ago and that there are some really striking similarities to Star Wars.
So, without further ado, what do Star Wars and community building have in common? Surprisingly, the story of Star Wars and building an LGBT*IQ community work on the same principle — both follow the same pattern, a journey, so to speak, the heroic journey, as established by Joseph Campbell.
Campbell wrote many books about the influence of myths, studying ancient religions and peoples. He came to the conclusion that many of these stories and legends were similar. Basing his work on other studies, he showed that they shared the same patterns structures. In 1949, he published a book on the subject, which would later become a standard work of reference for writers and creative people: The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
George Lucas had already shredded two draft screenplays by 1977, until he came across this very book which would help him make his breakthrough.
The hero’s journey according to Joseph Campbell
The classic hero’s journey consists of twelve different stages, according to Campbell. Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of Star Wars, goes through all these stages. And let me reveal right away that you too will have to go through all of these stages if you want to found and build a community and keep it alive.
So, let’s take a closer look at Luke Skywalker’s journey and see what you can derive from it for your community work.
1. The ordinary world
We meet a person who lives a normal life before the adventure begins.
In the case of Star Wars, it is Luke Skywalker, a simple farmer’s son who lives on the planet Tatooine with his uncle and aunt.
In your case, it may simply be yourself, the way you go to work every day.
2. The call of adventure
Now it gets exciting! Our person is confronted with an event, a conflict, a problem or a challenge that initiates the adventure.
Luke becomes aware of Princess Leia’s call for help through R2-D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now the story begins to unfold. Kenobi takes Luke with him to Alderaan.
Your call to adventure was probably the realization that you wanted to build a community for a reason that was important to you. Otherwise, you would not be here. Sometimes we need a triggering moment in our lives. In my case, it was a conversation with a colleague before my time at Porsche. I was so shocked and touched by what she had told me that I decided never to work at a company again that does not fully embrace diversity.
3. The hero’s refusal
The hero actually doesn’t feel like going on an adventure at all, because he or she has fears and doubts or is simply insecure.
Luke also rejects Kenobi in the pub in Mos Eisley with the remark that he can’t leave his uncle and aunt.
When I started at Porsche, there was no LGBT*IQ community, which surprised me. Most likely you will find many reasons why it is not possible for you to create a queer community. It is even very human to feel overwhelmed by such a task and its challenges at first. How can you possibly do that, how can you make a difference in a huge organization or an old traditional company all by yourself? It seems impossible. This is the point where most people give up. I almost gave up myself, by the way.
4. Meeting the mentor
In Campbell, our hero now meets a mentor who gives advice, is wise, has information, or something to help him or her with their upcoming journey. But it could just as well be a relevant experience.
In our case, Luke comes back with Obi-Wan. He sees that the Empire has destroyed his home and murdered his foster parents.
I had a mentor, too. More specifically, it was a friend I talked to one night at a party and complained that the LGBT*IQ community was underrepresented. I was terribly upset about the lack of community. When she replied that I should start my own community and that I only need an email address for it, it was like scales falling from my eyes. Why hadn’t I thought of it myself? At that time, I was still working in the IT department at Porsche — getting an email address couldn’t be that difficult, could it?
5. Crossing the first threshold
Let’s return to Campbell. The hero or heroine now leaves the familiar world for the first time and crosses the threshold to adventure. So, it gets serious!
Obi-Wan and Luke pick up Han Solo and Chewbacca in Mos Eisley to free Princess Leia with them. They climb into the Millennium Falcon, Luke leaves his comfort zone, and the thrill begins.
This is a decisive step because here you are actually leaving your comfort zone for the first time.
The very next day I phoned the colleague responsible for email addresses and asked him to create a group mailbox “Proud@Porsche.de”. In our intranet, there is a digital bulletin board, and there I placed an advertisement for a community meeting, reserved a table at a small Italian restaurant and began to hope.
6. Challenges, allies and enemies
In this phase, our hero or heroine learns the “rules” of the new world. He or she passes tests, meets friends and encounters adversaries.
Luke is practising his Jedi arts. We learn he is no longer alone in his quest. His companions could hardly be more different, and therein lies their strength.
This is the phase in which you learn above all else. I was afraid to sit alone at a big table at the Italian restaurant that evening. So, I called some friends from the queer community beforehand to see if they wanted to join us. In the end, there were ten of us, half of us Porsche employees. I was overjoyed. We discussed how we could generate more attention to the community and came up with a plan. We agreed to design posters and hang them in a guerrilla action at the entrances to the buildings and the canteens.
7. Approach to the inmost cave, the most dangerous point
An initial plan is in place. It seems clear how to deal with the central conflict, but there are setbacks and our hero is forced to try a different approach and adapt his or her original ideas.
Our group of heroes from Star Wars is captured by the Star Destroyer, in which the princess is imprisoned. But eventually, they succeed in freeing the princess.
Full of excitement, we set about designing the posters and printed out dozens of copies. Each of us took them to the site and secretly hung them up on his own wall.
8. The decisive test: confrontation, overcoming the opponent
Unfortunately, the plan does not work out and the hero faces problems and conflicts. Not only that, but he also encounters even more obstacles that endanger the plan.
The escape with Princess Leia fails. Luke, Han and Leia get into a gigantic garbage compactor from which they can only escape at the very last second with the help of R2-D2 and C-3PO, barely escaping death.
After a few days, our poster campaign reaped initial reactions — not only positive ones. Questions and emails trickled into our email address. It became clear that we couldn’t do it on our own. We did not have the visibility and official support of the company that we needed. So, we turned to our colleagues in the Diversity Department, the social/addiction counselling service and the works council. A rather short scene in Star Wars can stretch over months in reality. It was a time when we had a lot of conversations with various people.
9. Reward and capturing the treasure
The hero survives the tortures and comes into possession of that which will help him to overcome the greatest challenge. This can be a certain item or new knowledge or expertise.
Obi-Wan sacrifices himself in a battle against Darth Vader and deactivates the tractor beam that holds the Millennium Falcon captive. The group of heroes can now escape. Luckily, Princess Leia knows the secret of how to destroy the empire’s most powerful weapon, the Death Star.
Somewhat less spectacular, but still groundbreaking, we continued: Together with our colleagues we found a way to institutionalize our community. Now we had the visibility and could offer an official contact point.
10. Return to the ordinary world
The hero sees light at the end of the tunnel, but there are some more tests and challenges to pass.
In the film, this is the part where our heroes barely manage to escape the Imperial TIE fighters and reach the rebels’ secret hideout. There they prepare the final battle against the Empire.
I would say this is the point that every community, no matter its nature, reaches. The first obstacles are overcome and something like everyday life creeps in. We have continuously grown during this time and have initiated the first joint projects together with colleagues from the works council and the diversity department. The “big goal”, participation in Christopher Street Day (CSD), was still a long way off, however.
11. Resurrection, renewal and transformation
We are reaching the climax of the story. The hero is now faced with the final test and must apply everything he has learned so far to end the conflict once and for all.
This is certainly one of the most popular scenes from Star Wars. The rebels set out to fight the Empire with Luke Skywalker at their side. Luke manages to destroy the Death Star and, with the help of Han Solo, Darth Vader is eliminated.
This is the part where all the hard work goes into the game and where you need all your allies to work together. Organizing a CSD is all about everyone working together. Only if everyone from your hero group is engaged and helps passionately, the financial means and the organization can be overcome. I was incredibly proud when we were able to announce our community’s participation in the CSD at the beginning of the year. This was only possible because there were so many people who now identify with the community and see it as their heart project.
12. Return with the elixir
The hero’s journey comes to an end now. The hero returns to his familiar world — together with something valuable from his journey, be it knowledge or actually an elixir.
It is also a happy end for our heroes, and I am deliberately using the plural here. Because it is no longer just Luke Skywalker — it has become a whole group of heroes. They celebrate the victory over the Empire and peace returns to the galaxy, at least until the sequel “The Empire Strikes Back”.
What happened with our big goal, the CSD for our Proud@Porsche Community? Well, it will probably be a little different than we thought because of the coronavirus. But that’s not what matters. The important thing was and is the common journey. It has enriched me and many other people with stories, adventures and experiences, and with friends. Above all, the world out there is a little bit better for the LGBT*IQ community and for our company than it was before.
So, what can you take away from the Star Wars saga for your own heroic journey with a community?
- A single person can achieve a great deal, even in large organizations. Only one person has to get the ball rolling — why not you?
- Find allies, they will help you in your quest!
- You will experience many setbacks and obstacles — and overcome them.
- Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Sometimes you just gotta go for it!
- Enjoy the adventure, the reward is the journey!
- Share and celebrate your success with everyone who has participated.
Claudia Feiner is Project Manager Esports Community and Founder of Proud@Porsche.
About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we’re tackling new challenges, develop digital products and think digital with a focus on the customer. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, smart technologies and the people that drive our digital journey. Please follow us on Twitter (Porsche Digital, Next Visions), Instagram (Porsche Digital, Next Visions, Porsche Newsroom) and LinkedIn (Porsche AG, Porsche Digital) for more.