Here’s a delightful little essay by Emily Bazelon on her children’s fixation on Star Wars. Bazelon makes a brave attempt to explain this development, but while it’s possible to explain — at least to some degree — why a story is good or interesting or even popular, I doubt that it’s ever possible to explain how something becomes an obsession — especially when it becomes an obsession for large swaths of a whole culture.
I tried to offer such an explanation for the Harry Potter books once — sorry about the blizzard of links there; the original and link-free essay is not available online at the moment — but I think that even as I was doing so I knew that I was doomed to failure. No matter how many distinguishing traits of a book or movie or series you list, it’s always possible to think of other works that have precisely the same traits and yet have not become objects of obsessive interest.
It’s really one of the most curious artistic phenomena: the work of art that creates a cult around itself. The music of Wagner, The Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars movies, the Harry Potter series — they all have It — whatever It is.