Note: This was first posted December 14, 2015.
I don’t remember how old I was when I fell in love with Star Wars. But I remember falling hard.
I was seven or eight, possibly older. That bit’s not important. The important bit is that my brother and I were too young for space battles, so one night we sat down as a family to watch some of the earlier scenes in Attack of the Clones. (Since AotC came out in 2002, when I was 7, I’m guessing my dad had just bought the newly released DVD.) We watched Anakin and Obi Wan chasing Zam Wessel, and that was as far as we made it.
But that, my friends, was all that it took. After twenty minutes, I was in head-over-heels. Zam Wessel was the coolest human I’d ever seen on the screen, with the Jedi shortly behind her. I wrote stories in my head and built my own expanded universe. This was before I could sit down and Google things and loose myself in a maze of TVTropes pages or fan websites. This was before Wookiepedia even existed. So I dreamed, and plotted, and built my whole personal alternative universe based on snatches of episode 2.
My private Star Wars didn’t have female Jedi. Obi-Wan and Anakin were the only Jedi I’d been introduced to, and since they were both male, I made the leap that there couldn’t possibly be female Jedi. The jump in logic that lead me to believe women couldn’t be Jedi was also probably based off my understanding that Jedi were sort of vaguely like monks, so naturally they and they needed a female counterpart. (Children, if you have forgotten, are more perceptive than adults realize. It’s just that their logic doesn’t always run in the right direction.) I invented my own parallel order, which were pretty much female Jedi that said “screw you guys, we’ll do our own thing”.*
This imagined segregation finally ended when, thanks to our library, I got my hands on some illustrated dictionaries and was freed from speculation. I should mention that my brother was also very much into Star Wars, so we poured over the same EU** books and fought each other with dinky plastic lightsabers. My brother’s sixth birthday party was Star Wars themed. When we were 11 and 6, we dressed up as the Skywalker twins for Halloween.
Finally, FINALLY, I saw a full film. It was The Phantom Menace, and it was everything I had thought it would be. I’ve never been able to bring myself to hate the prequel trilogy, as they’re what dragged me into this world in the first place. (I also reject the idea that you’re not a “true fan” if you like the prequel trilogy or refuse to criticize it every time it’s mentioned. If I wanted that kind of grating negativity in my life, I’d run for office. This is a fandom, not the news room during election season.)
A New Hope was next. I apparently had a sheltered movie-watching experience, because I remember being told not to repeat the word “damn”. I hadn’t even heard it, thanks to Han Solo’s gruff mumbling, and I was too scared to ask what terrible word I should be avoiding.
Eventually, I saw all the films. I’d read some novelizations, too, and quite a few Jedi Apprentice books. My brother and I listened to The Corellian Trilogy on our mother’s Walkman, if you can believe it. The official Star Wars website had this tool for a while where you could pick from a selection of clip art and phrases and design your own T-shirt. I made one that said “Aggressive Negotiator” and wore it to fencing tournaments, to the glee of my fellow competitors. I bought one of those “Fandom and Philosophy” books and asked myself questions about the rights of droids in society.
Why, I wonder, did Star Wars wrap me up in its universe in a way that no story had before? It was the first real sci-fi I was ever exposed to, so perhaps I over-attached to it, like a duckling that latches onto the first motherly-being it spots. It was also the first time I’d seen world building so intense it needed multiple illustrated dictionaries. It lived off the screen and off the page, and there was more than enough room in the universe for a ten-year-old girl to make a home there.
Star Wars was my thing for years, but eventually I moved on and found other fictional universes to obsess over. The galaxy far, far away was always there in the background, though. But I never saw one of the films in theaters.*** Even though I was a fan when Revenge of the Sith was released, I was too young to see it when it was first released.
Which brings me around to why I’m writing this in the first place. The Force Awakens’ world premiere is happening as I type this. My whole family’s got tickets for a pre-showing on Thursday night. I’ve been anticipating finally attending an opening-weekend screening that my parents actually offered to leave a day late for family vacation. (We didn’t need to, in the end, but it’s the thought that counts.) I saw the trailer for TFA when I went to see another movie recently and wound up dangerously misty-eyed.
I don’t know how The Force Awakens will be as a movie. My opinion of J.J. Abrams as a director has eroded over the past few years, but I don’t hate him. The new stars seem like lovely, positive people, but I don’t know if they can act. I’m writing this before the first reviews have rolled into Rotten Tomatoes, due to a reviews embargo, so I’m hoping without any substance to back it up. Will it be brilliant? I don’t know. Even if it’s not, it won’t be the end of the world or the even end of the franchise.
But it will be the first time thousands of new little fans discover Star Wars, fans who will quickly add lightsabers to their Christmas wishlists and dream of what they would do if they were a member of the rebellion. I’m excited for new faces, especially women’s faces, and I hope little girls will see themselves in Rey instead of feeling sidelined. I hope fans who have been around for a while will make the fandom welcoming for new fans, and young fans, and yes, even fans who may like The Force Awakens more than the original trilogy. Star Wars is story, nothing more, and it speaks to us in different ways because that’s what fiction’s supposed to do.
*Now that I think about it, it’s not a stretch to imagine an initial Jedi order that was limited to males, then female force users formed their own order, and finally convinced the Jedi that integration was in everyone’s best interest. But now I’m rambling.
**Expanded Universe, for the uninitiated.
***I saw the unfortunate Clone Wars movie in theaters, but this doesn’t count. No, don’t argue, it seriously doesn’t count.
Turns out all you have to do to make me a misty-eyed mess of a human is print the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…" on a big screen in a dark room. It's almost Pavlovian – I've waited for so long to see my beloved fandom on the big screen, and I would have turned up for Leia doing her hair at this point. But The Force Awakens did not disappoint. Thanks to J.J. Abrams for not running my childhood, to my brother for getting as excited as me and talking EU comparisons all the way home, and to that random guy three seats down that whooped whenever lightsabers appeared. | #starwars #theforceawakens #tfa |
I definitely saw TFA twice in theaters, and I definitely cried both times when I heard the theme.