What Star Wars Means to Me
This was originally written on March 30, 1999 as one link in a long email chain. The rest of the discussion seems to be lost to time, but I felt it was worth sharing this anyway. For context, this was about two months before The Phantom Menace was released in theaters. Anticpation and expectations were high. Minor edits and some links have been made to improve clarity and relevance.
I honestly don’t know where to begin. Star Wars means so many things to me on so many levels that I can’t even hope to cover it all. […] it’s responsible for the most significant memories of my childhood. Star Wars and G.I. Joe pretty much fueled my brain all through the ’80s. But then a strange thing happened:
Star Wars disappeared.
For awhile, I didn’t care so much about it. Sure, I watched it on the USA Network whenever they showed the trilogy. But it wasn’t “number one” anymore. The movies had been out of the theaters for awhile, and had faded from the forefront of my life. I still had my Empire Strikes Back bed sheets (still got ‘em somewhere)1, but the were just sheets. Then, believe it or not, came the horror of horrors: I sold the majority of my Star Wars toys, which I had held precious for many years, in my cousin’s garage sale. I don’t even think I got very much money. I know I’d bow my head in shame if I could remember the total. The only bits I can remember retaining are the rubber trash monster from the Death Star playset and a power droid, one of his feet painted with fingernal polish to distinguish it from my brother’s. That was it; everything else was gone. I was more interested in Transformers (“You got the touch!”) and G.I. Joe. Or any other new fad that hit the streets. Star Wars had pretty much left my life as a significant influence or diversion. Or so I thought.
Fast forward a few years, until my junior year in high school. Suddenly, two items appeared on the market which awakened my inner child. A book called Heir to the Empire, and a comic book called Dark Empire. I won’t go into detail about what these are about, but I’ll sum up by telling you they were the initial high-quality licensed projects which resurrected the Star Wars universe in the minds of the people. All of a sudden (it seemed) Star Wars was back on the scene, with the continuing adventures of all our old favorite characters. People began to remember how much they enjoyed the old trilogy and the world to which it gave birth.
I’m starting to meander here, but I think you get the point. I was interested again. When I got to college and met other people my age who had fond memories of Star Wars, I realized I could deal with the Real World OK. I discovered the USENet, and the Star Wars newsgroup. This is when it hit the “geek phase” for real. I couldn’t get enough. I would spend hours at a time reading anything and everything people had to say about it.
Through college and now after, amidst the big push of merchandising and licensing and Titanic-sized hype, my Star Wars interests have evolved yet again. It probably began in my freshman year at UTD, when I decided to find out more about the man behind the movies, George Lucas. I had known a little before then, but not much. I read his biography, Skywalking, and dug around for newspaper and magazine articles. I discovered the one man on this earth next to my Dad and Jesus that I would call my hero2.
Sounds extreme, huh? Well, I’ve thought about this a lot. I see in Lucas a lot of what I’d like to be. He’s brilliant creatively, has managed to build a multi-gazillion dollar company that’s his, generate an incredibly rich mythology for the modern world, and he’s still focused first on his family: three adopted kids. I mean, he still drives them to school in the morning.
Again, I’m rambling. […]
Star Wars, for me, is the epitome of what one can produce with one’s creative mind. It has been successfully translated, with varying success, to just about every medium you can imagine. (TV being its weakest showing; I tuned into the Ewok Adventures, animated and otherwise, but they certainly were not much in the way of Star Wars.) And now, George Lucas is about to revolutionize the film industry. The original trilogy was just a warm-up. When he says he is pushing the biggest paradigm shift since the appearance of the talkies, I believe it. He is now able to create a movie in the same way a painter creates a painting, or at least as closely as one can draw that comparison considering their considerable differences. On 60 Minutes he said he would likely not be putting on the finishing touches until about two weeks before the film opens. And I bet you a thousand dollars he won’t be satisfied with it, that he would rather go on tinkering with it just as painters (the ones I know) are never really satisfied with their paintings.
Geez, I don’t even know if I make sense any more3.
It’s not about the sci-fi nut thing, which I am. It’s not really about the childhood nostalgia thing, although I yearn for that morning of my sixth birthday when I woke up at 5am and unwrapped my TIE Fighter, or the day I waited in the driveway for my mom to get home from work so we could go to the Sears catalog store and pick up my Slave I, or the countless hours I spent playing more or less peacefully with my brother, or the many times we counted out our pennies in the hopes that we had the $3 required to pick up the new “guy” at TG&Y. It’s not about the geek-gene driven quest to know all the intricate details and the secrets behind the magic, although I will be the first to pick up the “behind the scenes” video when it comes out someday. It’s not about the hero thing, even though I wish I knew George Lucas personally so I could gain some of his wisdom firsthand. It’s not even about the mythology thing.
But it is all of those things. And more. It’s something I can’t explain.
Not that I haven’t tried.
Just as a sidenote, Star Wars is not the center of my life. It just happens to be part of my culture. I believe the culture of our generation is no culture, or really all culture. Whatever fits.
Um. Sorry about the mess.
Oh, dear. I had some interesting thoughts back then. In this, a post-Star Wars-prequel world, my thoughts are much different. Much, much different. But even though I don’t enjoy the new movies as much as I thought I would, the core of what I liked about Star Wars remains, and not even George Lucas can take that away.