“Star Wars” Won
— A Guest Blog by Kimberly Laux
A long time ago, way back in the twentieth century, when phones were dialed one number at a time and you waited until they spun back to dial the next number and televisions had two dials you turned back and forth to “tune” them, and when you walked away, your body stopped working as an antennae and the picture became fuzzy again, non-broadcast was simply called: PBS, and computers were room-sized and used punch cards with a corner cut off of them – a film came out named Star Wars.
Yes, once upon a time, Star Wars was just a movie.
That lasted about five minutes in May 1977.
Other movies came out that year, notably, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, which my friend Patsy’s mother took us to see because they had already seen Star Wars. I was seriously bummed. I was just the right age for Star Wars and seeing it for the first time is my last happy memory of my immediate family before my parents got divorced. Yes, I am a walking, talking Gen X cliché. (I did own Thriller and Like a Virgin on vinyl and wore a big, puffy, pink gown to prom.) When talking to a counselor about the divorce he asked me what character I thought I was from Star Wars. The answer was a little complex. “I want to be Princess Leia, but I’m Luke Skywalker.” I was prepubescent so didn’t care much about gender identification. Star Wars became more than just an escape, but a template for many things in my life – as I know it has for others in myriad ways.
Star Wars has long been a marker in my life, coming up and back around when I least expect it, but it has also been a marker for coming on three generations now. It’s hard to find people on Earth who are unaware of it in some form. If it’s easy and common to make Prequel jokes, I never left the theater saying they were awful. They were fine, but they weren’t the megawatt, mind-blowing, life-altering experience of the Original Trilogy. We wouldn’t be talking about them at all now but for their identity with Star Wars. Had the Prequels been awesome, and if the end of Return of the Jedi had been truly satisfying, Star Wars wouldn’t have survived as long as it has. Without some imperfection, and a long tug-of-war of Disney cartoon-like franchise and a more in-depth, allegorical science fiction/fantasy opera, Disney wouldn’t have bought the rights for four billion plus dollars and the Internet wouldn’t blow up every time two seconds of The Force Awakens is released.
Perhaps the Prequels felt like an early high school reunion where the popular kids were now living in a trailer with three kids and working at Dairy Queen, but there was still that little feeling, that little spark.
I have heard it said you manifest what you think about. I have thought about Star Wars a lot. And without intent or trying, I kept bumping into it in my life. I can’t view myself as analogy anymore after actually working at the Premiere of Revenge of the Sith, then taking classes at USC School of Cinematic Arts, George Lucas’ Alma Mater and the mini-studio that George built. I stepped through the looking-glass, the house landed in Oz, the Millennium Falcon shot its way out of Mos Eisley. Or, perhaps more accurately, as in Poltergeist, I was sucked into the T.V.
I actually wanted to keep Star Wars at a distance for decades. I viewed Hollywood and filmmaking as illusion, the art of making something lovely out of a pile of, not-nice-stuff-necessarily, but I wanted to keep the happy place in my head that was called Star Wars. But from meeting people who worked on the films to sitting in a screening room of the George Lucas building at USC and discussing Star Wars, I wasn’t going to avoid the pitfalls of so many other happy memories where I peeked around the curtain and there was a guy pulling strings. Still, Star Wars was surprisingly good to me unlike other beloved childhood franchises. The people were generally nice. The buckets of money George Lucas gave to USC moved me from way back when in the twentieth century: cutting actual sixteen-millimeter film, with a razor blade and taping it together with, um, cellophane tape, yes, it was rather savage, to state of the art digital equipment.
And I was enraptured again, caught in the rays of a Tatooine double sunset. It’s a double sunset!
Star Wars is a movie, a franchise, a fandom, an idea, a feeling, and it has permeated the world, modern and not so modern, you might have first watched it on VHS – sorry about that. To dismiss it as frivolous might be missing an opportunity to understand better how human beings relate to stories and media and reflect it in their own lives. We can look back on history and see in a mirror darkly how belief and myth both make and reflect, but it can often be an ugly, scary thing. I never understood how Nazism took hold until I saw Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will or the potency of racism in America until I viewed Birth of a Nation, uncut, in a theater. A history teacher said the one with the best propaganda wins. Fortunately, Hollywood was better than Hitler. But for all the dark things I just described, Star Wars has a joyful, even hopeful aura to it. The story goes into dark caves, which is necessary for any story and comes out different, but still, a great first love. Star Wars won the world.
And maybe we need to ask more seriously, if not too seriously, why?Powered by Sidelines