I’ve been told that New Star Wars will finally wake up on December 18th. To be honest I actually had to ask Awesome Friday’s Matt when it comes out because I have Star Wars blindness. I’ve been muting commercials, and dead-eye scrolling through twitter feeds for months now.
I don’t like Star Wars. I’ve never liked Star Wars. And now that it has become inescapable, I downright loathe it.
But… Am I the only one?
Because between the twitter eruptions every time ten more seconds of footage is released, and people buying their tickets weeks in advance, I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one.
Before we go any further I should clarify, yes I have seen them. All of them. In theatres even. Friends of mine assumed I just hated them on principle and had never actually seen them, or hadn’t seen them “the right way”, or any other myriad of reasons they tried to explain to me why I don’t like their obsession.
I get it. I feel the same about people who hate chocolate.
I first saw Star Wars when I was 15. Not by choice. I grew up in a Canadian suburb not dissimilar from the Footloose town where fun went to die. The two options open for weekend entertainment were the movie theatre and Tim Hortons. So every Friday night our group of friends would go to the movies. What we were too young to see in theatres we rented at the video store, one that looking back had an awesome selection of indie films. For us the more obscure it seemed on the shelf the more we wanted to watch it.
Leading up to the 20th anniversary theatre release of Star Wars we had been obsessing over (now classic) films like Romeo + Juliet, Jerry Maguire, Scream, The People vs Larry Flynt, Empire Records, Foxfire, Stealing Beauty, Swingers, Before Sunrise, Seven, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Fear, Happy Gilmore, From Dusk Till Dawn, Fargo, The Craft, Mission Impossible, Independence Day, A Time To Kill, and Tank Girl.
The 90s was a time of good music, cult movies, and riot grrls. And we celebrated it all in spite of our bible-belt suburban fate.
I don’t remember who decided we were going to see Star Wars. Though I’m going to assume is was the guys in our group. Apologies teenage gender role stereotypes, but I’m 99% sure it was them. Because up until Star Wars I had never seen a movie that involved space. And I have vague recollections of being assured in the dark that I would “LOVE THIS”.
Maybe it was the hype. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t care about aliens. Or maybe it was the fact that we were learning computer animation in school and all I could think was “Wow, this looks old.”
I was ambivalent to Star Wars, but I went to the other two sequels for something to do. I found R2D2 & C3P0 amusing but beyond that I felt no connection to the story.
Because Star Wars wasn’t meant for me.
At least it wasn’t meant for 15 year old, 90s angst, newly minted female & feminist me. In the wake of the Girl Power revolution and No Doubt’s anthemic “Just A Girl” in my CD player, in the time before Britney Spears baby-talk singing in a sexy schoolgirl outfit, what was I supposed to relate to in Star Wars?
Worried that my one time viewing of the series was inaccurate I reached out to facebook friends (many of whom are die-hard fans) to see if perhaps I had forgotten the strong female characters. I had not. The world so far consists of an Aunt, a foster Mom, a Queen who becomes a Mom (that Googling has described as a cock-tease, thanks Internet!), the Queen’s decoy, some of the “bad guys”, a dancing girl, and a singer. Oh, and of course the central character Princess Leia. She who first appears begging for a man to come to her rescue. Then try as she might to assert her dominance (she’s Royalty for fuck’s sake), continues to be the object of everyone’s affection, including her own brother, a fat slobbering thing that dresses her in a gold bikini, and the legions of boys who have dreamt of said costume ever since.
Star Wars’ message to my teenage self was if you’re not a Mother or a Lover don’t let the Force hit you on the way out.
To Next Star Wars’ credit there does seem to be a few more females in the mix. And with J.J. Abrams in the cockpit that makes sense. He’s been responsible for three major female driven shows Felicity, Alias, and Fringe. I love me some J.J.
Not enough to actually see the next ones, but enough to operate under the assumption that current 15 year old girls won’t be made to feel how I did.
The Force came back for my hard earned cash when I was 17. Maybe this time would be better. Maybe if I could start a new story with everyone else I could get into it. But New Star Wars (or is it New Old Star Wars?) suffered from two problems.
The first was timing. Theirs.
If you don’t remember 1999 or *gasp* hadn’t been born yet (I just felt a new white hair sprout), here’s a recap.
She’s All That, Jawbreaker, Office Space, Cruel Intentions, The Matrix
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
American Pie, Eyes Wide Shut, The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, Boys Don’t Cry, Fight Club, Dogma, The Green Mile, Any Given Sunday, The Talented Mr. Ripley
Between a still iconic girl-on-girl kissing lesson, a kid humping a pie, Tom Cruise and his real life wife at an orgy, Brad Pitt in red leather pants, the whole world debating if there really was a Blair Witch, a kid seeing dead people, and the new cutting edge SciFi movie that would become a trilogy that was The Matrix… at what point was I supposed to care about a whiny kid and his “whoa… racist!” space bunny?
2002 wasn’t better.
40 Days and 40 Nights, Resident Evil, Ali G, Panic Room, Van Wilder, Murder By Numbers, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Spider-Man
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
About A Boy, Insomnia, The Sum of All Fears, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Bourne Identity, Minority Report, Signs, Blue Crush, Swimfan, Sweet Home Alabama, The Rules of Attraction, The Ring, Punch Drunk Love, 8 Mile, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can.
Okay… 2002 wasn’t great, but we were all consuming big fluffy uncomplicated nonsense at the time. We needed it.
By the time 2005 rolled around with the world thick in the Bush years of war, and the cinema equally bleak, Darth Vader wasn’t so scary.
Constantine, Sin City, The Amityville Horror, House of Wax, Kingdom of Heaven
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Lords of Dogtown, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, The Island, The Devil’s Rejects, Hustle & Flow, the Skeleton Key, Four Brothers, Red Eye, The Constant Gardener, Good Night and Good Luck, Lord of War, A History of Violence, Jarhead, Syriana, Brokeback Mountain, Munich…
I mean, even Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (aka the return of Voldemort) came out that year. If you hadn’t grown up with Darth Vader as a child he is not more terrifying than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
So the first problem with Star Wars (New and Old) was timing. Theirs.
The second was also timing. Mine.
I was an adult. Not a five year old. And Star Wars has always been for kids.
I’ll wait while you angrily rage at me for that statement. I don’t mind.
In fact while you are thinking up ways to insult me for not “getting it”, allow me to point you towards a fantastic piece that you should read. It’s by Chuck Klosterman, in his 2003 book “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” and it’s called “Sulking with Lisa Loeb on the Ice Planet Hoth”. In it he makes the case, in a manner much more astute than I ever could, that Luke Skywalker represents GenX. He also states that “In a roundabout way, Boba Fett created Pearl Jam.” It is simply one of the best pieces of pop culture writing ever.
Klosterman points to a time when people could finally start admitting in public that they liked Star Wars. Or anything “nerdy” for that matter. But he wrote it in 2003. Before twitter and facebook. Before the term “social media” existed. Before Comic-Con went mainstream and the Big Bang Theory invaded every crevice of syndicated television on the planet. At the time I doubt he predicted just how much revenge the Nerds were going to have.
If Klosterman’s theory is right, and I would argue it is, Generation X is marinating in the nostalgia of Star Wars. They watched the movies as kids and vowed never to go to “The Dark Side”. And just when they finished University they pledged their allegiance once more in theatres with the reissue.
Then time chipped away. They began to drive a minivan. When the prequels came out they were excited to indoctrinate their kin into the Rebel Alliance. But… but… Jar Jar. “The first one doesn’t count.” they would later argue. After 2001 they were a little more forgiving, in need of the comforting fluff of their youth as we all were.
Because deep down, and it’s okay to admit it, Star Wars is for kids.
And adults who want to feel like kids again.
Don’t believe me? Have you been to a store lately?
While scrolling through the Black Friday sales on my favourite book store site I was taunting Awesome Friday’s Simon with different ridiculous Star Wars items for sale. Having lost my place and trying to find the animatronic light saber training Yoda doll (only $199.99!) I typed “Star Wars” into the search tool.
It came back with 2,777 results.
Let that sink in for a moment. A book store. Who primarily sells books. Was not coming back with 2,777 fictional accounts of the story, no. It was pushing everything from Moleskine journals to walkie talkies to bluetooth speaker spaceships. And the most insulting of all, a Furby marketing monster straight out of the Island of Doctor Moreau… “Furbacca”.
This is where we are now.
Previous licensing happy properties had to stay in their age appropriate lane. In one store a person could see products for children swallowed up by Frozen before wading into the ocean of One Direction tween merch and eventually landing in NFL heaven where everything comes in team colours and concussions don’t exist.
But now? Star Wars. An entire galaxy of Star Wars. That isn’t far far away, but instead threatens to swallow you whole trash compactor style.
The climate right now is a “Join or Die” one. The Force is not just strong, it’s spreading. Friends of mine are sighing and agreeing to watch all six movies because their spouses are so excited for the new ones. Children who have never seen the movies already know the characters just from the aggressive merchandising. And the few dissenters are choosing to keep their mouths shut for fear of an Internet lashing.
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
For a group that bashes the Dark Side so much, they sound eerily like a certain someone…
So here we are again. The dawn of a new trilogy. A new hope.
While Generation X approaches their mid-life crisis. Because the first wave of GenX is almost 50. That’s two decades older than Han Solo was when the world met him. Except now it’s cool to be a Nerd. Nerds rule the world (or at least San Francisco). The GenX impulse buy won’t be a sports car but a Stormtrooper replica. Wives won’t be replaced but instead asked to dress up like Leia (or Luke, or Chewbacca, no judgement here).
So wrap those presents you’re pretending are for your children you can’t wait to play with. Buy your Star Wars branded ugly Christmas sweater. And enjoy the force while you can still make it stir on it’s own.
Just stop telling me I’m wrong.