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A Personal Trip to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

My hearing aids were off for the night so in silence I watched the Star Destroyer glide like a shark after the princess’s outmatched corvette. The stormtroopers blasted grim-faced men defending the corridors, and then a huge, midnight menace strode through the smoke to survey the carnage with a nonchalant turn of his helmet before continuing down the hall. Hooked I was.

My older son and I mainlined the original trilogy and the prequels last month to prepare for the new movie. Will it have the same impact on him as the originals did on my generation? Did JJ Abrams craft a movie my son will reminisce about with friends decades down the road? Those are not questions for me to answer. I can tell you where to find everything you need to prep for your trip to the cinema (hint: there’s a branch in nearly every neighborhood). Stroll memory lane with me.

While the original trilogy had an atomic impact on pop culture, it was much more personal for me. I wore hearing aids and was a science fiction fan while growing up in the 80s and 90s. I needed all the help I could get and Star Wars was one of those things I turned to for respite. It was easy for me to fall into the story of a dejected kid from Podunk Planet who saves the universe; even if he can’t read.

Even after the furor died down in the mid-80s, Star Wars was there for me. The toys packed in my parents’ attic helped me pass rainy afternoons. My younger brother, also deaf, and I would re-enact the Battle of Hoth. Then, that oldest of storytelling mediums came through for me: a book.

Hugo-winning author Timothy Zahn told Luke, Leia and Han’s story long after Endor. Heir to the Empire started a flood of new material and suddenly Star Wars was cool again. For other fans, the new stuff slaked the drought between original and prequel movies. For me, it made a three-day trip to Florida pass in no time as I followed Thrawn’s sinister machinations against the New Republic. The Expanded Universe was here and brought triumph and tragedy with it.

I devoured it all, a Sarlacc hungry for more. I bought books, borrowed them from the library, snagged paperbacks in the drugstore.  Then came the hype for The Phantom Menace. People can revile this movie all they like. It helped me forget, just for a few hours, my father’s bypass and the resultant stress on the family.  Attack of the Clones was a date movie for me and my future-wife upon release. We even enjoyed Revenge of the Sith when it came out and, after the first two prequels, I agree with those who felt the Jedi Order had it coming.

What I and many fellow fans did not see coming was Disney’s purchase of the franchise and announcement of Episode VII. Before this was even hinted at, we showed my older son, four at the time, the original movie. His response? “I was rooting for Darth Vader.” Fortunately he did not root for Kylo Ren when we saw the new flick. He joined in the applause with everyone else when Han boarded the Falcon and he cheered at the end while I got dust in my eye. Twice. The lightsaber has been passed to the new generation. While he won’t have the challenges growing up that my brother and I did, I hope he takes the movies as close to heart. Maybe a trip to the library for some of the new books is in order. Do come in some time. This librarian would love a spirited discussion about a time long ago, in a galaxy far far away.

Comments

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a moving tribute

Excellent blog post, Josh! A moving tribute to the Star Wars series (including the books of the Expanded Universe) as it affected your life.

Stars Wars the story in our common memory

Great post. STAR WARS actually started in a wider range a phenomenon, very special long lasting phenomenon: that space, place, this timeless and spaceless place where we can be, dream, play and get inspired. This is scifi, it also tells the story of humankind, the world and our everyday life. It often allows us to clearly see that thing we couldn't before in our lives, to understand ourselves, others and the Universe. When my son who just became a teen asked me what it is all about for me, I told him: "it is about the fight between good and evil, the confusion, the fear, the war but also how the quest for more power can make us slide to the dark side." I remember seeing Darth Moth in Disneyland Paris on their first Halloween. It was in the late 1990's, I had forgotten the date, turned around and came face to face with this giant, dark, red, bright eyes... I shrieked. He laughed with his deep voice (device). After the scare, I realized why people love cosplay, why Star Wars inspired and still inspires so much: strange, scary, motivating, heroïc, full of hope despite the GREAT EMPIRE. We want to hope, to fight for life, earth, what is right. That human aspiration remains and feeding it is always an extraordinary experience. Memorable. Star Wars is the desert, the simple cotton clothings, the little village of mud houses and suddenly a flying engine! Niagalèn

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