It’s hard to overstate the importance Star Wars has had in my life. I know, me and millions of other people, but hear me out. The new trailer came out last night, and I watched it with the same breathlessness as a lot of other people, and then rewatched it. And rewatched it. And I’m trying to maintain at least some level of chill on the subject, but it might be a losing battle.
Here’s the thing: Star Wars is pretty much why I am who I am today. I was not quite five years old when the first movie came out. One of my earliest vivid memories was of seeing it at a drive-in theater (yes, really!). I remember sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car, transfixed, the cold, stale, paper bag popcorn we’d sneaked in long since forgotten. My best friend had gone with us, but she’d fallen asleep, and I remember thinking How can you possibly sleep through this?
The first thing that happened afterward was that I wanted to play Star Wars. The two boys who lived across the street from me were my first targets. “Okay,” said the older brother, “but you have to be Leia because you’re a girl.” I didn’t want to be Leia, I wanted to be Luke, and I was mad about two things. First, why did I have to be the girl character, and second, why was Leia the only girl, and why didn’t she get to go flying around in a spaceship like Luke and Han? (In fairness, I failed to understand the awesomeness of both Leia and Han until I was older, but come on, I was five.)
It’s worth mentioning, my crush on Mark Hamill has continued unabated since I was five. (I remain delighted that he, C. Thomas Howell, Wil Wheaton, and Tim Curry have all had memorable roles on Criminal Minds–all my teen crushes, yes!)
When Empire came out I was almost eight. My dad took me to the theater the first night, and my heart was broken that the showing was, predictably, sold out. The next day on the bus, some kid spoiled me about Vader being Luke’s father, and my reaction was pretty much the same as Luke’s (“NOOOOOOOO!”). It was my first experience with a plot twist. And with spoilers.
When Jedi came out, I was almost eleven. My dad met me at the school bus and took me straight to the theater, and I thought it was the BEST MOVIE EVAR. (It’s still my favorite of the three, although, yes, arguably, Empire is the better movie.) I was exactly the target audience for the Ewoks, and I thought (at the time) that they were the best thing in the whole world and I wanted them to be real. My only disappointment, then, was that Luke was Leia’s brother, cause I totally shipped it.
By this point, I already had some experience with being obsessed with movies (my first hardcore movie obsession was E.T.), so I was ready. I tracked down every article I could find. I bought copies of Starlog, People, any magazine I could find that mentioned Star Wars. Watched entertainment shows hoping for a short piece. Bought the novelization. Bought the score. Anything I could get my hands on that might recreate some of the excitement I’d felt in the theater.
And that became the template for my life: fannish obsession, usually over movies, although television shows and books have taken me over too. (As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I owe my writing career to a television show.) Star Wars taught me, before I was ever in school, about the power of story not just to move someone, but to take them over completely. It’s why I became a reader, and it’s certainly why I became a writer.
Those characters in the initial trilogy, they’ve stayed with me, and it’s why, I think, the upcoming movie has me so excited. With the prequels, there was a sense of “okay sure, show me what happened before”, but now, we get to find out what happened to Luke, Leia, and Han AFTER. For me, meeting the new characters is just a bonus. I literally cried when we got the first glimpse of Han and Chewbacca in the teaser trailer. It was like, “There you are. Where have you been? I’ve MISSED YOU.” It was like coming home.
Even if, God forbid, it turns out that the new movie is terrible, it’s given me this. And if I can ever have even a tenth of the impact on a reader that Star Wars has had on me, I’ll consider myself a roaring success.