Jul 11, 2015

What Star Wars Means to Me

Last night at San Diego Comic Con, Star Wars dropped the mic, whose echos will be felt for years to come. I wasn't even there, I was watching a text live stream from io9 and refreshing my twitter feed, and I still cried. And then something unprecedented happened, the Star Wars YouTube account uploaded the footage it showed a packed Hall H.

This tweet sums up everything to me. Star Wars is my constant inspiration as a struggling writer, but it is also a deep reflection on my past. It was the first movie that introduced me to sequels. I will always remember the first time I saw A New Hope. My family was moving from Colorado Springs to Atlanta, and we were stopping at every extended family members place we could. On a warm night in July in St. Louis, Missiouri I was having problems sleeping. My parents had gone out with my uncle to the store or something, I can never quite remember, and my brothers and cousin were all sound asleep. My aunt and I were the only ones awake at the house and she said "Ryan why don't we watch a movie?". It was Star Wars, and my life would never be the same. I was blown away of course. I went to bed dreaming of lightsabers and X-Wings.

Well the next morning at breakfast I couldn't shut up about it, even if I tried. My brothers were too young to understand complete sentences and complex thought, let alone the tale of the Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. I decided that it would just be easier to show them. So I badgered my aunt into watching A New Hope yet again that morning. My brothers and I loved the movie and were running around the house making lightsaber noises. Like a 5 year old addict, I wanted more, so I begged her to let us watch it one more time, to which she replied "Well why don't we watch the second one?" I was 5 and fully potty trained by then, but I still think I shit my pants. "What!? A second one?" I thought to myself. Empire Strikes Back instantly began to blow my mind, and of course there is the big Vader reveal. That night we watched Return of the Jedi and I was so exhausted I fell asleep naturally for the first time in my life, no bed time story, no night light, just pure exhaustion.

The next morning my aunt started telling me about the extended universe, and by the end of my bowl of cherrios I had a firm grasp of Roman numerals. Star Wars was actually the forth story in a series of nine? Holy. Crap. My aunt also got to play the villain and let me down. I was devastated that the other six films would probably never get made.

A few years later when the remastered editions hit the theaters, it was the first time my mother took my brothers and I to the movies as a family on opening day. This was my initial exposure to what is now dubbed fandom, but what was then sneered at as 'nerds'. It taught me it was okay to have a backpack that had Han Solo on it, that if you wanted to have a lightsaber outside the confines of your home it was okay to do so. These remasters showed me you can be a nerd and not be ashamed or mocked, at least by others in the geeky culture.

The prequels came out at some bleak times in my life, so they are remembered less fondly, but still part of my history and Star Wars lore. Oddly enough, The Phantom Menace marked me moving back to Colorado Springs, in which I rejoined my original Kindergarten class, only to be marked an outsider and shunned because I was the 'new kid'. I got in my first fist fight that year. Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw alone with my Dad after he and my mother divorced (Him trying to connect with me I suspect). The first full week Revenge of the Sith was released was the first and only time I had my heart broken. My inner child had died.

And after that I was done. Lucas had announced that he would no longer be making any more movies set in the universe. Star Wars had ended. I had great memories and bad memories from it, just like real life. Then the unthinkable happened, and Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced they would be making Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Suddenly, my inner child was alive again, jubilant and energized. This year is a huge year for me. Not only are we getting the once fabled Episode VII, but I also am now engaged to the woman of my dreams. Both the original cast, my trifecta of heroes, and myself are entering new chapters in our lives. It means everything to me to go back to these characters I love, because they taught me so much about life.

Star Wars isn't movies or books or games. Star Wars is running barefoot in the front yard of my family home, an X-Wing toy in hand and laser blasting sounds coming from my mouth. Star Wars is high fiving a random stranger in a Stormtrooper costume, because even though he is dressed as a bad guy, you admire the dedication, craftsmanship and stamina it takes to wear a full suit of armor in a packed convention hall. Star Wars is sweeping scores of hope coming from your smart phone every time your fiancee calls just to say she loves you. Star Wars is sinking that nothing-but-net shot from the free throw line because you 'turned off your targeting computer'. And above all else, Star Wars is nothing but A New Hope.