Dear Star Wars;
“May the 4th Be With You” — my various social media feeds today are filled with my fellow geeks marking the occasion of “Star Wars Day,” and so I find you in my thoughts again.
It’s not a new feeling, of course. Upon our first meeting — the occasion of my eighth birthday in June of 1977 — the course of my life was irrevocably altered. For the next 6 years, you filled my every waking moment, and a fair few of my dreams as well. My imagination was filled with thoughts of a Galaxy Far, Far Away. You shaped my tastes, and even what I wanted to do with my life. I’m not alone in this, of course — my whole generation was deeply affected.
Through my adolescence, my college years — we never entirely drifted apart. Even as my attentions were drawn to other things — other geek interests or the concerns of an adult life — you were never really far from heart. There were always new ways for us to connect: the RPG from West End Games, the Thrawn trilogy, the NPR radio show, etc.
The relationship, however, soured in the late 1990s. The story is well-known at this point — it’s been echoed by others in my generation many, many times, to the point where it’s bordering on cliché: It starts with Shadows of the Empire — new Star Wars material, inserted into the narrative of the original trilogy. Originally, I was excited by this possibility. Unfortunately, it was disappointing.
This was followed by the Special Edition releases. Initially, I was thrilled by this prospect as well, and, to be honest, the memory of taking my eight-year-old daughter to the re-release of Star Wars (repeating the trip made by my father and I) is wonderful. But the experience was tempered by the changes that George Lucas had made to what many (myself included) had considered an inviolate part of the fabric of their childhood. Honestly, I hadn’t considered that, going in, but it ended up bothering me far more than I ever expected.
The final break-up, of course, came with the release of the prequel trilogy — another set of disappointments so constantly repeated at this point that I won’t bother enumerating them here. A generation came to the position that Star Wars had become a marketing machine devoid of any soul — a tool for Lucas to sell another generation of kids a never-ending stream of product — which, of course, made us also question whether or not that was true of our Star Wars as well. Whether we were dupes because the Star Wars that existed in our imaginations was deeper and richer than Lucas’ own ideas.
I have a confession, Star Wars.
It’s not you, it’s me. (Or us, collectively — the Star Wars generation.)
Your effect was undeniable. But my disappointment? I think it’s a textbook case of transference. I think I’m really disappointed in myself, and my generation in general.
You’d think that a generation that was literally shaped by the release of Star Wars would’ve been inspired… to do more than just consume more of it. Where is our Star Wars? With as many creative professionals that were given their initial impetus from the original films (myself included), you’d think that somebody would’ve made an effort to create a successor… but instead we’ve been seemingly content to sit back and consume more of the previous generations’ work, long into our own adulthood.
My disappointment in the the later efforts is my disappointment in myself. Disappointment that I never did what I swore to myself I would do, sitting in that theatre as an 8-year-old. Overwhelmed by the spectacle on the screen, I told myself “I’m going to do THAT.”
…and I haven’t.