I’d love to unravel some wonderful story about watching Star Wars the first time it was released, in the theater surrounded by my family and getting completely sucked in by the special effects and the epic story, but it wouldn’t be true; sure, one of my earliest memories was seeing the poster before it was released – I think I was going to see The Cat From Outer Space at the time, but don’t hold me to that – but the first time I can remember seeing the movie in the theater, it was a re-release double-bill with The Empire Strikes Back, and even then I clearly remember being bored by all the scenes on Dagobah. Star Wars, for me, was about everything that wasn’t the movies, as much as the movies themselves: The toys, the comics, the guest-shots from Mark Hamill on The Muppet Show, the whole shebang.
That’s not to say that the movies weren’t important – I remember endlessly re-watching footage from Return Of The Jedi that I’d videoed from television before the movie was released, trying to work out what happened next, and in the process entirely memorizing that slice of John Williams’ score, which I can worryingly still attempt to sing today – but even when I was ten years old, I somehow understood that Star Wars was something bigger than just a series of movies. I might not have been at the stage where I knew what cross-platform marketing was just yet, but I certainly knew that the movie made me want to read the comics (That Simonson and Palmer artwork! Man!) or play with the action figures or wish there was a decent videogame. Even before I knew how to spell the word phenomenon – And my spellcheck has just told me that I still don’t know how to spell it, apparently – I knew instinctively that that’s what Star Wars was.
As much as it’s easy as an adult to point at them and say “George Lucas invented the modern blockbuster with Star Wars” (He did, by the way), what’s important about the entire thing for me is that they’re the movies that set the bar for what movies were supposed to be – I’m talking about the original trilogy, here, although I genuinely like Revenge of The Sith – and the stories that, years before I dug Star Trek, formed the basis for my idea of what science fiction was, and made me realize how much I liked this whole fantastical storytelling thing. Star Wars, without either of us realizing it, didn’t just bring me into geek culture, it made me a fan of it all: the way it crosses media back and forth, the way it’s real and unreal and fantasy all at once, the collectibility and obsessiveness, and the idea that rules can be ignored (There is no sound in space, after all) if you have a better idea. For better or worse, Star Wars made me who I am today, in a lot of ways.
At least I now know who to send my therapy bills to.
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