Happy Star Wars Day!

25 May

As I go forward with this little project I will occasionally use this as a space to give some old notes a more permanent home in front of a (Hopefully) wider audience. I originally posted the following on MySpace (Remember MySpace?) on May 25, 2007.

                                                     -Roy


Happy Star Wars Day! That’s right, thirty years ago today Star Wars opened and changed movies forever. I’m old enough to have seen it in the theatre during it’s original release. A long time ago in a cineplex two thousand miles away I  went to see it with my stepfather and again with my Cub Scout troop. That in itself is an indication of how different this film was. The notion of seeing a movie more than once was a little beyond the pale when I was a kid. The effect it (And the sequels that followed) had on me was profound, and continues to this day, despite the fact that I am no longer a child of eight and my imagination is no longer as fertile or malleable as it once was.

Not just a groundbreaking sci-fi film, but a good vs. evil story with universal appeal, Star Wars has become so deeply ingrained in our pop culture that it has attained the status of myth. The film has spawned literally hundreds of companies and industries, and made the films and effects we take for granted today possible. In addition to that, the characters, images and story lines have crept into our everyday lives in ways subtle and numerous beyond our ability to calculate (Here’s something I noticed. Watch the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie and see if you can assign Star Wars character names from the end of The Empire Strikes Back to the cast in the last scene. I’ll give you a hint: Start with the absent Jack Sparrow as Han Solo) Then there’s the merchandise. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in three thousand years as some archaeologist tries to sort out the meaning of the omnipresent plastic fetishes of a towering figure in a black helmet & mask, or a gnomic green creature with long pointed ears. Here and now, even the non-geek among us could easily identify more characters and quotes from the film than even they would think likely.

Now, I’m not going to deny my status as a Star Wars geek. I learned just how much of a geek a few years ago. I’m sure a number of you have heard this story, but it illustrates my point that even those who are not quite as obsessive know more than they think. When Julia and I lived inNew York our good friends William and Jenny lived upstairs. We were the Arnez’s & Mertz’s. We had an intercom system that allowed us to call up to each other and we had dinner together several nights a week. After Christmas one year William & Jenny came down one night for dinner and brought the new Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game William had gotten as a gift. Julia had a new Disney trivia game, so we decided to play both after dinner. We decided that boys vs. girls would be wildly unfair when we played the Star Wars game, since William and I were both “Geeks” of the highest order. So we played couple vs. couple. After a roll of the “Dice” (An R2-D2 digital number generator), Julia and I went first… We ran the board. We answered every, single, question, without getting one wrong and won the game without allowing William & Jenny a single turn. (Only later did it even occur to us that we could have missed one on purpose) Julia was frankly amazed at how much she knew about the movies, despite not really considering herself a big fan. Me, on the other hand…

As a child I had a record (An actual record album) called The Story of Star Wars. It was the audio from the film condensed into about an hour. I listened to it incessantly for years. I had Star Wars comic books and, when I was a teenager, novelizations of the movies. In elementary school we collected Star Wars cards. I had the entire Blue set. They even became a sort of currency when I was in the 5th grade. We used them as stakes in the before-and-after-school poker games after we got busted for gambling our lunch money. (Eventually they took away our decks of playing cards. We found a way to gamble on Uno, and at one point, jacks.) And, of course, I had the Star Wars dolls. They’re called “Action Figures” now, and maybe they were even then. When I was a kid, we called them dolls, and that was ok because it was Star Wars.

I had quite a collection of figures and ships when I was a kid. I mention that to people now and they say “Wow, those must be worth a pile of money now.” Well, they would be if they were in pristine condition and still in their packaging. I was a kid, they were toys, I played with them. Even now I think they were more valuable to me in that way than as an artifact in a box on a shelf.

As an adult there are still little things that I hardly even think about. A few years back I was out on a job in Manhattan with my partner Phil, when the Millennium Falcon somehow came up in conversation. Phil (About 15 years my senior) had never seen the films and asked “What’s the Millennium Falcon?” I couldn’t help myself, I really couldn’t. It was automatic. “You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.” Darth Vader appears on the front of my cell phone with R2-D2 and C-3PO on the back (The ringtone for most callers is the “Imperial March”). And every time I return to Las Vegas on the I-15 and see the city spread out across the valley I always, always, think the same thing (Sometimes I even say it out loud):

“Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

There are, of course, people who are much farther ’round the bend than I am. While pervasive, there are levels to the influence the Star Wars phenomenon has over peoples lives. I know people who build exact replicas of props and costumes from the films. There is an entire cottage industry built around finding and supplying the original parts from which Luke’s prop light saber was constructed. Even within this culture, there is a sub-culture. I am reliably informed that the R2-D2 costume people will readily share measurements, designs and tips on how to build an R2-D2. The Boba Fett people, however, are extremely closed-mouthed on the subject. (I’ve suggested the Princess Leia slave girl outfit to somebody I know…)

Ultimately, no matter the level of effect the stories have had on one’s life,  I think it is the blending of timeless story elements and iconic cues that make Star Wars universally accessible. It’s Feudal Japan and the Arthurian legends. It’s Nazi Germanyand Laurel & Hardy. It’s the American Wild, Wild West with a dash of Imperial Rome. All of these combined have given us a new mythology. We have our Zeus and Hera now, but these days they don’t appear out of the clouds flinging lightning bolts. They carry blasters and light sabers and fly an X-Wing fighter, or an old Corellian transport.

I’ve accomplished something on the order of a small miracle. I’ve managed to get today off from work. I am now turning off my cell phone and going downstairs. I am going to close the blinds and watch all six movies (In chronological order of release, and with the un-f*#!ed with versions of episodes IV, V, and VI).

May the Force be with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2012 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator

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