What Star Wars Means to Me: A Love Letter
* Please note that this post contains no information or spoilers whatsoever about Episode VII. *
Here’s the honest truth: I grew up in a world without Star Wars.
As in, I knew next to nothing about it. My family didn’t watch much TV and the extent of our movie-going was Disney films. It was only when they announced the re-release of the original trilogy in theaters that my dad finally said, “Wow, I love Star Wars! We have to take you to see it!” (You being my fourteen-year-old self and my two younger sisters.)
So yes, the first time I saw Episode IV was in a packed theater the weekend it re-opened as a “special edition”…but from the moment I heard those first notes of John Williams’ perfect score, I was hooked. I begged my parents to buy me the [unaltered] trilogy on VHS and then I faked being sick so that I could stay home from school and watch them all. I stayed home sick for three days and all I did was play those three movies over and over and over again. (It drove my entire family half crazy.)
I was at the mall the very next weekend – because that’s about all there was for teenagers to do in the area where I grew up – and as usual one of my first stops was the bookstore. Despite having browsed this particular store probably hundreds of times, I’d never noticed the Star Wars books. Prior to the re-release, the few that were on hand were always tucked away in the science fiction section…and somehow I’d never had family members or friends who were “into” Star Wars enough for me to give the EU novels a second glance. Or even a first glance, really. But suddenly they were front and center, and after that I spent every penny I could glean from my allowance or beg from my parents on them. (Consequently this led to me reading certain ones out of order, as I had to prioritize which ones I was purchasing each time I went to the bookstore, and there was no Wookieepedia to give me a comprehensive list of which ones to read when.)
The thing is, all of this happened at a time in my life when I was still unsure what I liked in terms of media. I loved Jurassic Park more than just about anything, but every other movie I saw fell short. And the books I’d read when I was younger – lots of children’s versions of classics (and then later the original versions of said classics) and more novels about horses than I care to think about – weren’t quite cutting it, either. But then there was Princess Leia with her blaster and Luke with his lightsaber and Han with his awesome spaceship and [seemingly] impossibly loyal best friend Chewbacca. (Admittedly I had a bit of a crush on Luke but I think it was more the initial Jedi-awe than anything else because the more I watched the original trilogy, the less attractive I found him.)
Star Wars drew me in like nothing had before – even Jurassic Park. (Yes, I know, shocker!)
Princess Leia was beautiful, but that was nothing compared to how badass she was. She was an ambassador who was secretly part of a rebellion – she was brave and sassy and stood up to torture in many many forms. Luke started out naive, and yeah he was reckless…but he was brave, too, and adventurous in ways that I – a small-town girl who felt suffocated by my parents and their rules – understood all too well. And Han…well, he was the bad boy with a heart of gold (no matter how much he denied it), and he inspired loyalty. Even C3PO’s annoying realism was difficult to dislike, and RD-D2 was cheeky and a hero in his own right – and they were “just droids”! These were characters to fall in love with. (And wow, did I.)
Then there was the idea of this evil Empire and the rag tag group of rebels fighting against it, a truly epic saga in which the good guys won and lost and then won again. It was perfect in its simplicity, but that simple story combined with the otherwordly settings to transport me directly to “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. (And as a fourteen-year-old girl that sounded a hell of a lot better than being where I was.)
Star Wars inspired me to write again – a horrible science fiction story that will never see the light of day, but one which I treasure because at that time I hadn’t written in nearly a year and these movies brought me back around to my passion.
It taught me what it was to truly love movies. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it gave me chills. It frustrated me and excited me and still to this day I can’t help but grin stupidly half the time whenever I’m watching any one of the original trilogy installments.
It gave me something to bond with my father over, a rare occurrence that of course makes it all the more meaningful.
It was something I sat my niece down to watch, something that when she asked a question about what was going on, I knew the answer. I got to watch her fall in love with it, and I’ve never felt closer to her than I did that day.
I guess none of this really says what Star Wars means to me, so here it is: it means entertainment of which I’ll never tire. It means watching and reading and learning about a story and a universe and characters that never get old. And as cliche as this sounds (especially considering that whole Skywalker thing), it means family. Not just my dad and my niece, but friends who have sat through complete Star Wars marathons with me, friends who will gather together and play original trilogy Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly with me, friends whose enthusiastic posts about Episode VII have entirely taken over my news feed. It’s something positive to bond over with others, in a world where so few things like that exist.
Fellow Geekiary writer Undie Girl mused, “It’s always been difficult to explain why Star Wars is so important to me, but I think that inability to describe what it means to me probably says more than anything else. Falling in love with Star Wars the first time I realized that I was a fangirl (although I didn’t know to call it that[at the time]). Everyone around me liked Star Wars, loved it even, but it became part of who I was in a way that no one else seemed to understand. This story pushed me to a level of devotion and obsession that changed my world. And not to be fake deep or anything but I literally wouldn’t be the same without it.”
Geekiary writer Jamie said, “Star Wars was my first obsession and at the time I had no idea why. When I was a kid, there was a summer where I watched at least one of the original trilogy every day for, like, a month. It resonated with me in a way so few stories do, even now. I think it’s because it’s the ultimate blend of everything: action, comedy, romance, sci-fi… Even though there are setbacks, good always triumphs over evil, and as a kid that was something I fell hard for. Plus, my aunt was even more obsessed than me, and it was nice to have something in common that could connect us.”
Admin Angel described, “For me, Star Wars hits two major aspects of my life: geek community and film.
When it comes to geek community, I feel that Star Wars is a major defining aspect of who we are and how we’ve evolved since the 70’s. It brought us out of the shadows and into the mainstream. It created the term “blockbuster” and brought science fiction into a pop culture realm. I have friends from all aspects of life who love the films and we are unashamed in our enjoyment of it. We have custom light sabers. We run table top RPG campaigns. We cosplay. We write meta. We squee. We cry. We flail uncontrollably when when a new trailer comes out, and we are not ashamed. Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon and we are proud to be part of it.
As a film school graduate, A New Hope is my go-to for pointing out a well structured story arc and the franchise in general has become the gold standard for science fiction and space operas as a legitimate genre. I can endlessly discuss the story structure and genre impact with people who don’t identify with geek culture, which further highlights just how important it has become to people far removed from geek culture.
Star Wars has enabled me to relate to so many people and easily fosters a large diverse community in a global scale. Geek culture and the film industry, both of which I identify as being part of, would not be the same without it.”
To me, the energy and excitement surrounding Episode VII is something out of a dream; it’s something I’ve not felt in a very long time. It’s like the Force – a transcendental energy that is part of all us Star Wars fans, a truly inexplicable magic that binds us together.
I think I speak for a lot of people when I say “Please, Disney and J.J. Abrams…help us continue to feel this way. And oh yeah – please, please, please don’t screw up.”
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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