Happy Star Wars Day!
This is fast becoming my favorite minor holiday. Imagine: “May the Fourth be with you” started out as a clever little joke that seemed on track to follow “talk like a pirate day” into tedious annoyance. Instead, it’s graciously blossomed into a day that encourages a certain kind of person to celebrate a creative universe that they love. Star Wars Day is set to go beyond “Star Wars” and become an occasion to revel in all kinds of science fiction and fantasy entertainment.
(We can only hope.)
And this is the holy of holy convergences, when Free Comic Book Day and Star Wars Day falls on the same weekend. Honestly, you can be forgiven for changing right into your Jedi robes in your workplace bathroom at 5 PM on Friday, and changing back into mundane togs in the same bathroom at 8:59 AM on Monday. I made the trip out to my favorite comic book shop yesterday and spent a couple of hours hanging around. I was very pleased to see the store packed with people who’d come in to enjoy comics.
Most of the faces I saw were young ones, too. That’s a tremendously positive sign that this medium is continuing to be relevant, and that it’ll thrive for at least another ten years. Unlike the community of Morse code aficionados. Some groups thin out due to waning interest. Some see their membership curves plummet because their members are literally dying. That’s an expected problem in the Pro Naked Rocket-Powered Stunt Motocross community. In others, it means that this hobby or area of interest was only ever of its time. A time that recedes into the past at a rate of 16 months to every calendar year.
This is why I love the scene at Free Comic Book Day. And I love the scene at comix and sci-fi conventions. These events are getting bigger and bigger every year and arriving in more and more cities. Why? Because the dark, humid Holiday Inn conference centers that once hosted groups of addicts seeking a more profound high than what they were getting from “the usual stuff” have morphed into broader events at big, bright city convention centers where parents bring their kids. And their cameras. An organizer’s goal is to create an environment that encourages anyone and everyone to come in and have a great time. The biggest Win? Create an event that will attract people who’ve never attended a con of any kind. They’re not hoping to attract intense fans who want to tell a veteran author right to his damn face that if this hack thinks he’s worthy of working in the same medium as Philip K. Dick then he doesn’t know what the holy **** he’s talking about. They want to bring in people (and parents of people) who loved the latest Pixar/Disney/Marvel movie. In doing so, they’re creating better cons for the rest of us, too.
On this Star Wars day, I want to send a message that’s much in line with that of Master Yoda:
Lose your anger.
The increased, bolder anger of some people in the Star Wars fan community is the only bad trend of the past ten years of fandom. Many of these folks have been vocal on Twitter today.
I feel as though the most honest way for these people to reflect this trend is to celebrate Star Wars Day by buying a half-dozen assorted donuts.
Enjoy the chocolate glazed one and the lemon-filled ones. Say that the lemon one is better, but those two are the best donuts ever made.
Then eat two more, and say that you didn’t like them as much as you liked the first two but they were OK.
Finally, eat the Boston cream-filled one and the glazed one rolled in toasted coconut. Tell everyone how much you hated both of those donuts. Say that they were so terrible that it’s now impossible for you to say that you liked the chocolate or the lemon one because of how bad those last two were.
Curse Mister Donut.
Claim that Mister Donut has ruined a snack item you’ve enjoyed ever since you were a child and a part of your life that you once cherished but which now only brings you pain and hurt and can love no longer.
Compare this experience to Mister Donut sticking a finger down his throat and vomiting straight into your mouth. It wouldn’t even be going to far to claim that Mister Donut ruining the whole concept of “pastry” for you, now and forever. Nothing else Mister Donut has ever done in any part of his life in the past or in the future will ever make up for the Boston cream donut and the coconut one.
Imply that Mister Donut doesn’t the deserve the love of Mrs. Donut, or any of their little Donettes.
And that’s how many people choose to react to George Lucas and the post-Holy Trilogy movies.
I don’t get that. I need to respect how other people feel about things, but I can’t relate to that kind of reaction at all. I imagine getting to meet George Lucas…
(Aside: I also imagine myself making a complete ass of myself in front of George Lucas, which is why Meeting George Lucas would make me very, very nervous. I met Steve Jobs. I’ve met Woz many times. Both of those dudes were as big an influence on my childhood and adult interests as Lucas. During those occasions, I had no difficulties getting Ten Year Old Boy Andy to sit in a chair and be quiet. But I deeply fear what the lad would do if I let him anywhere near George.)
How many hours or days would I need to tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his work as a filmmaker and a producer? How many months would I have to spend working in the office next door to his, and eating lunch with him at Skywalker Ranch every day, before it would even occur to me to bring up Jar Jar Binks?
And yet to hear some tell it, the very first thing a fan should do when meeting George Lucas is to tell him right to his face that he’s a bad man who’s done bad things. The second thing: present him with an invoice for all the time and money they’ve spent on Lucasfilm-related entertainment since the middle act of “Return Of The Jedi.”
George Lucas and everyone who worked on the Holy Trilogy gave me some of the finest experiences of my childhood. “A New Hope,” “Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return Of The Jedi” didn’t shape my worldview, but they sure gave me a lot to think about. These movies urged its audiences to embrace optimism and the endless potential and beauty of the human spirit.
And to recognize that this Human Spirit extends to droids and Wookiees. The Star Wars Universe is very white and very dude-heavy. But it did provide at least a cue that perhaps one should judge a latex puppet on his, her, or its character and actions, not by shape or color.
Imagine how excited I was about the Prequels. I didn’t just get to the theater at 6 AM to be the first in line to see “Phantom Menace.” I was at the theater at 6 AM to be the first in line to pre-purchase my tickets to see Episode 1. It wasn’t a great movie, but to be honest, hearing the Fox fanfare inside a packed theater and seeing a yellow crawl over a starfield was worth the price of admission. Episode 2 was better. I only saw Episode 3 once, and that’s about all I need to say about it.
But nothing can take away my love for the first three movies or my appreciation for George Lucas and Lucasfilm. I have the original theatrical releases on DVD, and because I’ve ripped them to unlocked MP4 files (sweet, easy-to-back-up MP4 files), I’ll always have them.
Even if the theatrical releases had been lost forever, I’d still have those memories of walking back to the car with my mom and one of my sisters after “A New Hope.” I’d still be able to remember the look of resigned defeat on my teachers’ faces as they wisely chose to treat the release dates of “Empire” and “Jedi” as though they were school holidays. I’d still have these permanent marks that the experience of grinning like a tiny idiot during dozens of screenings as a kid left on the corners of my mouth and eyes.
The Prequels were a good gamble, from my personal perspective. At worst, they were going to be bad, in which case and I’d still have the first three movies. And at best, they were going to be great. I don’t see where I had put anything at risk.
I feel the same way about the upcoming JJ Abrams movie. I might love it…and if I don’t? Well, it won’t make me retro-hate the things that I’ve loved since I was a kid. If I did, then I would have to blame my brain, not Abrams’ movie.
And: “Empire Strikes Back” will still be one of the greatest sequels of all time in any genre.
When I think about it, though, I’m not necessarily hoping that Abrams will make a “Star Wars” movie that I love. I’d be much happier if JJ Abrams made a movie that I kind of didn’t like (along the lines of Episode II) but which utterly re-energizes the series for people born after 1990. That’s what he achieved with “Star Trek.” I was never a big fan of the series. I thought the later movies and series were hopelessly mired in fan expectations and “Gene’s vision.” The new movies have been terrific. I’m looking forward to each one.
Any older fan who’s grateful to a movie (TV, book, comic) series should want to nerd it forward. I want a new “Star Wars” movie that’s so good, a little kid in 2016 will convince his or her parents to give them a note to cut school on the opening day of the sequel. Because that’s how much I liked “A New Hope” when I was that age.
When I’m in my Sixties, I don’t want to be part of an aging fan community that assembles in ever-dwindling numbers to exchange mutual pride that our favorite film series “stayed true to its original vision” (whatever the hell that means). I want to be at a packed convention hall, taking great pleasure in the fact that most of the people in attendance are less than a third my age and some of them don’t even recognize that I’m dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
(White hair and beard, walks around in a scruffy bathrobe, speaks mostly in oracular phrases whose meaning isn’t immediately relevant…in twenty or thirty years I might wind up cosplaying as him whether I mean to or not.)
To every master, there is an apprentice. To every generation, there is a Star Wars saga. I had the Holy Trilogy; those who came after me had the books and the comics; another generation had the Prequels; another had the (epic!) Clone Wars series. Somehow, we’re all part of the same fan community. It’s the strength of this fan community that allows the next saga to get conceived and made.
Take the effort that you might have spent hating what you hate and use it to love the things you love even more.
And may the Force be with you. Always.