Star Wars is so much more to me than movies, books, games, toys, collectibles, comics, and conventions. The wonderful thing is it’s really all that and more. Much has been said about its profound worldwide influence on filmmaking, modern fiction, merchandising, and culture itself (the Kirbys covered this well in Episode 20), but in anticipation for The Force Awakens this week, I’d like to tell you what Star Wars means to me personally.
I’ve been a fan since long before I was cognizant of Star Wars’ impact on culture, much less aware of culture beyond my front door. A New Hope is one of the first live action movies I have vivid memories of watching (the other stand-out is Superman, which I could also say plenty about). I think I was 5 when I first saw it all the way through, and I was mesmerized. Even if I didn’t totally understand the plot at that age, I got the spirit of the thing. I didn’t yet know it was groundbreaking cinema; to me it was pure magic. Yet it was believable, and I felt like just because it was pretend didn’t mean it wasn’t somehow true.
When I got older, I started to understand that the reasons for that go even beyond the brilliant tangible sense of the films. As John Eldredge wrote in his book Epic
, “I want you to notice that all the great stories pretty much follow the same storyline. Things were once good, then something awful happened, and now a great battle must be fought or a journey taken. At just the right moment (which feels like the last possible moment) a hero comes and sets things right, and life is found again. It’s true of every fairy tale, every myth, every Western, every epic – just about every story you can think of, one way or another.”
That’s because these elements resonate with something in our very nature, and that’s why a story like Star Wars (which is fairy tale, myth, Western, and epic) roots so deeply into so many people’s minds and hearts. Call that “something” the common ground of the human condition or however you interpret it, but as a Christian I agree with the point Eldredge goes on to make in his book that the “something” is the gospel engraved into creation. I believe that, however deep down, we all recognize and resonate with the elements of the story of redemption God planned from the beginning. If this were a theology blog, I’d go out on a tangent here about general revelation, but I’ll save that for another place and time.
Now, George Lucas didn’t intend Star Wars as Christian allegory, but he did draw inspiration from world religions when creating his universe. And he infused it with messages and motifs about good, evil, love, hate, sacrifice, greed, hope, friendship, and loyalty. It was never supposed to be mere entertainment but packed with rich wisdom and truth. And it is! How many of Yoda’s sayings about determination, peace, fear, or power have become household proverbs?
Anyone in any culture can relate to something in Star Wars. And that’s been helpful to me throughout my life as an Army brat. Having to move to a new state or country and make new friends every few years was a challenge for a little nerd like me, but I could
always eventually find my people: even if they weren’t über-geeks, there were kids who at least liked Star Wars (someone usually thought comics, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, or sci-fi/fantasy literature was cool, too). That’s honestly one of the things that made middle and high school survivable for me; with the release of the Special Editions and then the prequels, the growing popularity of Star Wars gave this awkward young dork something to talk about with people. I was elated that “normal” kids were excited about something I’d always loved. And I was glad to have new Star Wars movies, of course.
That carries on to today; I’m older now, have a family, and I’m a little less awkward, but I’m still a geek who gets excited when other people are hyped about Star Wars. Especially when that includes my kids; fatherhood has taken my enjoyment of Star Wars to an unprecedented level. Being able to share all that I’ve loved about Star Wars since I was a kid with my own daughters is amazing (and by the way, my wife is a bigger fan than she will admit, too). That’s one of many reasons I’m stoked about the new films; they’ll be brand new for all of us at the same time.
But I also just have high expectations for the next three episodes, knowing how much care is being taken to recapture all that was so magical and real about the Original Trilogy; with actual film and real locations and practical effects AND THE ORIGINAL CAST!!! I was beside myself to have new Star Wars films when the prequels came out and I was glad to see the back story to the characters I’d loved for as long as I can remember, but what I always really wanted to see was what happened to them followingReturn of the Jedi. I’ve read and loved books like the Thrawn Trilogy from the Expanded Universe, but man, Episode VI came out the year before I was born and I’ve been waiting my whole life to see our heroes continue their adventure on the silver screen. And now it’s actually, really freaking happening, guys! AND I GET TO SEE IT TOMORROW!
It’s true. All of it.