What we talk about when we talk about Star Wars

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The new movie wasn’t bad. I watched it twice because that’s what I’ve always done with Star Wars, and I liked it a little less the second time like most times I’ve watched these movies twice.

Last year, when my divorce was fresh in my mind, I went ahead and flew down to Florida to spend Christmas with my parents and siblings. My dad was excited to see the film, kept going on about seeing the first one in seventy-seven. Growing up I knew it was his favorite because we used to watch it once a week, every Friday or Saturday, until the VHS tape gave up the ghost.

That one last year was good too. I noticed little things, like how the Storm troopers actually used military tactics this time around. All around the internet you can find in-depth critiques of the Empires tactics from the original trilogy, along with deep analysis of many other things not meant to be deeply analyzed. We talked about Star Wars after the movie, and back at my brothers house, and in doing so we didn’t talk about my divorce after nine years of marriage, and the fact that it would be quite some time until I got to see my child again.

In 1977 people talked about Star Wars because you didn’t have to talk about President Nixon, or the Vietnam disaster. You could talk about Star Wars and then you wouldn’t have to think about the fact that crime rates were going through the roof, or the drug crisis flooding everywhere. There was another world, one made a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, as unlikely as that sounded.

There were Star Wars rip-offs, and other fantasy worlds that flooded theaters, over the years. But Star Wars never really went away. Kept alive by the memories of people like my dad, who told me over and over about the one time I was an infant and cried through Return of the Jedi. I learned to like the series partly through osmosis, and partly because it was genuinely entertaining. I read Star Wars books and played with Star Wars action figures.

The movie Lucas came out with in 1999 was garbage, and I didn’t want to tell my dad that. It would have been another betrayal. I was joining the military at seventeen, and that was the first one. I was on the verge of flunking out of high school, and that was strike two. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him that Phantom Menace was pretty much a dumpster fire.

Over the next decade I tuned out the prequels. If I wanted escapism  there was Lord of the Rings, or other more adult fare. I liked movies that showed tits and ass, tastefully done, of course. I liked movies were they said fuck , and the f-bomb probably didn’t even exist in that area. No one said use the force, or Luke, I am your father. It was a little less ubiquitous than usual. When my friends and I talked about film, we discussed Big Lebowski or Fight Club.

And then came the Superheroes.

Each Superhero made a bundle of money. Followed by more and more obscure superheroes, all of them still raking it in, cashing in on that desired eighteen-to-twenty five demographic. I liked comic books at one time, and saw a few of the films. Some were alright and some weren’t. And then came Star Wars back around.

Today if you go to the theater you will see a sequel. Or a sequel of a sequel. Or a prequel of a sequel of a sequel.  All of these movies are hoping to earn a franchise tag, all of them hoping to go ahead and cash in for the long haul. But not even Star Wars can cash in forever. So maybe we can talk about how there aren’t any good movies made, or released anymore Or how everything’s derivative in film now. But maybe we can talk about Star Wars with or loved ones, because its easier than talking about whatever trauma is going on in our lives, in our country, in the world. There’s no possible way to turn life into the shades of black and white used by the force, but if we try hard enough and squint, maybe we can blur the grey edges enough to help things make sense.

 

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