Maybe the most important moment in my childhood happened when my Dad was reading me the Star Wars X-Wing Novels by my bedside. We reached a moment where the Hero,
Corran Horn, decides not to sleep with Mirax Terrick even though she offers because he realizes that she would regret it later, and that in order to respect her as a person he must turn her down. Now, I didn't entirely understand what was going on at that age, but it was still a revelation for me: being a good person means respecting people enough to not take advantage of a situation with them. We kept on reading those books together, and in Michael Stackpole's “I, Jedi” I learned that cheating in a relationship was wrong, even when the other person in your relationship would never know. Corran Horn in many ways formed the foundation for my moral backbone, and taught me to start questioning situations society treated as normal where other people were at a disadvantage. Something awakened inside me, something beyond simply a love of pulpy space stories. Like Corran, I tried to look at every situation for what it was, and every person for who they were. It made me more of a Force for good than I would have been without it, and for that I'm forever grateful.
To me, that is Star Wars.
But Star Wars isn't just that, its been countless things to countless people, as numerous as Abraham's Stars in the sky. To some its been nothing but escapism: a pulpy melodrama with action and gumption. To some it has been a political or religious manifesto: dripping with ideology and secrets. To some it has been lifesaving: the spark that keeps a razor from a wrist, or the hope in your heart against abuse. Its been all that and more, and none of those. After all, there are people who hate Star Wars: some think its boring, some think it ruined science-fiction, some think its derivative trash, and so on and so forth.
The funny thing is, Star Wars isn't even one thing. Those words, “Star Wars” refer to a movie released in 1977, and to the series of films that followed it and changed its name to “A New Hope”, it refers to comics, books, games, audio dramas, games played with toys on the living room floor, commemorative towels, and more, let alone the divisions within those divisions. There is now so much that is Star Wars, as its seeped so deeply into people's psyches, digging it out of there is basically impossible.
Naturally, this blog is here to try to figure out what Star Wars is, because I like setting reasonable goals for myself.
This isn't an ordinary time to ask this question though, as fans of Star Wars have reached a crossroads. Since Star Wars has been sold to Disney recently, its now out of the hands of its original creator for the first time since it came into being. Most of the stories created under the old guard are now bunk, cast off into an alternate universe where they still sort of exist, but won't effect any of the upcoming movies. The direction Star Wars takes is now in the hands of people who grew up with it, and that direction won't be entirely unfamiliar, because Star Wars has been so many things at this point, its impossible for it not to be.
The second trailer for the next Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens” recently went online, and has taken the fandom by storm already. What's funny about the reaction so far, is that it shows the ways in which Star Wars fandom has created its own insular culture and language, repeating keywords and buzzwords to communicate important concepts that they believe define what Star Wars is and should be (I swear, I'm rather tired of hearing the term “Lived in Universe” after two decades of it being repeated, I wish there was another term that could fill in just so I could take a break from it for a bit!) with a firm deference, and often a bit of rancor when people like a part of the endless saga they didn't.
That's been a part of Star Wars to: one only has to have been a child being made fun of by grown men who enjoyed breaking you down when they found out you liked something they didn't to know that fans aren't always nice, and aren't always good. Still, even through their cruelty, there is a passion that demands an answer to why this matters still, and why people are willing to treat a pulpy movie from 1977 with the deference due to deities.
We'll be exploring the major releases throughout the history of Star Wars, and how they have affected fans, the ideological meaning of Star Wars, and the future of it. There will be triumphs, failures, and oddities, action, romance, and tragedy. There will be dead ends, beginnings, endings, and unended cliffhangers.
But before all of that, we have to go back to the start, back to 1977... Because before we can know what Star Wars is now, we have to look at what it was before anyone bothered asking that question.
This will be a weekly blog, leading up to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Check here every Friday for a new post!