Star Wars: A Geek’s Tale: Episode XXI

Why Star Wars?

coldwarDuring the last twenty-eight years, numerous people have questioned me about my obsession with Star Wars. The questions may have all been couched differently, but the gist of all of the questions that people have asked is the same.

Why Star Wars?

There are two simple answers to the question:
1.) It was the right movie at the right time of my life.
2.) It allows me to feel like a kid again.

The first answer covers the period of “Then”. The second answer covers the period of “Now”. What follows is my best effort to further explain these two answers.

A kid growing up in the seventies was exposed to one of the most divisive periods in our nation’s history. Television news was saturated with coverage of the continuing struggle in Vietnam, the Watergate hearings and subsequent resignation of a disgraced president, skyrocketing inflation, an energy crisis and the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. And that was on a good day.

While most of that junk went right over my head it did give me the impression that there was little hope in the world. The threat of nuclear war made a huge impact on me. In elementary school, my classmates and I were shown films that depicted the events and effects of a nuclear detonation. We were drilled on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. The teachers instructed us to calmly crawl under our desks and cover our heads. I did this even though I knew that, based on the films we were shown, my desk wasn’t going to do squat to save my butt if we came under nuclear attack.

My reality at that time was that my friends and I were likely to fight and die in World War III. And if that didn’t come to pass the crooked politicians or poor economy were going to run our country into the ground. My future seemed bleak.

For most of the seventies my main avenue of escape from those harsh events was the game of baseball. The Cincinnati Reds were my favorite team and they provided plenty of thrills and excitement during those years. I also played the game and loved doing so above all else. A few friends in my neighborhood would play ball with me but almost always wanted to quit way before I was ready to. Little league was where I loved playing the most, playing for seven years in the league in my hometown.

The summer of 1977 was my last year of little league. I had hopes of playing in high school the next year but knew deep down that it wasn’t going to happen. I played that summer on a team blessed with loads of talent and cursed with a coach who, though he meant well, didn’t know diddly about coaching baseball. We were the worst team in the league. I had been on three championship teams my first six years and had grown accustomed to winning. This wasn’t how I wanted to end my playing career.

One of my teammates that summer was also one of my best friends from school. Steve and I would trade off spending the night at each other’s house a couple times during the school year. We lived in different neighborhoods so little league was the only time we got to see one another during the summer. Our younger sisters were the same age and played on the same softball team coached by our dads. Steve and I would usually tag along to our sisters’ games and then just hang out at the ball diamonds with our other friends.

It was during one of our sisters’ games that Steve asked me if I had been to see Star Wars yet. I hadn’t yet and hadn’t really given it much thought. I read and saw the stories about the phenomenal success of the movie and saw the commercials for it on TV. The truth was that none of that really made we want to see it. I enjoyed a good science fiction movie on TV from time to time but this movie looked a little silly to me.

swhypeSteve had seen it three times already. He went on and on about how great the movie was and recounted several of its scenes. His enthusiasm made me think differently about seeing it. I read a couple of magazine articles about the movie. The more I read about Star Wars the more interested in it I became.

I talked my mom into taking me and a neighborhood friend to see the movie one afternoon. The theater lobby was festooned with still pictures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader and the other major characters form the movie. Other pictures caught key moments from the film. I can remember trying to show off my knowledge of the movie by pointing out the Sand People in one picture. Reading the picture’s caption showed that they were actually Jawas. Thankfully my buddy didn’t read it, saving me some embarrassment.

My excitement grew was I looked at all of the pictures and read their captions. Very little of this had been shown in any of media offerings I had seen. This stuff looked incredibly cool!

My friend and I grabbed a seat towards the front of the theater. We jabbered away about nonsensical stuff until the lights finally came down. We sat through the tedious previews of upcoming movies but sang along with the jazzy music that started every movie at the General Cinemas. The “Feature Presentation” notice came up and we fell silent.

The 20th Century Fox sign and fanfare came up first, followed by the Lucasfilm logo.

Then after a very brief pause came the line that signaled the start of one of the most life-altering events I would ever experience.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Coming Up:
The look back continues

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