Star Wars is woven throughout the fabric of my existence. I am far from alone in this regard because Star Wars matters to a lot of people around the world. With the new movie debuting later this year, and Force Friday happening today, it feels like a good time to explain why I find Star Wars so important. I spent some time earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration with tens of thousands of people who could share a similar story about how Star Wars has affected their lives. Every one of those stories is original and valid.
This one is mine.
Before delving into the details of what it was like to be at Star Wars Celebration back in April, I want to explain the various stages of my Star Wars fandom and experiences throughout my life. I was born in New Jersey in 1976, so I was too young to be aware of the first movie’s imprint on society in 1977. As I grew up, I became a fan because Star Wars toys were everywhere – and I wanted them all! My mother referred to me back then as Greedy Smurf, which is a title I thankfully outgrew (right, mom?!). I recall watching Star Wars in my living room whenever I could find it on the cable channel, PRISM. This was before the days of digital downloads, DVRs, Blu-rays, DVDs, Laserdiscs or even VHS tapes – so finding a movie you wanted to watch took planning and the local TV Guide. For example, discovering that Star Wars was going to play on PRISM next Friday night became appointment viewing. My aunt or grandmother would sometimes call our house to alert me that Star Wars was going to be on television. My fandom started in this way, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of an old box TV watching Luke leave his home to partake in a grand adventure.
My memory tells me that the first time I saw Empire Strikes Back was on a VHS tape at my aunt Eileen’s house while the rest of the family were off doing something else; I could be mistaken. The scene that hit me like a bolt of lightning was Luke in the snow cave on Hoth. Helpless and dangling from the roof of the cave, Luke senses danger, closes his eyes, and wills his lightsaber to leap from the snow and into hand just in time to fend off a raging monster.
That was it.
That was the moment!
I had heard “Old Ben” teach Luke about The Force many times in the first movie and watched Luke trust his feelings to blow up The Death Star, but it was not until that moment when Star Wars connected with me on an existential level.