The first Star Wars movie I saw was ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. I remember I was in summer school, and the science teacher played a clip to show us what an asteroid field was. Now, of course, knowing what I know now, that is nowhere near representative of what an asteroid field was. However, I knew that I needed to see this film after those few minutes. As soon as I got home, I begged my mom to take me to the library and rent me this ‘Star Wars’ movie.
The blue writing on the screen told me, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” And then the fanfare hits, and this text told me about a civil war, a princess on a secret mission, and as I’m trying to process all of that, I forget all of it as a starship races by overhead, trying to escape from an even larger ship.
The rest of course is history, and from that moment on, I was hooked. As soon as I could, I shared it with all of my friends. I got them to watch it, and maybe because we were all about the right age, but we were hooked. That became our shared world, our common language. We absorbed everything Star Wars that we could think of, books, compendiums, we would spend time arguing about the relative battle strengths of capital ships in the Star Wars universe. To this day we still talk about stupid stuff like that, as if some part of our brain was specially reserved for Star Wars trivia.
People argue that it’s the archetypal hero’s journey, and that’s absolutely true, but there’s so much more than that. It’s the way that the characters are written, that makes them feel real, feel worn. The world is lived in and inhabited, the lore alive and ever expanding. But at the core of it all, it’s a story about finding someone or something to fight for, and living with the consequences of your decisions, right or wrong.
There’s really no victory in Star Wars without cost, and that’s what I realized when I grew up. As much as we wanted to believe that our heroes won their victories and walked away unbloodied, if you look back, they all lost parts of themselves along the way. Sacrifice requires giving up a part of yourself, and I think that we often forget that as we toss that word around too casually at times. I learned that sometimes the bad guys win, that doing the wrong things for the right reasons has a cost. The characters I loved showed me that when you choose between your head and your heart, sometimes there’s no right choice. Most of all, that redemption is possible no matter how far you’ve fallen.
I normally don’t take celebrity news very seriously, but the passing of Carrie Fisher yesterday really affected me. I still remember the Leia was the only female character my sister would be without complaint when we played pretend. She was the first princess that I could recall shooting a gun, using sarcasm as a weapon against chauvinism, and in a way she shaped my idea of womanhood.
The most jarring thing about Episode VII was how unhappy our heroes were 30 years after the original saga. You could explain it away in that Disney needed a reason to make more movies, but I think that it’s more realistic to believe that there really is no happily ever after. If being happy is one’s only goal in life, then it’s a wasted life. To fight for what you believe in, to stand for your ideals, means sometimes losing parts of yourself. You steal happiness where you can find it, but if it eludes you, then so be it. Maybe because the franchise is named “Star Wars”, but the conflict never ends. I think that’s the biggest takeaway from it, is that there’s no place you can stick a flag and say, “This is it. This is where we won, and it’ll be all okay from here.” We all have to work to make tomorrow better, and the next day too.
As someone who’s almost 30, I’d like to tell you that I’ve stopped daydreaming about shooting first in a cantina, fighting a lightsaber duel, or making the jump to hyperspace, but that’d be a lie. I don’t do it as often as my 10 year old self, but every once in a while, I dream about a life a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And I don’t think that’s too bad of a thing to do every once in a while.