My Life: A Star Wars Story

Forty years ago, on May 25, 1977 something happened that would change the world. It changed the entirety of pop culture and (directly or indirectly) would affect every movie that came out after it. Forty years ago, Star Wars was released for the first time.

While it predates me, it has influenced my life in profound and poignant ways. Sometimes little things change your life, and you don’t know it until years later. Something as simple as not feeling like cooking could lead you to a restaurant where you meet your soul mate. If you had cooked, your life would be on an incredibly different path. For me, it was viewing Star Wars. I was 5. My entertainment life up until then was Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street and Barney and then it evolved into Power Rangers, Superman and Ninja Turtles. It was all fun, but I’d still turn to movies like The Jungle Book to break up the monotony of heavily serialized television.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for something. The problem was that I didn’t know what I was looking for. At 5 years old I knew I liked being immersed in other worlds. I liked watching spectacular people do spectacular things, and the feelings I got from consuming all of these stories were the closest thing to a “high” that a five year old could experience. So I sought out more and to this day, I still seek it out. Being immersed so completely in a story is still my favorite kind of high. I couldn’t explain any of this at five – and if I didn’t stumble upon Star Wars I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have the same love and appreciation I have now for the art of storytelling.
So one day, I found it. I don’t remember how. I don’t remember if it was a library VHS rental, if it was shown on TV, or if it was borrowed. I wish I did, but in the grand scheme of things, where and how I found it is irrelevant. I sat still for 121 minutes completely and utterly enamored. There were no commercials for a 5 year old’s short attention span. It did not matter. They were not needed. I got up from watching it and the only thing that was on my mind was to get to the VCR as fast as I could to rewind it so I could watch it again. My life changed that day. I didn’t know it then, but I met my soul mate at the restaurant.
My life can be divided into two chapters: BSW (Before Star Wars) and ASW (After Star Wars). I had other fandoms ASW, and sometimes they were at the forefront; immediately after I was exposed to the galaxy far, far away, my affinity (love? obsession?) for Star Wars was on a low simmer on the back burner. Some of the best meals are started that way. I was 5. My brain could only hold so much. So instead of a Jedi I would dress as Clark Kent and Superman. But I liked the essence of the character more than a particular story. There wasn’t a cartoon, movie or TV show that was my favorite; I just liked all of those things because they featured Superman. But slowly the Superman fandom waned and my true nature came out. I belonged in the Star Wars universe. When I became older and would be bullied and made fun of in school, Star Wars more than anything else, gave me the solace I needed.

That was 1994. Flash forward 3 years to 1997. The Special Editions are being released on the big screen! I had never seen it in a theater setting before. Plus, my local theater was offering up a poster for each of the three movies. My brother at the time was in preschool. Dad had taken him to Florida, not because he was the favorite (which is still my theory) but because he could “afford to miss school”. I couldn’t as I had the chicken pox and whooping cough in the same year and missed a ton of school already. I was quite upset, but to make up for it, 3 days in a row, my mother took me to see each of the Star Wars movies in the theater! Who needed Florida? That was a way better treat. In doing that it fueled the fandom to the forefront. Clark who? I was in full Star Wars mode now. Recesses were spent fighting over whose turn it was to be Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. Free time at school was spent folding paper to look like the Millennium Falcon. Any spare money I had went to Star Wars Lego sets, toy lightsabers and books. By the time we reached 1999 and The Phantom Menace was being released Star Wars had transcended a fandom and became a lifestyle; a lifestyle that is still the dominating force in my life today.
With the prequels coming out, I was a little older a lot more obsessed and ready to experience new Star Wars with the rest of the world. I was done catching up. Now I could live it in the moment! I saw The Phantom Menace in theaters 5 times. I went once with my family, then after that went with any neighbor, friend, or classmate that wanted to go. The toy collection grew as did my knowledge. My immersion into that world became deeper. Star Wars started to define me and people knew it. It was a reputation I liked having and I relished in it.
In 2002, the second prequel was coming out and I needed to see it opening day. I was nearly thirteen at the time so had to settle for an afternoon showing with my friend on release day. But still, I was there the first day, getting a new chapter in a world I loved so much; new characters, worlds and ships to explore and the best thing: seeing things on screen I had never seen before. I was able to get my fix, and could hold me over until the next one.
My sophomore year in high school was when the last prequel – and as far as we all knew – the last Star Wars movie ever was going to come out. I wanted to go all out. I wanted to wait in line for the midnight release of Revenge of the Sith and see it as early as I possibly could. I don’t know how I was going to pull it off. It would involve being out in the middle of the night and missing school the next day. There was no way Mom was going to go for that. Somehow I managed to convince her – and off I went straight from school on Wednesday, May 18th, 2005 with three friends, four chairs and a case of Mountain Dew.

That night was an ethereal experience. I was seen on the news. I was with people who not only understood how important that night was to me, but joined in on that sentiment. Then something happened that I wouldn’t realize the impact of until years later. A truck from a radio station pulled up and gave people in the front of line (my friends and I were the second group, the only ones in front of us was my former English teacher and his friends) tickets to an early screening at 10:00pm. We’d watch the movie, get out, and then go watch it again immediately at midnight using the tickets we paid for. The problem was the ticket was for two, and we had a group of four. My group immediately handed it to me and told me to go. There was no debate, there was no fuss, complaining or pleading. It was mine. I was touched and grateful. But I was able to bring someone else. I then realized that Star Wars could become even more special to me than it already was, and that would be because I could experience it with my friends at the same time, together. I only had to wait a mere 2 hours to get an even better experience than I thought I was going to get. So I went to the back of the line, sold the 10pm ticket for fifty dollars and eleven years later it was the best decision I ever made, because I was fifty dollars richer and had an experience with my friends that I cherish to this day. An experience I wouldn’t have had if I went early. After I got out, I knew that this was my last time I’d ever experience new Star Wars on a scale like this. I’d have the rest of my life to cherish it, and would consume all of the ancillary things (video games, books etc) with the same love and affection but some magic would be missing with no more movies. I was happy, content, and ready to live in a post Star Wars world knowing that I would never actually leave it.
Imagine my surprise (and horror at first) when in 2012 Disney bought Lucasfilm with immediate plans to make more Star Wars. My first thought is “If I see the existence of Jar Jar Binks and Goofy Go to the Beach then I don’t know if I want to be in this world any longer” - a severe reaction, but a real one nonetheless. But what transpired would be the complete opposite. My love of Star Wars was shared by everyone involved in the new regime and they didn’t want to see Jar Jar Binks and Goofy Go to the Beach either. Not only that, my experience in 2015 when the first new Disney-lead Star Wars movie was released would far outweigh any Star Wars experience that I had previously.
For The Force Awakens I waited in line for thirteen hours. The only reason for that was to get the seats we wanted. But it was also a badge of honor. Plus, we were the very first people in line, and that is still something very special to me. The news crews showed up again, just like a decade earlier. The difference this time is that I was interviewed by them. I was able to tell a few thousand people why I waited thirteen hours and how much the franchise meant to me. My friend told the reporter it was his religion – that wasn’t an exaggeration. We literally worship it.

I like when stories can consume you. You push out the real world and focus wholly and absolutely on the story being presented. That is why you can root for characters, or feel their pain, or cry at emotional moments. You know deep down that is a bunch of adults making pretend, but they do it so well you can get lost in it. When I sat down in my seat after ten years (and thirteen hours) of waiting, emotions were already at the forefront. Here I was doing something I never thought I would ever do again; an experience I was sharing with two hundred people who felt the same way that I did. When the title and opening crawl flashed on the screen – I started to cry. It startled me more than anything, I was not expecting that. I knew there was a chance that I could get emotional during the movie depending on where the story went, but I wasn’t expecting to cry at just seeing eight letters on the screen. I looked around and saw I wasn’t the only one. This universe means so much to so many people. It impacts their lives in many ways.This wasn’t just "going to see a movie"; it was experiencing a story that nurtured our souls.
I walked out silent. I needed to some time to pass to let what I just witnessed sink in. Then the reality of the world we are now in hit me. I only had a year to let it sink in – another one was coming the next year! Sure enough, 2016 rolls around and the first ever live-action official spinoff was here! They are doing spinoffs now! A whole new world of possibilities opens up! Some low budget, unheard of, independent sci-fi opera is now, thirty-nine years later, the biggest franchise in the history of entertainment.
We were blessed with two Star Wars movies in two years. Wow. That wasn’t a fluke. We are getting one every year for the foreseeable future. Some people feel it will over-saturate the franchise, but as good as the new ones have been, I really wish we could have one every six months!
Today the franchise is forty years old and has made its mark on every medium you could possibly think of: movies, television, radio, books, comics, artwork, animation, you name it! It has had its ups and downs but there is no sign of it slowing down. I am so happy that the thing that shaped me into the human being I am now will continue to generate content for generations to come. I look forward to participating in and consuming Star Wars stories for the next forty years. When I am in my 80s and walk out of whatever the newest Star Wars experience will be, I will be able to exhale and truly know that “I am one with the force and the force is with me”. If I ever had the opportunity to talk to my younger self who would tell me he loves Star Wars, I would look down at him, smirk, and say “I know.”
Happy 40th Birthday, Star Wars!


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