(1977) director George Lucas
The other day, I was stumbling among various childhood effluvia of mine and showed it to my kids. When I showed Clara a picture of Darth Vader, she told me that she kind of knew who he was (from Lego Star Wars video games, various household items, and general culture) but had never actually seen the movie, Star Wars. In fact, she’d never seen any of them. I realized that while Felix had been introduced to these films at an early age, she was probably too young at the time to be interested.
I felt vaguely ashamed. Of all of the films that we watch together, I was overlooking one of the most culturally significant film series of my generation, something that is a major cultural touchpoint for apparently all generations that have followed. You can criticize it from here to kingdom come but by goodness, everyone has seen it, knows Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, R2D2, C2PO, Chewbacca, Yoda, and the rest.
I also saw this as a great opportunity. At age 7, she is kind of an excellent age to introduce to the films without cynicism. In many ways, she’s at an age to enjoy the films as much as any time in her life.
The funny thing was, she really had no clue about the film. She couldn’t name or recognize any of the characters, Darth Vader included, with the exception of Yoda, who of course doesn’t show up until the second film.
Interestingly, Felix has his own take on the whole series. Part of a generation who has all six films to work from, he sees the story as starting with Episode 1 and ending with Episode 6 (Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)). For those of us of my generation, and perhaps other people trying to watch the films in the order of their production, you start with the original film, Star Wars, before it had a subtitle and work your way through the chronological productions, ending with Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005),
Apparently, this touched some sort of hidden nerd nerve within me.
Clara started by asking lots of questions (which she does a lot of on any occasion). “Who is the baboon guy?” “Where is the green guy with the big ears?” “Why does she roll her hair up so weird?” But as the story got going, she got into it.
This time through the film, what was I thinking? So focused on Clara’s experience, I wasn’t pulling it all in quite the same way as I would on my own. At first, I was struck by some of the dated design and the lesser moments. But from the first striking notes of John Williams’ score, I was struck, the way that I was struck back when I was 8 years old, first experiencing the film, being as in love with a movie as much as I ever became. Numerous scenes resonated similarly. Lines of dialogue, echoed in my brain, nuance for nuance.
In some ways, perhaps many ways, I’ve been fighting the fact that I truly loved Star Wars myself.
My feeling has generally been that, yes, I did love Star Wars as a kid, as much as anybody. My experience was personal, visceral, real, but as I grew up and realized how universal this experience was, it kind of cheapened it for me. And as Star Wars has gone on to such weird extremes of cultural saturation that I’ve felt more alienated from it. That other people had more intense relationships with the movie. For all the times that I saw the film in the theater (before home video), many, many others had wound up seeing it many, many times more than I ever had and many, many others have been more obsessed with it than I ever was.
In some ways, it caused me to develop a distance with the film(s). In this post-modern world, where it is very hard to experience anything with fresh, unjaundiced, not pre-influenced eyes and mind, I had been in some denial of my own genuine relationship with the movie and its sequels.
It’s hard to know how Clara ultimately felt about it. She said she liked it and I believe she did. Felix enjoyed it, but not overtly. I think it’s likely that we’ll revisit (or in her case “visit”) it’s sequels, at least the original sequels, in the coming weeks.
We shall see.