Here we are celebrating May The 4th, also known as Star Wars Day, once again. And I was going to try and write up something based on the new movie coming out or something cool about the cast…but I decided to go a different route. Today, I’m going to tell you about some of the most influential Star Wars-related things that have occurred in my life, starting with the original movie.
I was six when the first Star Wars film hit theaters and, as we all know, that’s a highly impressionable age. The film amazed me, as I’m sure it did virtually everyone. But the true influence at that time was the line of toys that accompanied it. My first three figures were Darth Vader, R2-D2, and C-3PO. I remember being angry that the local stores were sold out when we were out shopping, but my ever-awesome Aunt Cathy managed to find those three action figures somewhere and gave them to me for my birthday about a month after the movie came out. It was the beginning of 35 years of collecting, though I had no idea of that at the time.
Fast forward about a year and I have discovered a book entitled Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, written by one of favorite authors of the 70s and 80s, Alan Dean Foster. (Side note: It seemed like Foster wrote hundreds of books in about twenty years, many of them novelizations, but all of them were great for a kid who wanted to read at a adult level.) The book was fun, exciting, and took me deeper into the Star wars universe than I ever imagined I could go. I mean, sure, the comics had started coming out, but they were not very forward-thinking; the first few were just an adaptation of the movie (I even had an oversized magazine-styled one that unfortunately didn’t stand the tests of time). But the book, the book explored new territory. Of course later on we discovered that Foster had set up some not too cool incestuous scenes between Luke and Leia that had to be glossed over once we are informed they are siblings. But in the book’s defense, this was right after the first film and before there was even thought put into a sequel. If you haven’t read this, do so. It strays from the strict Expanded Universe, but since that’s being tossed around right now, who cares?!
I’m not going to wax poetic about the wonders that creator George Lucas brought to us, nor will I complain about the little bears in the third film. Instead, I’d like to pay my respects to one of the greatest things imaginable…movie references. Seldom a day goes by that I do throw out a Star Wars quote, as I am sure many of you also do. “Do or do not, there is no try.” Or “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” And then there’s the always misquoted “Luke, I am your father” whereas it’s actually “No. I am your father.” But seriously, there is so much wisdom in these films that it borders on the religious. Only Monty Python and The Holy Grail comes close.
I mentioned toys earlier because they were instrumental in creating a passion for collecting things. I had not begun comic collecting (as I’m sure my wife wishes I never had) and most of my prior toys were sports related or random cars and whatnot. But I slowly amassed a collection of a hundred or so figures and assorted vehicles. And the Death Star playset, oh lordy…that was the envy of all my friends. Of course, I think I lost all the little foam “trash” pieces the first week, but I just wadded up paper to create the same effect. I still fondly remember the way the TIE Fighter would eject its wings and the X-Wing would spread its own into attack mode. So many toys, so much love. I remember removing the retractable lightsaber pieces from Luke and Vader and replacing them with more realistic and size-appropriate colored toothpicks. I remember trading figures with friends, and duping the less than intelligent ones into trading several of their new figures for one of my over used “classic” ones that couldn’t hold a position because the arms and legs were too loose. But all good things come to an end, as they say. What they don’t say is that while you’re at camp, your mom will give away ALL of your Star Wars toys to your stepbrother out of state and his little sisters would lose almost every single piece in less than a month. I eventually recovered four figures and the heap of plastic formerly known as a Landspeeder. I’m still angry about it and not a year goes by…nay, not a family gathering goes by that I don’t voice my displeasure about it. Such betrayal, such thoughtlessness. And even though I’ve replaced many of the toys, they aren’t my childhood toys. They are doppelgangers, copies…just decoration and nothing more.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve shown my love of the franchise in a variety of more adult ways. For instance, I have a Stormtrooper tattoo on my left thigh that I designed myself in an homage to minimalism. I also have a decent selection of Star Wars ties from almost every film (no Jar Jar, thank you very much) since I have to wear one to work every day. I’ve got matching cufflinks, too (both Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire versions). Random statues, mugs, artwork, and even candy dispensers can be found throughout my home (again, much to my non-nerdy wife’s chagrin). And I know many of you will have more Star Wars collectibles than me. And several of you may know more trivia, while others have every single line memorized. To you folks, I say: Congratulations, my brothers and sisters! This is no contest, it’s a shared experience. While I would love a full suit of Boba Fett’s Mandalorian Armor, it’s just not in my budget. If it’s in yours, I’ll want my picture taken with you!
The point of all this is, I haven’t ever lost touch with the little boy that sat openmouthed while a handful of ragtag rebels took on a world-destroying space station and won. The takeaway from it all is that good will triumph over evil as long as we stand up for what we know to be right and not allow bullies to intimidate us. I learned that true friends will always have your back and if someone isn’t there for you, then they were never really your friend to begin with. There is far more to Star Wars than just a love of the movies and merchandise. For this little boy whose father wasn’t around as he grew up, it gave me hope that things would get better and life was just beginning (and it could be a grand adventure).
Enjoy your Star Wars Day and may the Force be with you!