Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why I <3 Star Wars

Well, that's personal. But since social media is the place for transparency, I'm going to give you this one.

It all started a long time ago in a town on Long Island. (You though I was going to say that other thing, didn't you?) It was 1977. There was a driving rain and my mother along with her friends decided to take the kids to the movies. My mother was a bit of a Trekkie, had tackled an engineering degree at CUNY before getting married to my father. Unfortunately the marriage ended after only a few years leaving me and my sister with my mother in a suburb of Long Island in the mid 1970s. We made our way the best we could. We saw my father frequently but when you're about 6 or 7 years old, there's no replacement for the real thing. Needless to say, it wasn't the happiest of times in my life.

Luckily I had a good imagination. I was an artist and would draw, create, and dream my days away, still as you might expect, there was something missing in my childhood.
That summer in 1977 when my Trekkie mom and her friends took the kids to the movies on one rainy day, they decided on the latest blockbuster movie when summer blockbusters were still something new that Spielberg and Lucas were helping to define. While the other single-mothers weren't so sure (they probably and rightly though that the kids might enjoy a movie more along the lines of Pete's Dragon rather than a strange space movie starring Sir Alec Guinness) my mom convinced them to take us to Star Wars. There I was, waiting in the rain, on a line that wrapped around the one screen movie house, oblivious to that something was about to change my life forever.

Let me digress here to say that before Star Wars came out, there was arguably nothing else like it on the big screen before. I had no real affinity to any movie up to that point. Perhaps there were stories that had captured my imagination, but nothing like the world - no the universe - that was the Star Wars story. I went into that theater a lonely little boy and came out a dreamer, a storyteller, with a world in which the good guys won (well, usually) and the bad guys wore black. A universe so different and so wonderful and so remarkable that it would forever control my destiny.

I was hooked. It was a place I could go to experience extreme joy and happiness to escape the times when real life was, well, not so hot. There were lightsabers to take care of the monsters, beautiful princesses I could help rescue and all types of wondrous creatures to keep my mind occupied for a while at least until the melancholy lifted from my brain. From the cacophony of the orchestra during the opening scroll it was like a revelation, a baptism of special effects and pseudo religious mumbo jumbo set against a universe that was strangely lived in and familiar, yet amazing and technologically superior.

This movie came at exactly the right time in my life. It was like George Lucas told the story just to me. I also felt immediately comfortable with everything from the shapes and sounds to the music and dialogue. It all went directly from the screen into my soul, no need to translate it or figure it out. I just knew. I felt like the characters, the worlds, the ships, the story was my story of a young boy feeling lost and shiftless in his own home, wanting something grander for himself, something where he could become more than just the pieces of his life that were left for picking up after, to be powerful and wield a Force to mold and shape the world around me. I was Luke Skywalker.

The tale only grew in the telling, as more episodes were introduced and in each one no punches were pulled. Darth Vader was Luke’s father – boy and I though I had father issues! Obi Wan lied to Luke about just about everything, manipulating the poor boy for his own endgame. Even Yoda was not entirely trustworthy, withholding the truth from Luke. The universe itself and everyone in it conspired against young Skywalker. But you know what? Despite everything, Luke became master of his own destiny.

It cost him, no doubt. He lost a part of himself, his innocence, most of his family and friends died in the epic journey but he also gained much. He gained ultimate victory, grabbing it from the edge of defeat, throwing away the one weapon that could help defend himself against the Emperor, putting all his faith in humanity of his father, trusting his instincts and feelings that someone who everyone else had written off for dead might come back and redeem himself. Not only for himself but for his son and daughter and the rest of the galaxy.

In the end, it was the boy who triumphed over everyone’s doubts. Luke ended up growing from the innocent farm kid stuck in his mundane life, unable to influence the world to the one with the ultimate power to save the galaxy. Not just brute strength, but faith, understanding, empathy and ultimately love.

How can you NOT love that movie.

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