I’ve been wrestling with where to start on this journey to conquer all the fandoms, but it dawned on me this morning in the shower (as does the opening of pretty much every paper I have ever written in my entire educational career) that I should start at the beginning. And if you haven’t already guessed by my moniker and the heading above, that beginning is Star Wars.
Warning: Spoilers, Sweetie.
A long time ago I fell in love with a smuggler from the stars, and the other night I watched him die.
As the greatest fictional love of my life strode out on the bridge to win back the soul of his son, I sat there in the theater in my Her Universe Han Solo dress, clutching my Chewbacca doll (thanks, Regina) to my heart. I sat there immovable, breathless, trying to summon tears because I knew this moment would break my heart. But the tears never came.
Now you could call me heartless and cold, and you wouldn’t be the first, but the tears never came because I knew it was time – it was time to let Han Solo go. The sorrow was there. The heartache was there. But the tears stayed in the shadows because despite how unpleasant that moment might be, it was a moment that had to happen. I had to say goodbye. The fans had to say goodbye so that the franchise could live on.
I never read the Expanded Universe (EU) because I didn’t need to. As a child I imagined my own stories of a magnificent Force-sensitive heroine who wielded a blue lightsaber – her uncle’s lightsaber to be exact, flew her father’s somewhat reliable spaceship, and valiantly fought the darkness that had consumed her onetime best friend. Why read the adventures of others when I had my own? None of them could ever compare. And then came J.J. Abrams, you magnificent bastard.
The Force Awakens brought magic back to the Star Wars franchise that the prequels had lost. Now, I will defend those stories as having their place in the canon, because even human history is riddled with flaws and memories we wish we could erase, but there is a quality of fantasy and characters larger than life that only the Original Trilogy attained. That is, until The Force Awakens came on screen.
Is it as good as IV, V, and VI? No of course not. It never can be because even they are not as perfect as we believe them to be. I have always maintained that unless you watched Star Wars as a child, you can never see the magic and awe it holds. You have to see it through a child’s eyes. Watching Rey on screen transported me back to that nerdy child running about clothed in a sand-colored peasant skirt four times her size, which she wore about her shoulders like a Jedi robe. That child who spun around with a bamboo fishing pole painted blue to the hilt, who charged up the stairs of her playground set to the steering wheel of her cockpit or to the gunner on the other side, who leaped onto her speeder bike two-person swing and saved the galaxy all by herself.
I didn’t cry that night in the theater, because I had found a new hero. It was time to say goodbye to Han and hello to Rey. The Force Awakens may have sacrificed an intricate and compelling plot for the sake of intricate and compelling characters, but that is perfectly fine by me because I never watched Star Wars for the plot. I watched it for the people. I watched it for the magic and adventure. Abrams gave me the chance to watch Star Wars through a child’s eyes again, and in doing so, he brought out that which made the originals so endearing.
There are new, untold stories that await my most beloved franchise of all time, but in order for those stories to take root and grow, the old guard has to move on. We have to move on. Is it everything we ever wanted? Probably not. But it may just be exactly what we needed.
Stay tuned, dear reader, I promise to give The Force Awakens a critical eye in another post because the thoughts are there, but for now, the little girl who was Rey was grateful to relive those adventures and experience the wonderment that is the essence of a fandom.