I’ve never really been a fan of Star Wars. At least not a “REAL” Star Wars fan.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Star Wars, but I hesitate to call myself a “fan” due to the linguistic implication of calling myself a Star Wars fanatic. When it comes to Star Wars, there exists a divide between people who grew up with the films, either watching it when it first premiered in theaters or being taught to love them as a child (I knew someone whose middle name was Skywalker and I wonder how many times she had to watch Star Wars), and those who like the films but have no deep, emotional attachment to them, with the title of “fan(atic)” being reserved for the former. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on whether or not you’re a Star Wars FAN), I constitute the latter. Personally, the films never played a particularly influential role in my life. Conceived years after the Second Coming in 1977 and a few years before the apocalypse in 1999, I was born just in time to not give a shit about either trilogy.
The original trilogy, despite its praise and religious following, never intrigued me because I had already known what to expect. The films have become so ingrained into popular culture that, even at birth, I knew who Luke’s father was before I even knew who Luke was. As such, I can’t watch the films with the same awe and wonder the original audiences in the theater must have felt. Rather, I wonder why the hell Luke didn’t know about, what is perhaps, the worst kept spoiler in movie history. I enjoy the original trilogy, but it has become overshadowed by its larger-than-life cultural presence, such that I actually prefer Family Guy’s parody of the original trilogy because it felt new and refreshing. Depending on how old you are, you might call me a dirty millennial or a scruffy looking nerf-herder (both of which I aspire to be), but the fact remains that there exists a generational gap between Star Wars fans and fanatics.
Although I was born much closer to the prequel trilogy, I was still too young to fall in love with, or even remember, the films. I watched the Virgin Holiday Special [VHS] of The Phantom Menace a lot, but that Jewish stereotype character used to scare me (it honestly still does). I don’t even remember Attack of the Clones, and for the longest time I forgot that it even existed, even though it has recently become my favorite Star Wars saga film. I saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater, but my most poignant memory of the event is a 45-minute technical snafu where for 45 minutes the same “Please Turn Off Your Cell-Phone” and “And Now Our Feature Presentation” warnings played on repeat before the movie finally started. I don’t remember if there was a riot or not, I only remember feeling very accomplished that I finished the entire tub of popcorn before the movie even started. Regardless, I still like the prequels more than originals; the theatricality of the lightsaber fights was reminiscent of the Power Rangers, whose fighting moves I remember trying to replicate while jumping on my parents’ bed. Nevertheless, I was still not a true Star Wars fan.
As such, when news broke that after having bought Lucasfilm, Disney was planning a new Star Wars trilogy, I lost my shit in excitement. I jumped on the hype bandwagon, thrilled by the prospect of finally getting a Star Wars to call my own. I bought all the Star Wars essentials: A Darth Vader toaster, a Darth Vader themed PS4 and a Kylo Ren costume because I couldn’t find a Darth Vader costume in Youth XL. I became engrossed in Episode 7 theories and speculations videos, dissecting everything from the film’s title (why was the force asleep? How long has it been sleeping? Is this in any way related to the missing Sexy case back in ’06?) to the prominent display of sand in the trailers (can confirm sand is life). In doing so, I made some shocking revelations, such as discovering that Salacious Krum is the most important Star Wars character ever, Sarlacc Pit is a euphemism and most shockingly, that everyone hated Jar Jar Binks (growing up with my mother who LOVES Jar Jar, I just assumed everyone else did too). With these epiphanies, I felt I was finally becoming a part of the grand Star Wars culture. And so on opening day, as I attended a 7-movie Star Wars marathon, I was ready to become a Star Wars FAN! But then (dun dun dun!), I saw The Force Awakens.
No disrespect to J.J. Abrams, but your movie sucked major ass (no straws required). It doesn’t take an Eric Guzman to realize that this carefully crafted piece of nostalgia porn caters exclusively to Star Wars fanatics of the old republic. With its excessive callbacks to the original trilogy, The Force Awakens’ purpose was to reassure those whose childhoods were “ruined” by the prequels that Star Wars, having been bought back from George Lucas, was in good hands now. The old and familiar was back! That’s great and all for people who cried when they heard Han Solo say, “Chewie, we’re home,” but for me, The Force Awakens was a major disappointment. I did not give a solo fuck about Han or anybody else in the original cast. Rather, I was excited about the new cast, and ideally, the new journey they would undertake for the new generation of fans. I wanted Star Wars: Fury Road. Instead I got Star Wars: Return of the Old Farts. Enter hyperspace and a year later, after having lost my faith in Star Wars (disturbing, I know), I watch Rogue One: My Star Wars Story.
Rogue One is the ideal Star Wars film for fans and fanatics alike. Referred to as Episode 3.9, the film flawlessly connects to A New Hope while still telling a new, compelling storyline. I loved the action set-pieces, balanced tone, which was lighthearted and fun, but dark when it needed to be, and new cast (A+ for Ip Man, extra credit for baby Nightcrawler and major Mexican bonus points for tu mama tambien). But most of all, I LOVED that I didn’t have to rely on the golden Easter eggs to enjoy the film (*COUGH COUGHThe Force AwakensCOUGH). Rather, Rogue One excels as both a Star Wars saga film and a standalone. After I sang the film’s praises with the voice of a well-fed woman, one would think I had finally made Star Wars peace. But even though Rogue One is cinematic glory, I still am not a “REAL” Star Wars fan.
I will never be a “REAL” Star Wars fan. I was born too late, and too early, and then too late again, to have the experience of watching Star Wars and having it blow my little mind and become a part of my life. I wanted to be one with the force, but the force was never with me. And as with all of life’s bitter disappointments, I have learned to get used to it and embrace my Solo-less despair. Having disavowed my want for a cherished childhood connection, I embrace Star Wars as my beloved distant cousin whose existence I will only remember at every Christmas (and May the 4th) reunion. It’s bittersweet, but such is life.
As for future Star Wars films, I’m actually still very much excited. I love space bears so Episode VIII should be great and I can’t wait (I mean I can, but I don’t want to) for #DonaldforLandoman. I may never have A New Hope, but at least now I have a new hope for Star Wars: The Fandom Menace.