Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Reluctant Star Wars Fan

Since it's Star Wars week, I guess I'll continue that trip down memory lane.

As big a fan as I became, I was actually dragged into it rather reluctantly. Although the movie was released in May, we didn't see it until Labor Day. I was vaguely aware of it from reading Newsweek (yes, I was a strange child who read Newsweek), and what I'd read didn't intrigue me that much. I really hated that one poster that had Luke's shirt wide open and gave him a big, muscular chest and that really sexed-up Leia, with the plunging neckline and skirt slit up the thigh. My impression was "half-naked people fighting in space."

My dad had Labor Day off, but, for whatever odd reason, I still had school. My parents used the day to rent a steam cleaner and steam clean the carpets (my family knows how to enjoy a holiday). The rugs were still damp when I got home from school, and my parents got the idea of going to a movie so we'd be out of the house while the carpets finished drying. My dad had heard about this Star Wars thing at work, that it was basically Cowboys and Indians in space, like the old Saturday serials. I put up a protest. At the same theater, there was a Cinderella movie, The Slipper and the Rose, playing, and I wanted to see that. I even offered to go see it alone while the rest of the family saw Star Wars. I was overruled.

This was the Dark Ages before the age of the multiplex. There were maybe five or six movie screens in all of Lawton, Oklahoma, at the time, and the new theaters were the "twin" cinemas with two screens. That meant it was a really big deal that Star Wars had been held over all this time. Even that long after release, the movie sold out, and there was a long line.

My objections died pretty much the moment the music started and that scroll came on the screen (I later made a point of memorizing it), and I was utterly sold when the Star Destroyer came overhead. By the end of the movie, I was obsessed. I remember riding home in the car, using the window crank handles to operate the car's lasers to shoot down TIE fighters. I went to school the next morning eager to tell all my friends the whole story of this fabulous movie. I got the novelization in a school book order and read it so often that I practically had it memorized. I had Star Wars sheets on my bed, Star Wars posters on the wall, and it became the key bonding ingredient for most of my close friendships from that point until college -- no matter how awkward the initial introduction, once Star Wars came up, you could tell who you'd get along with.

Of course, I've never heard the end of it from my parents, who to this day will remind me that I didn't want to see it in the first place and wanted to see that Cinderella movie. I did eventually see that movie on TV years later, and it was rather forgettable, not one of my favorite adaptations. The thing is, Star Wars is as much a fairy tale as any Cinderella story. It's just dressed up in science fiction trappings, with laser swords and spaceships. But structurally, it's a fantasy about a farmboy rescuing a princess and becoming a hero by saving the kingdom. No wonder I loved it.

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