Why do I like Star Wars?

May is a big month, Star Wars-wise. Star Wars Day, naturally, was May 4th. All six Star Wars movies were released in May. The Empire Strikes Back had its 30th anniversary on Friday.

It’s more than a movie series now. It’s part of the American culture. A cultural phenomenon is what it is, and sometimes more: to some, Star Wars is a culture all its own.

Now: I don’t take my own personal nerddom that far, but I have been a fan since early 1977. Maybe even late 1976. The moment I first saw the trailer on one of our three TV channels, I was hooked.

At the time, I lived in a small town in Arizona. We had one single-screen movie theater in town, called The Flicker Shack. The kind that didn’t get the movies until six months after release. That’s why I saw Star Wars on Thanksgiving Day, 1977.

My brother and I were instant fans, and soon began doing whatever chores we could to earn the money to buy our first four action figures out of a comic book. I got Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He got Chewbacca and Han Solo, except they were out of Han Solo at the time, so they sent him a Stormtrooper, who naturally became Han Solo disguised as a Stormtrooper. They were the first of many, some of which I still have.

Twenty-eight years later, the sixth movie done, I’m as big a fan as I ever was. A week rarely goes by at The TrogloPundit without at least one Star Wars reference. And I’m passing this on to my own children. My ten-year-old, in particular.

The question is: why?

I love good writing, and Star Wars…well, it doesn’t have much of that. It does have a lot of bad dialog (particularly the prequels); a lot of bad character development; a lot of illogical plotlines.

Princess Leia – tough, feisty Princess Leia, who killed Stormtroopers and called Vader a lapdog to his face and sneered “walking carpet” at Chewbacca – asking Han Solo: “hold me.”

Really?

Anakin’s petulant whining about “fairness.” Anakin and Padme’s horrible, cliched expressions of love.

The wise and powerful Jedi, talking constantly of “the chosen one” who will “bring balance to the Force” without ever once wondering exactly what that meant; why the Force was out of balance in the first place; and what it means to bring it back.

Does a Jedi ever get into a fight and not lose hold of his lightsaber? Does a major space battle ever end without an enemy fighter (or torpedo) flying inside your battleship/space station and destroying it from the inside?

Stone-age Ewoks defeating heavily armed Stormtroopers in battle? Yoda and Obi-wan contentedly waiting for twenty years in exile instead of taking the initiative?

“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And (pause melodramatically) my sister has it.”

“I’ve been wondering. What are midichlorians?”

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Oh, barf. I’ve turned my nose up at other movies (“Avatar,” to name a recent example) for much, much less.

But not Star Wars. I loved it then, I love it now. Why? I’m not sure. It isn’t the Christian allegory that comes clear at the end of “Return of the Jedi.” I didn’t notice that until after the movies were all out.

It isn’t the special effects. These days, fancy special effects will get you a cup of coffee if you’ve got three bucks. It sure isn’t the writing. It isn’t even the plot, really, which is pretty standard stuff when you think about it. An ignorant farm boy (or slave boy) whisked by fate into the world to save a princess, accompanied by a mystic and maybe a charismatic but reckless antihero?

Heard it before, have you? Me, too.

I dump on the character development, but Star Wars give us characters.

Good ones. Evil ones. Cool ones. But no perfect ones. That’s important: Star Wars does not take place in a perfect, sanitized universe. People are flawed. There’s a filthy underbelly. An underclass.

Star Wars gave us depth. While the heroes were galivanting off across the universe, everybody else was just minding their business. Getting to work. Getting to the bar for a death stick with the boys. Getting on with getting on.

Sure, the Rebel Alliance killed the Emperor in the end, destroyed the second Death Star, cut the head(s) off a highly hierarchical Empire. But there’s a big, wide universe out there, with regional Governors and a lot more Star Destroyers.

And only one trained Jedi Knight to take control. Hmmm….

Not that I noticed any of that when I was seven. Or ten. Or thirteen. Or…well, whatever ages I was when the prequels came out. In all honesty, I think Star Wars simply caught me at the right time, the right age.

Of course, if that’s the case, then it caught everybody else the exact same way.

(The TrogloPundit is available to consult on scripts for the final Star Wars trilogy and, of course, all the eventual re-makes)

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