I can’t remember a time when Star Wars wasn’t a part of my life. Snowball fights where the big kids were AT-ATs. Light saber duels with wrapping paper tubes. My brother making Darth Vader jokes while being hooked up to breathing machines. Star Wars ran like a river through my childhood – an abstract knowledge, bits and pieces acquired like overheard conversation.
Then it happened. A cold spring day in 1997, my dad took me to see the Special Edition release of Star Wars: A New Hope. A red velvet rope attempting to class up an aging cinema, my dad, reassuring, as we wove our way through the crowd, down stairs coated in aging purple carpet, past bored teenagers popping corn, into the theatre. The lights dimmed and those first words scrawled past; “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…”
I was hooked. Books, comics, games, I devoured it all. From the Junior Jedi Knights to the Old Republic, I consumed it all. Looking back on my childhood, most of it was spent with a Timothy Zahn novel. Other girls were spending their allowance on mascara or miniskirts: I obsessed over the release dates of new X-wing novels. Being a huge nerd and a Star Wars fan quickly became integral to my identity, especially as the internet grew. From my computer in Smalltown, Canada, I could connect with other fans across the globe. We chatted and gamed, spending years in a SW MMB RPG.
I’d found my tribe.
Being “That Girl Who Likes Star Wars” in high school was isolating, and yet it gave me a world to escape into. A place where I could dream. In the Star Wars universe, no one ever tells Jaina Solo she can’t do something. Mara Jade overcomes the influence and manipulations of the Emperor. Corran Horn explores the complicated relationship between Law, Justice, and doing Right. Through these characters, I learned to understand a world much larger than the one I lived in.
When George Lucas announced the prequels, I bought in hard. Opening day tickets with my dad, prepared to relive that first magic moment – and nope. Instead of the world I’d known, I got two hours on a trade dispute featuring more plot holes than CGI. Even the supreme hotness of Ewen Mcgregor could not save it. My soul was crushed. Still, I could not give up on Star Wars; too much of myself had I given it.
Maybe, I thought, I could just restrict myself to the post expanded universe, write off all that prequel nonsense, and focus on the characters I love: Anakin Solo, Wedge Antilles, Kyp Durron… they were safe. So I built my knowledge, showing off to nerds and smiting casual fans. Was I kind of a brat about it? Totally. Was I a little overly emotionally invested? Definitely. I loved Star Wars, but Star Wars never loved me back.
Sometime in high school, the Yuuzhan Vong invaded. A major event that wiped out several key characters, including Chewbacca and Anakin Solo, just for dramatic effect. I cried. I raged. I stopped reading. Slowly, the books were packed away. The RPG died off as players grew up and I started to find other ways to define myself… but in my heart, I couldn’t let go. I’d catch myself glancing over titles at the book store, making sure my favorite characters were still okay.
When Disney bought Star Wars, I knew it was the end. They removed the pre-existing books from canon, marking my childhood “Invalid.” They turned R2-D2 into a humidifier. They started selling Star Wars branded oranges. I watched as they took this esoteric thing I loved and gave it to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars has always been a marketing machine. It’s a fantastic vehicle to sell toys and I get that. It’s just hard to watch. The fact is, for better or for worse, now that Disney has Star Wars they’re going to keep making movies, tv shows, comics, and toys until the end of time. We’re going to have new Star Wars forever… and there’s something terrifying in that.
Suddenly, everyone is a Star Wars fan, and I just want to scream, “No! That’s not true – that’s impossible! You’re not a REAL fan! You’ve come late to the party and are claiming it was yours the whole time. You didn’t live through it like we did – you don’t even know who anyone is!”
And yet I don’t. Who am I to deny someone the chance to love something I love? Even if it hurts to hear people mispronounce names or places, I don’t correct them like I would have 15 years ago. If you truly love something you need to let it go. So, I’m trying. I’m trying to accept that the thing I love has changed, and maybe? Maybe it’ll be okay… and if I’m lucky? Maybe better.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Star Wars, it’s that good is stronger than evil.
Unless they change the underlying themes… but then, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.