STAR WARS: A Reflection 40 Years in the Making

Star Wars didn’t change my life, so much as it shaped it.

I was five and a half years old in 1977 when Star Wars (yes, Star Wars, not A New Hope) was released to theaters. This was back in the days when parents could drop their kids off at the movie theater and leave them on their own without (much) concern about someone absconding with their offspring. My best friend and I were dropped off at the old Inland Cinema in San Bernardino one summer day to see the movie; I don’t know if we were clamoring to see it or if our parents just thought it’d be a good, inexpensive way to get us out of their hair for a bit.

I don’t really remember exactly how I felt before seeing Star Wars for the first time, but I do know that afterward it compelled my friend and me to commit our first minor criminal act, as, after the movie was over, we called our parents on the payphone in the lobby (kids, ask your parents what a payphone is), asked if we could stay for the next showing and then walked back into the theater and watched it all over again.

For something to drive me to commit such a horrible, heinous act at such a young age, I must’ve thought it was something special (in my defense, I was five and thought the ticket was an all day, all access pass).

Of course, after seeing it (twice), I, along with just about every single kid in the country, went Star Wars crazy: the movie; the toys; the trading cards; the comics; anything we could get our mitts on, we gobbled it up with abandon. Seeing as how this was in the days before DVDs and instant accessibility on the internet, once the movie left theaters (and in between theatrical re-releases), we were left with only our imaginations and those ancillary materials to take us back to that galaxy far, far away. With our figures and ships and our mind’s eye, we could go to locations from the movie (granted, there were really only three locales in the first movie), planets found in the comic books or places hinted at by the one kid that everyone knew who had a membership in the fanclub and read about it in the Bantha Tracks newsletter. Millions of imaginations were sparked as a result of the play time spent with the toys.

Forty years later, I’m still a dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fan (I’d go so far as to proudly say I’m a Star Wars geek); I still collect Star Wars toys and knick-knacks, much to my wife’s chagrin sometimes; I have a few figures on my desk at work; even though I have several versions of the movies in different formats, I’ll still catch them when they’re shown on TV; I even took a trip out to Death Valley with some fellow fanatics (and my long-suffering wife in tow) a few years ago to see some of the filming locations used in the series. Trust me, you’ve not seen anything until you’ve witnessed five (allegedly) grown men geeking out over a bunch of rock formations and recreating movie scenes with action figures.

These bits and pieces of the movie, both the physical and the intangible, take me back to when things were a lot simpler and the world was a much bigger, wide open place. Seeing the opening phrase of every movie in the series, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…,” never ceases to send a shiver of excitement and anticipation up and down my spine, just as it has done since the very first time I read the words.

Without fail.

Some may think that these childlike ways should’ve been left behind long ago; while I mostly agree with these people, I point out to them that I’ve not grown up yet – and have no plans to do so any time soon. Not while there’s a galaxy far, far away to explore.

 

Jay McDowell

Jay McDowell is a walking vault of completely useless knowledge & trivia (great for a game of Trivial Pursuit, lousy in a zombie apocalypse). He saw a certain movie set in a galaxy far, far away in the theatre at the age of five & never looked back, pop culturally speaking. He watches an unhealthy amount of truly atrocious sci-fi & horror B-movies (he watched ‘Manos’: The Hands of Fate with his new bride on their honeymoon; inexplicably, she’s still with him). Episodic television was ruined for him by Lost. He thinks pizza is Nature’s perfect food, encompassing all five food groups (meat, dairy, grains, vegetables & grease) in every bite.

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