Nostalgia and Star Wars

Every one is talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens right now, with the full trailer finally being released, making anticipation for the film pretty much at all time high. It should come as little surprise that I’m excited for it as well, much less that I’m going to say something about it.

It’s just, what I’m going to say may be a little different. It may not, of course, as I’ve not read everything there is to read on the net about it, but this is going to be less about the trailer, or the movie, and more about why I’m excited. It isn’t just because I’m a fan of the film series, you see.

It’s because of nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It tends to color things, give them a nicer hue, and make everything far better than it really was. That’s the trick to nostalgia. It makes memories better. In the case of Star Wars, it tends to really make the original films way better than they actually were.

They weren’t bad movies, mind you. They were pretty great, mostly because they were totally different than pretty much anything we’d ever seen at that point. Star Wars was a new spin on a lot of old themes, most notably the classic hero’s journey concept, that is as old as the idea of storytelling itself.

I could go on for a while about how that is a storytelling mechanic no one ever whines about being tired of, but I’ll refrain from yet another rant about the overuse of the word trope. By now, if you’ve read stuff here, you know how I feel about that, and why.

Nor am I going to go off on the small number of crybabies that are calling for boycotts of the new film. They are stupid, and deserve no further mention than to be called stupid. Suffice to say, I have no patience for people people who like to pretend they are victims, when they really aren’t.

Surprisingly, I’m also not going to spend a lot of time talking about the original films. If you haven’t seen them, you should, at least once, for the value they hold as pieces of cinema, and how well written they actually are. Despite the Ewoks, that is.

No, the nostalgia I am focusing on, and what I want to talk about, is how the new trailer takes me back to when the original films came out.

When Star Wars was first released in 1977, I was all of four years old. My dad took me and my brother to see it at the Sky View drive in, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and believe it or not, I still vividly remember the entire experience. If you can do math, and have figured out how old I am now, you can see why. That’s a long time to remember something.

I remember being terrified of Darth Vader, impressed with Princess Leia, in awe of Han Solo, and wanting to be like Luke Skywalker. I remember the iconic opening, Obi Wan’s lightsaber battle with Vader, and how devastating the end of that fight was. I remember the X-Wing run at the Death Star, and everything else. I’ll never forget it.

What I remember most, though, was sitting in the front seat of the car, huddled up against my dad, my older brother next to me, and spending that time, being awed by this movie, with them. We talked about it for days after, reliving each moment, and wondering about the future of the Rebel Alliance, and the heroes we had come to know.

Three years later, when The Empire Strikes Back arrived, we were all there again. Me, my brother, and my dad, rejoining Luke and the rest as they fought the Empire once more. We watched as Luke continued his growth into a Jedi Knight, the heroes were defeated at Cloud City, and the horrible truth of Vader’s true identity was revealed.

My parents had divorced by then, so I only saw my dad every other weekend, making this trip that much more special. It was like I’d gotten to travel back in time a little, and things were the way they had been before my folks had split. My brother was a few years older than me, and that distance the age gap had created was beginning to settle in at that point, so getting to to sit in the theater with the two of them was pretty special to seven year old me.

When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, my dad had moved to Louisiana due to his job. To my surprise, my mother actually allowed my brother and I to spend a few months with him there, and it happened to coincide with the new Star Wars movie, giving us the hat trick of having seen all three films, during their original theatrical releases, together. It was the last time all three of us would go see a movie together that I can recall, as well.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that it has been 32 years since I felt this kind of nostalgia. I’m no longer very close with my father or my brother. We have a lot of differing views, and in general, don’t really get along so well in person these days. It’s easier to keep our relationship kind of at arms length so we can avoid the arguments that always come up.

While part of me is sad about that, another part is kind of glad. It would take a lot of words to explain that, so I’m hoping you’ll just get that it’s both a good and bad thing, as complicated as that all sounds.

Point is, watching the new trailer took me back to that four year old version of myself, when the world was an amazing place, as I sat huddled up against my dad, my brother next to me, and felt real, pure joy. It isn’t nostalgia for the movies themselves, but for that point in my life, before reality shook me down for my lunch money. Before my family broke up, before I grew up and became someone so different from my family that it’s hard for us to get along, and before I realized that in a lot of ways, my childhood actually sucked.

It did, too. Kinda hard. That’s a different story for a different time, though. Back then, watching the original Star Wars, isn’t just laced with that better than it really was view that nostalgia gives. It’s become one of the few genuinely good memories I have from my childhood. A moment that makes me feel, now, that things weren’t always so bad.

So, watching that new trailer, feeling that sense of nostalgia wash over me, it isn’t about if the new movie lives up to the hype or not. It isn’t about how good or bad it is. It’s not even about whether or not it “ruins my childhood” as the hipsters like to say. Mostly because that last one isn’t really possible, mind you, but also because I believe that phrase is only ever uttered my the biggest morons in existence.

What it’s about, is that when I watch it this December, I’m going to remember those times my family and I were close, when we did things together, and those fleeting bits of happiness we shared.

For me, anyway, that already makes The Force Awakens a success.

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