Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Celebrating the Cultural Event of "Star Wars". . .Not

The interview was scheduled for the following day. Sales drone for Nameless Clothing Superstore. In these situations, I tend to over-prep, spending the day before studying job search manuals, anticipating interview questions, etc.. Then the big day arrives and the stuff I pored over for hours never comes up. This time, I told myself, would be different. This time, I’d wing it and see where the winds of chance carried me.

In spite of my new attitude, however, I’m still the president of the Habitual Worriers’ Club. Endless “what if’s” play like tape loops in my head. I don’t mean to do it, it’s just the genetic cloth I’m cut from. I had to find a constructive task to occupy my mind, or I’d be a frazzled, sweaty wreck by interview time. My anxious eyes happened to fall upon a box of corn flakes sitting on the kitchen counter. The box featured a photo of robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. To the right of the photo perched the ubiquitous “Star Wars” logo and the phrase “Celebrate the Saga!” Bingo.

As of this writing, the film hasn’t been released yet. But that hardly matters. The “Star Wars” juggernaut has risen again, bulldozing across our “cultural” landscape and flattening everything in its path. Never mind that the last two movies sucked. Forget the cardboard characters, lifeless dialogue and logistical holes you could drive a Hummer through. George Lucas has given emotionally stunted dweebs across America a reason to emerge from their basements and see the sun again.

This emotionally stunted dweeb, however, headed down into his basement. Somewhere in that dark and dusty time capsule, amidst the paint cans, patio furniture, snow tires and party dresses my sister wore once in high school and never looked at again, lay a treasured artifact of my childhood: my collection of “Star Wars” action figures.

[WARM N’ FUZZY ALERT!] I am a member of the first generation of “Star Wars” fans. Back in 1977, my grandmother was searching for a way to keep hyperactive me out of trouble. So she hauled me off to a screening of “A New Hope”. Grandma thought the movie was B.S., reacting only to the cantina scene which, she claimed, resembled what Uncle Charlie saw each Friday night after his fourth Manhattan. I, however, like any 6-year old boy, was instantly hooked. I painted a couple of paper towel rolls blue and taped them onto a flashlight to make myself a “lightsaber”. A box-shaped portable heater on wheels became my “R2-D2”. I secretly fell in love with Princess Leia, my very first crush. Loved those little braids of hers, I did. For the next 6 years, I inhaled comic books and novelizations and snapped up every toy I could afford. To this day, my mother speaks in amazement: her previously unmotivated son was inspired to pull weeds and rake leaves, just to earn money to buy Greedo and Walrus Man dolls (Sorry, I mean, action figures). Yes, those were heady days, indeed.

By 1983, however, 2 things had happened. First, it got old. Yeah, “The Empire Strikes Back” was good and remains the series’ high point. But by “Return of the Jedi”, we’d been “Tron-ed”, “Battlestar Gallactica-ed” and “Black Holed” to distraction. After so many copies, even the original seemed pale by comparison. Second, I got old(er). True, the sight of my beloved Leia in a gold metallic bikini made my hormones bubble. Nevertheless, the fact that Lucas resorted to Carrie Fisher cheesecake and cutesy-Disney characters (Ewoks, anyone?) by the concluding chapter made it obvious, even to my 12-year old mind, that the series had run out of gas. Yet, it was a good ending to a series that had provided us all with a happy diversion. I went home, put my “Star Wars” toys away and commenced to dreaming of Heather Locklear, Heather Thomas, Connie Sellecca, Kate Capshaw. . .you get the picture.

So there’s the contrast between Then and Now. Then, “Star Wars” was simply a few good sci-fi movies that, if you had them on video, you’d take out and watch on a rainy Saturday for laughs every once in a while. Now. . .it’s a saga worthy of celebration. In other words, a phenomenon known as the “Manufactured Event”.

The Manufactured Event is something created by that faceless, ominous body known as Those Wanting to Make a Shitload of Cash as Quickly as Possible (TWMSCQP). Much like the Church of Posthumous Appreciation, they appear out of nowhere, seize on an occurrence previously filed under “no big deal” and proceed to inflate that occurrence into an event tantamount to the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Pope croaking, with accompanying memorabilia, on sale now at a store near you!! If TWMSCQP has its druthers, everyone in America between the ages of 5 and 45 will run out and see “Revenge of the Sith” at 12:01am on Thursday, and 100 times after that, so that they may be able to tell future generations, yet unborn, that They Were There When It Happened. If you don’t, says TWMSCQP, you’ll be missing out on History, you irresponsible citizen, you.

Yes, I was a tried and true fan of the original trilogy. But I waited until “Phantom Menace” and "Attack of the Clones" limped onto cable before I saw them and pronounced them. . .well, not crappy, but less than what I expected. You do what you want to do. Maybe someday, months from now, if I’m employed and have the cash to spare, I might buy the 6-DVD set that will be clogging shelves at Kmart by then. Perhaps I’ll sit down and watch films 1-6, in order, and pass a pleasant evening. And then I’ll stick those DVDs in a closet and forget them. Again. Until some rainy Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep hunting for those important artifacts. If I find them, I’m going to put them on eBay and sell them, for the best price, to some dweeb (I mean, collector) who’s in the market for little plastic dolls made for kids back in the 1970s and 1980s.

I wonder what Connie Sellecca’s up to these days?


Blogger Nic said...

You made your own light saber? When you were six?I don't know if I am impressed by your creativity or just a little bit afraid...

10:05 PM  
Blogger becca said...

This is probably the best post on the Star-Wars-machine that I've read. Love it.

And, of course, I completely agree. I have a hard time believing the "hype" about this particular episode, and I might just have an episode of my own in the theatre tonight, though I do plan to see it.

Why? Because I think it'll be good? No. Because I am a huge fan? No longer. Because I think there's a possibility this one might redeem the other two? Do I look like a complete idiot? (Okay, don't answer was rhetorical...) It's because I'm obsessive compulsive and I need to see the latest huge embarrassing failure in the same theatre where I saw the first two huge embarrassing failures (because I have to have symmetry and continuity in my life). And I'm going in there with low expectations, hoping to not die or kill anyone in the process.

But still, I agree with you.

I just hope this *is* really the end, and we don't have some special edition of the prequels released in ten years with "new footage" and "better effects". Sometimes newer really isn't better. Unfortunately, George Lucas will just never get that, and when he wakes up one morning to find a bullet in his foot and his hand on the trigger, he shouldn't be surprised.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

We had a lot of the action figures growing up. And I had a huge crush on Han Solo. My grandmother would take us to our local country store (in a town of 160 people) and buy the trading cards back in the '80's. That was always the highlight of the weekend.

As for the new movies, I only watched the first one, didn't bother with the second, and doubt if I will watch the third. For me, the "real" movies were the first three and that's how it will always be.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Jacqui said...

Ok, so I think I saw the first one but probably not the whole movie because I don't remember it all that much. Must have been when I was a youngster. When did it come out?

Well, now the new ones just look silly to me. I mean, come on - it's over, the moment has passed - lets just move on people!

5:13 PM  

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