The Force Falls Asleep and Awakens: My Journey Through Fandom

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Star Wars has always been a story of generations: generations of Skywalkers, generations of Jedi, generations of Rebels and even generations of Sith. It seems only appropriate then that for myself, like many of us, my own journey with the saga has been a generational one. In my family, I started out as a Padawan with little knowledge of Wookiees or Tatooine. Since then, I have read, studied, played, and learned much, but I don’t know that I would consider calling myself a Star Wars master. I feel as if I am still just a learner.

My fandom has been one of peaks and valleys. I first came into contact with Star Wars as a young child through the toys. My older sister and I spent many an hour playing with plastic tube lightsaber toys with the Return of the Jedi branding. She was always Vader. She kind of still is!

After years of He-Man, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I came back into Star Wars one summer when my "Aunt" Julie gave me a box set of the VHS Star Wars trilogy. I spent the rest of that summer watching one of the movies each day and repeating once the "circle was complete." That summer was the gateway into an expanded legendsverse of possibilities in which I fanatically played the X-Wing and TIE Fighter PC games, trying to live out the stories of Wedge Antilles and Soontir Fel that author, Michael Stackpole, had told.

Then the prequels hit. To say I was excited was an understatement. To illustrate this, I mention Exhibit A. I painted a canvas oil painting of one of the pictures featured in a Vanity Fair article prior to The Phantom Menace. It was a picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul jumping towards each other on Tatooine. This never happens in the movie, but it didn't matter. In the lead-up to the film, I didn't care and didn't know. It was an awesome image then. It still is now.

Don't label me a prequel hater. I like them. I don't love them, though Revenge of the Sith is pretty awesome. After having spent way too much time building up unrealistic expectations, and buying a crazy amount of merchandise, my disappointment sent my fandom into remission. In a moment of Anakin-like brooding, I sold all my memorabilia in a garage sale that I alternate between calling "The Dark Times" and "The Purge." Neither of those labels inspire great thoughts. I miss some of the awesome reference books (I mean you, McQuarrie art books), masks (no asthmatic breathing for me), and toys (two words: Micro Machines). Despite all that, I still enjoyed Star Wars but with much less enthusiasm than I did before.

During all of that time, my love of Star Wars was mostly a private thing. Much of this time was before the internet and not too many kids I knew in middle or high school seemed to care about things like the tactical differences between X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings, and B-Wings. I hadn’t shared much of my fandom. One of the few times I did was in college. In a class full of college freshman, on the eve of The Phantom Menace dropping, I stood in front of my peers and gave a speech about the mythological significance of the saga with all of it leading into how this new movie I had not yet seen was going to be epic. One of those students would become my wife. I somehow even managed to convince her to go see The Phantom Menace with me, and despite the fact that we were sitting only three rows back, she managed to fall asleep through the sounds of podraces and duels between the fates.

Of all the things I have to be thankful to my wife for, getting me back into Star Wars is one of them. She didn't like Star Wars. She told me this multiple times. She wasn't even sure that she'd ever really seen them all and I knew for a fact that she hadn’t seen Episode I. But when advertisements for The Clone Wars movie came on, she told me we should go see it, so we did. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't sure that I needed to see a whole show based on it. She was sold though, or at least sold enough to pause and watch the premiere when it came on and convince me that I "really need to watch this." She was right. I was skeptical, but I should have trusted her earlier on. Compared to her, I may have known more, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be the learner too.

Good Lord, The Clone Wars was and is good. My daughter actually watched it with me this morning, and as I prepared lunch, I could hear little squeaks and intakes of breath as The Malevolence closed in on Plo Koon and his Wolf Pack. That's the magic of The Clone Wars. It takes something that many older fans kind of liked (the prequels) and introduces it to us, our wives, and our children in ways that binds us together. Dave Filoni, his team, and the voice actors are like the Force like that. I only lump the voice actors together as one because otherwise I would create a list of twenty names and still feel bad because I left out someone really awesome.

Each day I am lucky enough to wake up next to a wife who not only accepts my love of Star Wars, but engages in it with me. We race to see who can read the books first; she always wins. We talk and speculate about each day’s new information from the internet, and she very clearly says, “Uh huh,” when she’s reached her threshold. She lets me buy reissues of films I already own, toys I don’t really need, and tries to convince me that I need a Wraith Squadron tattoo on one of my calves. In sharing my interest with my wife, it has only grown. I have taught her what I know and love about Star Wars, and she has amplified it, refined it, and made it something even better.

The last chapter of my journey is the one that I am still continuing on today. It began when my daughter was born. I wasn't one of those fathers who bought the Darth Vader onesie that has a picture of Darth Vader and says, "Who's Your Daddy?" There's nothing wrong with that, and I probably wanted to, but I made a conscious decision to not push Star Wars on my daughter. I didn't buy her any Star Wars clothes or toys because I wanted it to be her choice. We bought many My Little Pony and Tinkerbell toys because that's what she wanted. I play those with her. I know A LOT about both Ponies and Tinkerbell and can enjoy them with my daughter because that's what I think I should do. I should share what my daughter likes with her. I should give it a shot.

As she continued to grow, I would read my own Star Wars books and watch the cartoons around her. Not all of them, because some of those Clone Wars episodes got pretty brutal, but I would watch some. Eventually, she started asking questions, and when Star Wars: Rebels came on, she got into it. She wanted figures, so I bought her a two-pack of Kanan and Ezra. Now, she spent most of her Celebration money on figures, and I have a list of old figures that she wants for Christmas. One of them is a Zillo Beast, which my wife and I have repeatedly told her does not exist in toy form; her answer: “Santa can make anything!”) Her love grew. Now, she'll tell kids on Star Tours, "This is going to be awesome," and at the end of the ride, she'll say, "I told you. That was A-MAZING!" She'll respond to a kid's comments of, "Look, Darth Vader," with a "Yeah! And there's a Jawa. Utini!" She loves Star Wars. Not because I pushed her to, but because she came to it mostly on her own. I would like to think she likes it more because of that. I find that I like it much more because she likes it. She is the Ahsoka to my Anakin.  I may have started out thinking that she had much to learn, but I find that more often than not, she is the one that is teaching me. I learn more by sharing with her and seeing everything through her eyes than I would have without being humble enough to admit that I don’t know it all, not even close.

All of that leads me to today. Today, I share Star Wars with my daughter through the awesome Star Wars: Rebels, with my friends through various Fantasy Flight Games games, and with my students as Rogue 179 from www.starwarsintheclassroom. (Go Rogues!)

There's a reason why I don’t make some lofty comparison between myself and Yoda at the beginning of this post. Part of it is that I don't have it together like Yoda seems to have, and I don't really think I ever will. The main reason why though is that I think that Star Wars itself is the only real thing that can be compared to Yoda. He trained and touched the lives of so many in his more than 900 years. Star Wars has done the same. It moved and taught the children of the classic trilogy, and they grew up to share what they had learned with the prequel trilogy kids. It was (and for some is) a rocky conversation at times. We, who grew up on the classic trilogy look at those raised on the prequels in the way many adults look on teens. We say, "They'll grow out of it." I hope they never do. Those kids have given way to Clone Wars kids, and Rebels kids, and will soon give way to sequel kids; and I hope that we all never feel like we need to defend why we like the Star Wars we do. As the years go by and more and more Star Wars is released, we will all end up as learners again. We’ll sit down in a theater, and as a group of generations, we’ll all learn something new from the master.