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GEDANKENGANG

When I was Nine

Thoughts about Star Wars - just before the opening of the final movie.

This is personal - my relationship to a work of fiction. There almost a whole generation of men out there right now like me (yes, mostly men) - who were between 6 and 10 years old in 1977, who were blown away by a brief visit to a world unlike anything we'd ever seen before. We lined up and dragged family and friends to see Star Wars in the theater that summer - six, seven, twenty times (I think I saw it at least 8 times). We are now between 35 and 40, looking at the world with entirely different eyes, critical, cynical, experienced eyes. But for many of us, the boyhood imprint of the first Star Wars movie is amazingly strong.

I owned "The Story of Star Wars" LP - the complete soundtrack, (sound effects and dialogue, everything), and listened until it wore down. Some of the earliest parts of my neural pathways are still shaped by this repeated exposure - amazingly tiny details still remain strong in my memory, like one of the X-Wing pilots saying "Negative..egative, It didn't go in, it just impacted on the surface"

I am not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, not by a long shot. I have never dressed up like a stormtrooper, but I do own a couple of desk-toy Star Wars spaceships. I am not interested in railing against Lucas and what he's doing. These stories are his to tell. Yes, when Episode I and II came out, they had their drawbacks, but the drawbacks really meant very little to me - I was there again.

I got to go back and visit that place that meant so much to me when I was nine.

Lucas isn't God, his mythology isn't epic, his dialogue isn't inspired, and his writing can be hit and miss. The most important to me though (always has been) are the characters. The people, creatures, places and things that make up the Star Wars universe. These are characters that I care about, that I've known most of my life. I didn't quite realize how much I still cared until witnessing the scene in Episode II where Yoda finally engages in light-saber battle. Out of nowhere, I got completely choked up, crying - feeling idiotic and exhilarated all at once.

When I was nine, this was exactly what I would have wanted to see.

Seeing these movies so many times, I found myself concentrating all my anticipation into a ball that seethed right before the new movie began. When the lights would go down, and the 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm logos would dance across the screen - in that moment, all of my hopes and anticipation for the next movie would just overflow, and I became a bit of a lunatic, just like I did when I was nine. Of course, after that, the movie would unfold, some delight, some disappointment, but I've always treasured that last moment of anticipation.

I've been able to experience that moment five times in my life now, at nine, twelve, fifteen, thirty-one, thirty-four, and tomorrow, I'll get my last taste of it at age thirty-seven.

I do not apologize for loving these characters as much as I do. I do not make apologies for creative decisions taken by others. I do not care to politicize the story nor analyze the marketing strategies of Lucasfilm.

And now, now I am just thrilled to get one last chance... to step into a dark cool theater, have the lights dim, let my excitement (that I usually keep bottled up) overflow and let the darkness hide my stupid grin from any snide onlookers. I'm glad for one last visit to a place that meant so much to me when I was nine, and still does today.

Writing this has brought me to tears about four times now. I know my experience isn't unique, and it's certainly open to criticism, but none of that matters.

Tomorrow I get to go see the new Star Wars movie. I remember this feeling so well, it's amazing.
 

11 Comments +

Amen. There must be thousands like us. I was seven in 1977 and saw it seven times. I also had (have!) the sountrack LP. I can still hear Luke screaming to C-3PO, "Shut down all the garbage [somethings] on the detention level!" And the 20th Century Fox theme? Damn! I heard it three days ago and I immediately thought Star Wars! And the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I've been wholly uninterested in the prequals. But the original three, most especially Star Wars, were magic. Pure magic.
by Carrick at 2:53 PM 
This is a great post, Alan, you absolutely captured the connection that so many of us have... for me, it was seeing a whole arena full of Jedi running with lightsabers ablaze, but it was that same rush, that same sense of "THIS IS SOOO COOL!" that has kept me a fan for nearly my entire life.

It's not about the quality of all the dialogue, it's about that feeling.
by anil at 3:29 PM 
I am right there with you, man. I was 9 years old in 1977, too. I remember dragging my whole family to the (then brand-new) 6-screen theater at the mall, and waiting in that long, long line to get tickets. And then we finally got in and got our popcorn and went into the auditorium, and the previews ran, and finally the movie started. I didn't really understand the words in the opening crawl that well, but man... when the blockade runner went by overhead, and then the speakers started rumbling with bass, and the Imperial Star Destroyer went over, just massive and incredible... I remember thinking to myself, this is the best thing ever. This is the best thing ever. No movie will ever top that feeling for me.
by Ryland at 2:15 PM 
I was 6 when Star Wars came out and was nine or ten when it hit television for the first time. I didn't have the soundtrack, but I did record (on cassette) the movie from TV. These movies (ep. 4, 5 and 6) were as important to my childhood as anything else.

Now, my son is 9 and we are going to see the final episode this weekend. Because of him, I don't care how bad the new films seem. They are new and exiciting to him like the first three were to me.
by -.---.. at 10:59 AM 
Happy to say: It was totally worth it.
by alan at 10:18 AM 
Amen, brother. In 1977 I was 10. You nailed it. I too have the Story of Star Wars LP.
by John at 12:38 PM 
this movie gave me two of those moments of exhilerating anticipation: the opening credits (as you said) and the moment just before the anakin/obi-wan sabre battle. i'd waited almost thirty years for that fight. your post was brilliantly said.
by ameritrash at 12:48 PM 
Still have my blue-ish Story of Star Wars LP - at age 11 when I wasn't listening to this record I was discovering the joys of centrifugal force on Fisher-Price little people who had the bad fortun to be sitting on the turntable.

Saw the movie last night - was great fun to see all the parts that would (did) show up in IV -little things like Obi Wan picking up Vader's light saber, the adoptive parents of the twins (and how their lives would change in ways they would never guess).

Once the movie got going, I could not take my eyes away from the screen. Yes, I knew who was going to live or die but still it managed to all work.
by -idogcow at 2:30 PM 
Man, I listened to that record so many times that it's permanently burned into my brain. Whenever I hear the line in Episode IV that goes "Clear bay 327, we are opening the magnetic field" I think to myself 'ok, now it's time to turn the record over'. Thanks for this post- you've summed it up nicely.
by Anonymous at 10:55 PM 
I was seven in 1977, and had to abort my viewing twice due to 1. a sellout and then 2. onset of chicken pox.

When I finally saw it, I was transformed. I was gripped by the story and action. I had these jumbo marbles in my pockets that became planets and Death Stars immediately after the showing. I remember, when I was four or five, also getting excited at the Disney Robin Hood, standing up in my seat and shooting arrows along with the heroes onscreen. But Star Wars trumped that; I loved space, loved my legos, and went absolutely nuts over it.

This weekend I too, unapologetically, teared up as Episode III wrapped up, and the scenery, ships became familiar to my inner 7 year old.
by Benito at 2:08 PM 
Excellent post. However, I haven't felt those "Star Wars goosebumps" since I saw the Return of the Jedi back in 1983. Unlike you, I felt that Lucas owed his fans those goosebumps... and boy, was I rewarded with the newest movie. Sure, there were some cheesy parts and there are a few plot holes, however, unlike the other prequels, this movie was good enough that I can overlook some of its campiness. Finally, it's okay to be a Star Wars fan again.
by kbd at 8:54 AM 
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