When it comes to “Star Wars,” I am a product of my generation.
That is to say, “The Empire Strikes Back” (the second film in the series, or episode V, if you prefer) was my first movie experience. Granted, I was only 2 at the time and, as my mother tells it (she often does), I got scared by the sound of all the laser fire and AT-ATs stomping through the snow. I cried, buried myself in her lap and promptly fell asleep.
But I was there.
By the time “Return of the Jedi” came out in 1983, “Star Wars” was firmly ingrained among my friends. We saw the film multiple times that summer.
I was never the fanatic. My loyalties at the time were with G.I. Joe. I was baffled when a childhood playmate suddenly traded off his extensive collection of Joes (the 3 3/4 -inch figures) for the less articulate “Star Wars” toys. I mean, Darth Vader’s arms and legs didn’t even bend.
When “The Phantom Menace” came out more than 15 years later, the residual nostalgia was high, even for a passing fan of the original films.
I found myself in the crowd on opening day. A group of friends took shifts, standing in line among the wannabe Jedis in homemade robes carrying plastic, collapsible light sabers. This was before Fandango and advance ticketing. It was before Cosplay was a thing people did in public, too.
And here we are again.
As “The Force Awakens” threatens to shatter all box office records, it’s hard not to get caught up in the onslaught of excitement, in the nostalgic pull of the franchise that Disney Studios has so expertly exploited.
I’m reminded of Luke Top, a friend of a friend, whom I met in high school.
No film franchise is more ingrained in universal pop-culture than Star Wars.
Luke wasn’t his given name, rather the one his parents let him choose when his family immigrated to the United States. One can guess at his favorite fictional character and his favorite movie.
Is there a single film franchise more ingrained in universal pop-culture than “Star Wars”?
Even without seeing the films, one knows the lines:
▪ “May the force be with you.”
▪ “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
▪ “I am your father.” (This one is often misquoted, actually. I had to Youtube the scene to be sure I got it right.)
The gamut of marketing tie-ins aside (the R2-D2 fridge, “Star Wars” inspired cosmetics, not to mention lunch boxes and comics), “Star Wars” has been referenced and spoofed in television and in movies for years by everyone from “Robot Chicken“ and “The Family Guy“ to Mel Brooks.
I would never have seen “Blazing Saddles” if not for Brooks’ 1987 Star Wars parody, “Spaceballs,” which I can (and do quote) more often than necessary. I’ve also been known to sing the movie’s theme song, which was recorded by the Spinners (there’s a bit of useless trivia for you).
I don’t recall ever asking for “Star Wars” toys, but I did ask for (and receive) a VHS copy of “Spaceballs” one Christmas. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we probably won’t ever see “Spaceballs Two: The Search for More Money.”
Quirk Books translated the “Star Wars” franchise into Shakespearean English and Weird Al Yankovik set the plot of “The Phantom Menace” to the tune of “American Pie.” He cut the song down to five-plus minutes.
Yankovik also did an ode to the Jedi master, Yoda, set to the Kinks song “Lola.”
Then there’s the Bobba Fett-inspired comic rap “Fett’s Vette,” from nerdcore hip-hop artist MC Chris.
Those in my generation share a connection with the “Star Wars” franchise that extends beyond actually having seen (or even liked) the movies.
As you read these words, that connection is being passed to a new generation of fans.
“The Force Awakens” will no doubt be someone’s first film. That someone will one day share “Star Wars” stories (and memories) of their own.
The force is strong with us all, it seems, and it’s not going anywhere soon.