Another year, another “Star Wars” Day.
Were I to sit down and try to express the impact that “Star Wars” has had on my life, we would all be stuck here for several decades and I would have gotten only to the part in the original film when a jawa mutters “Utinni” somewhere in the corner of the frame.
It will tell you all you need to know about my relationship with the multigenerational modern-day myth that, when my family finally got a VCR, I had to sign an agreement not to watch the trilogy more than 13 times per year. And this was only in the aftermath of great struggle and a lot of bargaining.
I am not saying that I was a geek, nor that my room was so thickly papered in “Star Wars” posters and pictures that 13-year-old boys were too intimidated to enter. (At least, this is the reason they gave.) Nor am I saying that I own a lifesize stuffed Jar Jar Binks that I can’t get rid of, because unloading a lifesize Jar Jar Binks on people who like “Star Wars” is somewhat like trying to unload a lifesize sculpture of Yoko Ono on Beatles fans, or a lifesize iceberg on fans of the Titanic.
Well, maybe I am.
And you get it. That’s the amazing part.
As I’ve grown, I’ve noticed a change. “Star Wars” fandom used to be a social liability, a fixation that only allowed you to appear cool at chess camp.
Now it’s a language of common reference for almost everyone.
“What’s Chewbacca?” my roommate once asked. “Is that like chewing tobacco?”
Everyone stared at her in horror.
It’s actually almost hip to be a “Star Wars” geek.
All the people who grew up with the original trilogy are now making art of their own, and the allusions keep coming in pop culture wherever you look. “It’s a trap!” “I have a bad feeling about this!” “May the Force be with you!”
We’re enjoying the sort of ubiquity — in ceramics on sale at Urban Outfitters! Referenced in other films! Joked about on TV constantly! — formerly reserved for Greek gods and the works of Dickens. It’s a common language, a set of archetypes that George Lucas was kind enough to climb up a mountain and grab from Joseph Campbell for us.
As many have noted, geek culture is increasingly mainstream. Even CBS gets it. Everyone aspires to those angular glasses. Once, it was a big deal to plunk a reference to “The Empire Strikes Back” into the middle of your sitcom. Now, Internet culture takes this for granted, as Max Read points out. There’s a growing awareness online that everyone is a geek on some level, about something. Now the references fly thick and fast and interwoven, and if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.
We “Star Wars” fans have to enjoy our hegemony while it lasts. In another generation, it’ll be Harry Potter references everywhere, or, I don’t know, allusions to the Na’vi, or both — or neither! Maybe, as pop culture continues to fragment and everyone is famous not for 15 minutes but to 15 people, nothing else will ever touch such a wide base. Perhaps “Star Wars” hit at exactly the right time to make its impact felt, when the monoculture still existed but there was room for it to take on a life of its own and expand in the imagination of its fans.
Who can say how long the ride will last? “Always in motion is the future,” as Yoda has it.
In the meantime, May the Fourth be with you!
Read more on this issue:
Here’s a grand piece by Emi Kolawole that I think gets to the heart of “Star Wars”: the fans.
More fans, at Mysticon