- Stephen Kent – Host on Beltway Banthas Podcast
This conversation is timely, Star Wars is so much a part of my worldview that it has become unconscious – a raw impression, a solid resonant core that I cannot put into words. Just yesterday I was wearing a bit of (to the average person obscure) Star Wars memorabilia and a friend said to me “I’m sorry, I don’t get the Star Wars reference in that.” She went on to explain that she had watched a smattering of various Star Wars films, this one and that one. This gave me pause, how can you have just watched: “this one and that one?” Another friend sitting to the other side of me started to say that you shouldn’t bother, that Star Wars was just… and then he saw the look I was giving him and he paused, he paused: Star Wars is not just…. I turned back to my friend to explain that you need to begin with A New Hope and then etc, etc… as the conversation wore on I realized I lacked the words to explain what Star Wars is, what it means to me.
How do you explain the visceral anticipation in the seconds after the fanfare ends when you know the crawl is about to begin: it is a feeling in the back of your throat, a tingle in the spine and ears, tears in the eyes. My friend felt that she just didn’t understand the movies because she had missed viewing them as a child, she has missed the window of nostalgia and I was at a loss to explain that it is more than that: I am nostalgic for hundreds of things from my childhood from Otter Pops to V, but what Stars Wars means to me is so, so much more than that: my earliest memories of fundamental concepts like honor, loyalty, love, and friendship come from Star Wars. I remember clearly coming back from Jedi, I was a bit older and right on the verge of losing the childhood suspension of disbelief, and just sitting on my bed and staring out the window trying to internalize the same feeling I got when I saw the teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, the scene where we see the Millennium Falcon again for the first time, the scene where Han says “Chewie we’re home.” I screamed out loud, I cried, I got chills.
I could talk for hours about the mythology, the characters, the plot, the fundamental tropes, this scene, that scene, the canon, the books, the amazing toys, the cheesy specials, or C3PO’s, but somehow that misses the mark. We all have our own personal experience of Star Wars – for me Star Wars remains the best part of humanity, childhood wonder, and love.
- Carrie Ann Cruce – Graduate Research Assistant – University of Texas Libraries
As long as I can remember there has always been Star Wars. My first memories are of Yoda, Luke and R2 on Dagobah, their colors dulled by the poor dubbing quality of the VHS tape my dad used to tape The Empire Strikes Back from primetime television ( it took years for me to learn that the Star Wars trilogy didn’t actually have commercials). This was the big bang for me. This used universe of droids, aliens, starfighters, heroes, scoundrels, villains and princesses set my young brain on a path that would forever dominate my destiny. Consume me, it did. I’ve always viewed Star Wars less as a movie and more as a portal into another reality. An escape. Narnia for those who prefer laser swords and space slugs to half goats and talking lions. When life got me down I could always transport myself to a galaxy far, far away and feel like anything was possible. If a farm boy from a desert planet could become the most powerful entity in the galaxy than surely I could find my way in this world. It’s a special time to be a Star Wars fanatic – the characters and the universe we know and love are in the hands of people just like us, those that grew up wanting to be cool like Han but were probably just dorky like 3P0 – the ones that want to know what blue milk tastes like, and what it’s like to hit lightspeed. We have so many new stories and adventures to look forward to and I await them all with the same ferocity I had as a child. May the force be with us. Always.
- Jon Pataky – Father of twins, Founder of The Ben Quadinaros Memorial Fund
It’s hard for me to quantify what Star Wars means to me. I was thirteen when I first saw A New Hope. I was a budding artist, woman, rebel, and lost soul wondering about her own missing paternal line while staring down the twin suns of Tatooine. The movie left me speechless and with a lifetime obsession. Princess Leia was the sort of bad-ass I wanted to be; unafraid, unapologetic, and willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. Luke was a kindred spirit, kind of a whiny baby, yes, but a whiny baby who had questions about his lineage and who was troubled by the identity of his father. And Han Solo…well, I was thirteen years old when I first saw Han’s smugglers grin, his swagger and style. My developing sexuality congealed around Solo, the bad boy with the heart of gold, and he’s been my type ever since.
I grew up fast, hard, lonely, and poor. The original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels gave me something to be excited about: a place to lose myself in, a place where everything had meaning, and a place where I could find a community. I turned sixteen the day The Phantom Menace hit the theaters. A few weeks previously I slept outside the Kalamazoo 10 with a bunch of other fans and two of my best friends. Slap-happy and sleep deprived, we played with lightsabers, pretended to be droids, and talked Star Wars all through the night. It was, honestly, the most fun I had in high school.
Over a decade later, after watching The Force Awakens, I texted back and forth with my best friend from high school. “Rey!!!!!!” I exclaimed, “Did you love her????” “God, yes,” she wrote back, “I didn’t know how much I needed her until I saw her.” And I felt the same way, even sitting here typing this tears come to my eyes when I think of Rey in The Force Awakens. It’s hard to explain, really, what it’s like to see someone with whom you both identify and inspire to be: someone who doesn’t need her hand held, someone who knows how to run, and jump, and fight, and use the friggin force like she’s been doing it forever. I texted back to my friend, “I wish I had her when I was sixteen, someone like that…” I trailed off. Maybe I thought if I’d had someone like Rey I wouldn’t have wasted my time with so many heartless Solo wannabes. But if I hadn’t wasted my time, fallen and failed, I would have never been given the opportunity to face my deepest fears, the way Luke faced his in The Dagobah Cave.
Rogue One became instantly important to me. I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. A few days after seeing the film I had a panic attack, normally I would breathe through the attack but I had all ready begun to hyperventilate. For some reason Chirrut Îmwe’s mantra came to me, I am one with the force and the force is with me. I repeated this phrase to myself over and over again until my breathing settled, until my heart stopped racing, until I felt close to peace. I still use it to center myself when a panic attack looms or when my anxiety threatens to blow me up like Alderaan.
I recently re-watched Rogue One with my beloved scruffy looking nerf-herder of a boyfriend, who had never seen it before. I cried through the last act, the same way I did the first time I saw it. A lot had happened since my first viewing: Trump has taken office and brought dark times upon the galaxy and we lost Carrie Fisher, whose importance to me stretched beyond her unfathomable legacy as Princess Leia. Watching Rogue One this last time I cried because the film is such a beautiful testament to resistance and love: two themes that I come to time and time again in these dark and uncertain times. As I cried I felt strength well up inside of me, I felt hope.
Star Wars has given me models to look to, a community to love and belong to and metaphors for the heroes journey we must all go through. As I go through my days as a writer, educator and rebel scum, I think daily of the series, of the lessons it has taught me, the gifts it has given me, and the strength it has lent me, even in my darkest times. Thank you Star Wars and thank you Star Wars fandom. May the force be with you, always.
- Katy Shay – Graduate Assistant at Miami University
My first Star Wars memory is hearing about the film a few days after my best friend at the time told me all about it during a sleepover at his house. He talked, and I listened for hours about a bar with crazy looking monsters, a Bigfoot dog-like friend of a cool cowboy type dude, a hero that seemed a little out of place but forced to fight for what he believed in, the evil black armored robot type guy that was the movie’s evil villain, and everything and everyone in between. A few days later, I got to watch Star Wars and it was that evening…everything changed!
- Tom Berges – creator of IGrewUpStarWars.com