Hi. My name is Geoff. I’m a Star Wars snob.
The congregants [in unison]: …Hi, Geoff.
But I’m happy to say I’m a recovering Star Wars snob. I’ve been sober of my snobbery since about two summers ago.
It started for me, like it did for so many of us, in 1999, with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Almost two decades before, I had shared the Star Wars experience with my dad, and he had taught about the hypothetical six episodes that were supposed to bookend these phenomenal movies. Perhaps this was apocryphal, but that didn’t matter. A few years removed from high school, I couldn’t have been more excited about the “prequel” trailers when they first started running. The thought that the saga might actually be “completed” was very exciting. And let’s be honest: the trailers were fracking awesome.
- Jar Jar Binks
- An even wider range of sambo alien species with more fully pronounced racist characteristics than ever before
- The claim that Lord Vader, one of the most powerful and menacing forces the Dark Side would ever see, was once a happy-go-lucky, obnoxious little snot from a corny Christmas movie
- Pukey sports commentators totally killing the buzz on what could have been the best chariot race since Ben Hur
- An outlandish battle scene where happy-slappy Anakin outshoots and outmaneuvers a trained military fighting squadron… …entirely by accident!
- Jar Jar Binks
- Goofy robots (“roger, roger”) and juvenile character names (Dooku)—both of which are nestled in enough CGI to declare these “films” to actually be “cartoons”
- An older Anakin, now not nearly as happy-go-lucky but infinitely more obnoxious and whiny
- The blessed voice of James Earl Jones gratingly speaking the name “Padmé,” an experience worsened only by the vaudevillian cry, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
- Jar Jar Binks
This is to say nothing of the sacrilegious alterations made to the original films, with subsequent re-releases ad nauseum:
- Guido shooting first
- Han Solo stepping on and over a decidedly smaller and poorly animated Jabba the Hut
- A “restored” Muppet Show in the first act of Return of the Jedi
- Hayden Christensen superimposed where Sebastian Shaw should have been
Of course Darth Maul was awesome, but he got cut in half. And Ewan McGregor was a good casting choice for a young Sir Alec Guinness, so that was awesome. And the pod race was awesome, overall, despite the stupid two-headed cartoon commentator. But that’s kinda where the awesomeness ended. We suffered through three installments of this—that was six years of our lives we waited for redemption, holding out hope that the next film, and then the next, would live up to the legacy we remembered. Alas: the only hope for redemption seemed to be the New Hope that had been there all along.
But therein lies the fault in our premise, and this is what I have come to realize. I—and many like me—became Star Wars snobs because the “prequels” did not live up to the legacy we remembered. Unfortunately, that’s the very definition—and problem—with legacy. When we look closely enough, we find that it’s never actually as good as we remember it, or as we’ve made it out to be.
Two summers ago, with my son now showing an interest, we sat together and watched all six Star Wars movies up to that point. We did it over the course of several weeks, two or three sessions per movie, and in linear order by plot progression, not by release date. This sequence, and the breaks between viewings for re-cap discussion, made the story easier for my son to follow. What surprised me most, however, was not what he discovered from these viewings, but what I did. Here’s a few of those discoveries:
- C-3PO and R2-D2 are the O.G. goofy robots.
- Luke Skywalker is totally obnoxious and whiny, especially in Episode IV. I mean way whiny—even more than Anakin was in Episode II.
- There are Muppets everywhere. It’s not just a cameo in Return of the Jedi; it’s the whole movie. They’re called “Ewoks.” And now that I think of it, there were legions of Star Wars snobs hating on Ewoks all the way back in 1983. And not only this, but…
- …in 1983, we were supposed to accept an outlandish battle scene where these primitive, tribal creatures used guerrilla tactics to stave off a direct assault from the most sophisticated, industrialized battalion in the known galaxy.
In short, I realized the “prequels” weren’t as far off the mark as I had led myself to believe. They were, in fact, fairly well consistent with the tone and tropes of the original Star Wars trilogy. Seeing them in this light set me on my path to recovery.
Now two years sober, I can accept a few things that I was too proud to admit before. First and foremost, Star Wars is important. Whether you like it or not, Star Wars is a permanent and iconic piece of American culture. I haven’t done the research, and I’m not trying to start a Star Trek v. Star Wars debate, but I propose that there’s nothing in the history of the sci-fi genre that is more universally recognized than a light saber. Further: more significant than the saga’s importance to society is its importance to my family, specifically to my shared experience with my son. Viewing all six movies with him was awesome. We had great fun, and he became a Star Wars fan for life. Now we share the same experience and excitement for the coming films as I did with my father for the originals.
What has made Star Wars great in our collective memory is not that the films were flawless, but rather the shared experience in our homes and in our culture that they’ve given us. And in that light, I will be happily riding the wagon back to the theater this December.
The front piece used in this article was done by wagner.
Check out his work at Deviant Art.
What did I miss in my gripe list above? Which Star Wars addenda and alterations have upset you the most? Let it out, brothers and sisters. Purge it. It’s therapeutic. And then you can start to love again.