Confession Time: Until a few years ago, I had never seen Star Wars.
Here’s a secret. I’m not really all that into movies. Ask me “Have you seen …?” followed by any classic film and chances are very high I’ll say no. If I had the choice of watching a movie, reading a book, or playing board games with friends, I’d choose the latter two any day.
And when I do watch films or TV shows, I will often watch ones I like, again and again and again. I have seen Jurassic Park more than 70 times (true: I kept a tally as a kid up till about 64), Wall-E 20+ times, Cruel Intentions 20+ times, Nightmare on Elm Street 10+ times …
But I have never seen Casablanca, or Citizen Kane. I’ve seen the first episode of Game of Thrones, and that’s it. I’ve never seen the original Judge Dredd film (the Carl Urban remake was awesome, though). Or any of the Saw franchise. Or, up until recently, Star Wars.
As a child of the 80s, this is practically criminal. When people find out they would act as if my parents had committed some heinous crime. People assume I grew up in one of those weird religious houses where people pretend pop culture doesn’t exist.
It is impossible to be completely uninformed about Star Wars. Think of the number of parodies The Simpsons have exacted against it. I saw Spaceballs as a kid and loved it. Think of the sheer amount of times it is referenced in pop culture – you can’t grow up and NOT know about Darth Vader being Luke’s father or the famous light sabre scene or Yoda talking like a grammar concentration camp victim. Even a Star Wars virgin like me goes into their first viewing feeling pretty prepared.
It began with my now-husband and an old flatmate/friend (not a friend or flatmate any more, sadly) taking up the cause. The friend especially couldn’t believe her luck. She declared that I had a unique opportunity – one enjoyed by very few people. I would see the Star Wars films for the first time as a grown adult … in the correct order. In the order George Lucas had intended they be watched.
Cue every fan in the whole universe crying, “Nooooooo!”
My husband, then boyfriend, protested, but it fell on deaf ears. And so, over three consecutive days and a mountain of sweet and savory snacks, I popped my Star Wars cherry. We marathoned all six films, from I-IV, my flatmate nudging me and winking and yelling out when particularly funny or exciting bits were coming up.
I don’t get it.
I’m sorry, Star Wars fans, but I don’t get it.
To be fair, I fell asleep during at least 45mins of each of the first three films, so I might have missed something really cool. The last three films were more tolerable, but returning to 70s film style after the lush effects of the first three made the difference in quality that much more obvious. The scenes Lucas added later do nothing but draw attention to themselves. Yikes. The whole way though I am struggling to suspend disbelief.
I don’t really like the characters. Skywalker is a complaining twat, Vader’s badassness is ruined by his over-characterisation in the earlier films. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT JAJA THING? I don’t understand what happened to Obi One. The robots are kind of cool, but Johnny 5 is cooler. Leia is a prop with boobs, so my opinion on her doesn’t really matter.
It seems ironic to me that in their enthusiasm for finding that rare person who hasn’t seen this film and attempt to convert a fan, this flatmate and my husband have turned me from a Star Wars Virgin into a Star Wars hater.
And it is precisely because I’m watching the films now, with 20+ years of pop culture references behind them, and I feel as if I’ve seen them before, even though I haven’t. It’s all cliche’s, even though what I’m actually seeing is the source material that has now become cliche.
The truth is, Family Guy does Star Wars better than Star Wars does Star Wars. It’s funnier, and is over much more quickly. Lucas has said that the films are meant to be for kids, which I think explains why watching them as an adult makes me feel ragey. I don’t get it, and I don’t have nostalgia on my side.
My husband explained my ennui succinctly. “When Darth Vader first emerges onto the screen, you’re supposed to be terrified. You’re supposed to see this inhuman, unstoppable badass. Instead, all you can see is this whiny emo git.”
In contrast, last year I watched all the Star Trek films for the first time (never seen Star Trek either). Those I LOVED. I’m hoping to get the whole series on DVD soon.
The lesson here: 1. If someone you know has never seen Star Wars, don’t start with I and go through to VI. It doesn’t work. Start with IV. It’s the way it was meant to be. And 2. Live Long and Prosper.
Is there any pop culture thing you haven’t seen / don’t get?