Naturally, the geek community is buzzing today about “Force Friday,” as the first crop of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys debut in stores. If you’re real quiet, you might even be able to hear the sounds of plastic lightsabers banging together…
But I will not be participating in the retail festivities.
I love Star Wars. I’ll always love Star Wars. It’s hard not to love Star Wars. I spend a decent amount of time writing about Star Wars. And I love Star Wars fans. It’s an immensely creative fandom, filled with people from all walks of life. No matter how old you are, that universe is a still fun place to be. But Star Wars and I have a weird relationship. When I was a tween and a teen, it was pretty much all I could talk about. Nowadays, it’s sometimes rather difficult for me to talk about.
I’ve been a Star Wars geek most of my life. In fact, you might even call me a recovered addict. When I was a kid, it was all Star Wars, all the time. Posters, books, school supplies, etc. I even had all those Pepsi cans with the Phantom Menace characters on them. And of course, the toys. Hundreds and hundreds of mom and dad’s dollars spent on action figures from all the movies. Even that first Princess Leia figure from original Power of the Force line. Remember that one? Totally looked like a dude. Power of the Force Leia was Caitlyn Jenner two decades before Bruce Jenner was…
As I got older, I stopped spending mom and dad’s money and started spending my own. I even attended a midnight madness sale myself. It was a little more than a decade ago, when the first Revenge of the Sith action figures came out.
Picture this: You’re 20 years old, standing outside a Wal-Mart with dozens of other Star Wars die hards, being told that once you enter the store at these special late hours, you may only shop in the toys section. Once you enter the store, the group starts off at a brisk pace, then speeds up into a full on run as amused store clerks look on. And once we hit the displays, we got grabby. Really grabby.
I’m pretty sure I still have most of those toys. In retrospect, the most notable one was a pregnant Padme Amidala. That might have been the world’s first pregnant action figure.
But as I got into my late twenties, the collecting, and my undying love for Star Wars started to wane. I attribute that to a lot of things. I grew up, of course, and money had to go elsewhere. But I also became more cynical about the franchise, largely thanks to my exposure to Red Letter Media’s reviews of the prequels. Like a lot of fans, I’d somehow convinced myself that the prequels were good movies. I had a terrible case of what I’ve come to refer to as “prequel denial.” But if you’re any kind of open-minded person, and you watch those reviews, it’s pretty tough to argue with what Mike Stoklasa (as Mr. Plinkett) lays out. Once that illusion was broken, I started to look at Star Wars as something entirely new: A business. And business was, and still is, booming. Gradually, I got so turned off by it that I swore off buying Star Wars merchandise of any kind.
I became one of those people who was really bitter about George Lucas, and how he wasn’t the person we all thought he was. Even after he sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney and donated most of the $4 billion to education, I couldn’t help but see him as a cold, calculating businessman whose artistic soul had been corroded. I wrote a scathing column about him on the old Primary Ignition, which resulted in me being taken to task in the comments section. And rightfully so. Ironically, the pendulum had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I’d gone from being overly devoted to Star Wars, to being overly critical.
Star Wars was such a huge part of my childhood. It gave me an entire universe to escape to when my own universe got a little too dark. It held such a revered spot in my heart for so long that when I finally saw it for what it truly was, blemishes and all, there was a certain pain that came with it. I nearly rejected something I’d loved for so long. It’s almost like growing up and getting to know your parents as real people, and then being uncomfortable with the fact that they’ve got flaws just like anybody else.
This brings me to The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie I’m coming into without rose-colored glasses on. As such, it’s awkward for me to talk or speculate about it with anyone. I’m so passionate about it, but at the same time I’m keeping my distance. I’m not ranting or raving about anything I’ve seen, even when it comes the classic characters. I’m letting the movie speak for itself. Ergo, I’m not buying anything from The Force Awakens until I know if it’s worth investing my hard earned money in. They’re getting a movie ticket from me. But for now, that’s it. And if that’s all I give them, somehow I think Star Wars will survive.
Still, I will always have a special place in my heart for that galaxy far, far away. That’s why, about six months ago, I bought myself a Luke Skywalker action figure from “The Black Series.” I’ve since added Han Solo, Yoda, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi circa Episode III (Ewan McGregor was the best part of those damn prequels.).
What can I say? While it’s not quite the same as it used to be, The Force is still with me.
Image 1 from gizmodo.com. Image 2 from weddingbee.com. Image 3 from geeksmash.com.
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