I have always been a Star Wars fan. Since I saw the first one in the theater while we were visiting family. I still remember sitting in the theater, staring up at the screen during that last trench run on the Death Star, mouth hanging open, eyes wide, my little five-year-old brain totally blown. Got the figures. Saw the Holiday Special, and got a Boba Fett figure in the mail. Saw the other movies. Read Splinter of the Mind's Eye. It was, in a very real way, my first real love. And it paved the way for lots of things - my tearing through all the books in my mom's collection (lots of old Burroughs - Tarzan, John Carter, Carson of Venus, as well as Alan Dean Foster Humanx Commonwealth books and Piers Anthony Xanth novels, carrying a copy of Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara around and reading that at ten). And it was good.
When I was in college, I had a widescreen collection on VHS. (Still have it in storage. Pre-Special Edition. Heck, Pre-THX.) And I was working on campus as an A/V tech guy, mostly running film projectors and tv's around to various classrooms on campus so people could show videos, films, and slides to their classes. It was summer, getting near the end of the semester when my boss took me aside for a minute. "I need you to check the big projector systems on campus and make sure they're working." I blinked. He needed what? "Look, take a movie or something, and go to the big projector systems here on campus and make sure the sound is working and bulbs aren't burned out." Well, okay, but... could I pick the movie I was going to use? Narrowed eyes. "Suuuuuuure." And that's how I wound up sitting in an auditorium on a beautiful summer morning all alone, watching The Empire Strikes Back.
It hadn't been running that long. I was sitting in an aisle seat on the right side, when I suddenly realized there was someone standing next to me. And he was looking up at the screen, then down at me, then back to the screen, and finally he got some words out.
"Are you showing this?"
I gave him a funny look. "Um, yeah?" And I'm wondering if I'm going to have trouble with this guy, or someone's going to raise a fuss. But no.
Guy glanced back up at the screen, then back at me. "Can I get my kid? He's never seen this on the big screen before."
And immediately I said. "Go get him, man."
And that's how I wound up showing Empire Strikes Back to some random guy and his son on that beautiful summer morning. Which was the best way to watch any Star Wars movie. They didn't stay the whole time. Must have had someplace they needed to be, because they stayed all the way through the Battle of Hoth, saw the Millennium Falcon get clear of Echo Base, and they left.
And then there were books. Zahn's trilogy picking up after Jedi. Stackpole's X-Wing Squadron books. The New Jedi Order. Drama and tragedy and sprawling tales of adventure. And I loved it. Loved all of it.
And the prequels. (sigh)
And then Disney bought the whole shebang. And when they did, and they decided they wanted to make new movies, they announced that the entire Extended Universe - all of the books and comics that had been building up in Star Wars for the better part of twenty years - was all no longer going to be considered canon. At this point, as a Star Wars fan, I had a decision to make.
What, to me, was Star Wars?
Disney was making a statement about what they were going to do with Star Wars, and I understood. The EU was a set path. Fans of the EU, who had been fans for years, would have had their minds blown at the prospect of someone actually filming Zahn's Trilogy. (Go find that. It's amazing. Heir of the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.) But Disney felt that they needed a clear field to grow their own stories, and I could respect that. And, again, that was their decision. But I still had to decide.
What, to me, was Star Wars?
And so I built my own headcanon. For me. The original movies. Zahn's Trilogy and Stackpole's X-Wing books. NJO, but not the stuff that followed. The Star Wars Saga Edition game I had run with my friends for the better part of a year, set in the Old Republic.
And then we got the sequel films. And I was into it. "Hey! It's more Star Wars! Yeeaaah!" And sure, Force Awakens was incredibly derivative. But it had to be a palate cleanser, I told myself. "We're back in business! Making adventures!" And sure, Han and Leia broke up, and Luke took off for parts unknown, and... the more I think about it, the more I realize how big the problems were. TFA undid everything that the heroes had done. Han and Leia separated, so no family of mischievous, maturing Force using kids trying to make their way in the world. No Mara Jade, so no Luke finding someone to love and be a partner to.
And looking back on it now, the horrible way the films treated Finn. Finn was never treated seriously as a character, and he could have had a tremendous arc. Instead? Eh.
Last Jedi had some incredible moments, but the cracks were more apparent. Killing off Ackbar off screen. General Holdo. I was down for Snoke and his gold robe. I didn't need to know where that guy came from or what his story was. And there's something about that scene in the throne room with the fight and the burning away of the curtains, so you just see the bare structure behind them, and that scene where Kylo is talking to Rey about her past - that was good. There was something THERE, man, and I was down for it. I wanted to see the First Order under the rule of a petty, angsty, but super powerful Kylo Ren. And I could ignore the parts I didn't like. Like, again, Luke taking off and abandoning his friends and the rest of the galaxy.
But it was Rise of Skywalker that killed my love of Star Wars. It's the only one of the series that I don't own. That final, stupid, unearned scene "What's your name?" and me muttering under my breath "Don't you say it! Don't do this!", then UGH! And I was done. I'd carried that torch for over forty years, and I was done. I was out. No mas. I saw it once in the theaters, and I'd seen every other Star Wars film multiple times. Sure, it made a killing, but not from me. And I haven't sat down and watched a Star Wars movie since.
Then along comes The Mandalorian.
The Mandlorian is Star Wars. We'd pre-ordered Disney Plus, and the day it launched, I pulled up the app on a TV, funny enough, just like the first time I saw Star Wars, away from home, visiting family. And at 2 minutes, 30 seconds, I said "Oooo, this has my interest." And another sixty seconds in, it was Star Wars.
If there's a thing you love, maybe it's a game, or maybe it's a cartoon you grew up on, or a book you love, and someone comes along and either tries to twist it or change it, that's unfortunate.
But it doesn't have to change the love you have for that thing. In fact, I would argue that you shouldn't let it. And learning how to ignore and shut out people trying to rip that love apart is a worthwhile endeavor. If rumors are true, it was the stated intent of the executive team overseeing the sequel films to run old school fans out. Until The Mandalorian came out, they'd pretty much succeeded with me.
The other day, I stuck my nose into Twitter for a moment. (I know, I know. The burnt fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the fire. I know.) And I saw someone ragging on a guy who had posted a picture of a new car he'd just bought. He'd bought a Porsche. Now, from the post, this was a guy who was probably the first in his family to go to university. Came from a disadvantaged background. Studied hard. Got good grades. Got a decent job. And eventually bought himself something that, again - judging from the post, meant something to him. It meant success. He owned a freaking Porsche! Probably had a picture of a Porsche up on his wall when he was a kid. I can think of that kid staring up at that picture, and thinking "maybe someday". And who knows what kind of car it was. Might have been older, used, needed some work, but it was, again, a freaking Porsche! And he posted it, saying something about making some people jealous. Probably people from his old neighborhood. Kids that made fun of him for studying, that kind of thing.
And this group on Twitter was just... mocking it. "I'm going into debt, so I can look cool huh huh hur durr," was the tone of the first tweet. "Ugh, that's X kind of Porsche, and it's a horrible car, he should have gotten Y kind." And so on, and so forth.
I hope that guy never sees that Twitter thread. Because I could see him seeing that, slowly closing the computer lid, and the thing he'd been working for - that sign that he was making it, that he was doing a good job, being twisted in his mind. And the satisfaction that he felt, the good feeling he had, the taste of victory that would keep him pushing towards the next good thing just turning to ashes in his mouth.
I see attempts to destroy and denigrate and deconstruct all around. I've seen it happen with Star Wars.
Don't let someone's stray remark, or even their concerted effort, kill the love you have for something good.