I am going to preface the following diatribe by admitting…I am a child of the 80s. (ok late 70s) And as such, I grew up watching Star Wars. Since things were different then (my kids would say, sad and shocking) you couldn’t turn on the TV at any old time and find something to watch. There were no DVDs or DVRs but my family was well off enough to have one of the very first VCRs and my mother managed to record a few movies for us. So if we wanted to watch something, we had our good old VHS tapes. One was The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, it was taped with commercial interruption and yes, there was a period of about 5 minutes when my little sister changed the channel to Dukes of Hazard and I wrestled to get control of the remote. I also happen to know there was a thunderstorm in Binghamton that night because the warning went across the screen every few minutes. Nevertheless, I spent many hours in front of the TV with a hairbrush and bobby pins, staring at my beloved Luke Skywalker and putting my long hair up into Princess Leia buns.
It was a happy time. I was 7. And as most children of the 80s, I look back at Star Wars with fondness and nostalgia. If you don’t remember this feeling, you are not part of my generation. (Or you were not taking those "Just Say No To Drugs" PSAs to heart.)
I have long suspected things were different for the boys though. I feel that somehow, in the context of those movies, George Lucas subliminally programmed a strange obsession into the minds of a whole generation of boys. This programming lay dormant for many years as the boys grew up and began lives of their own.
|We used to be normal, somewhat.|
Until the release of Episode 1. Somehow, the release of the first Star Wars movie in 16 years activated this programming and propelled these once young Star Wars fans into full grown Superfans. Suddenly, everyone was moaning about the amount of money they could have made if only they still had this or that action figure from their youth. The facts and trivia that had burrowed its way back into their impressionable minds came spewing forth in place of once normal conversations. If you’ve known one of these poor lost boys…you know the transformation that took place. And if you don’t, let me explain how it happened to us.
By the time of Episode 1’s premiere, I had been married for four years. I knew that as a kid, my husband liked Star Wars. So did I. What was the big deal? So when he asked if I would be willing to stand in line for tickets to the very first midnight showing, I thought it sounded fun. It was fun. There were people lined up for a few hours ahead of time. When the first scrolling part of the story came on, the entire audience exploded in applause. The amount of energy in that theater was something I’d never experienced before. You will find among Star Wars fans strong opinions about Episode 1 but I will not go into that. We had no strong opinions. It was a good movie. I enjoyed it. Back to life. Or so I thought.
Not long after that, my husband found a new website called eBay. One of his first purchases was a full sized Star Wars helmet. I was a bit confused since we were basically broke and I didn’t even recognize the helmet he bought for $55. (Tie Fighter) But he was ecstatic so that was fine. Sadly for him, it did not stay with us long. (I mentioned…broke. Also…pregnant.) So he actually put it back on eBay and sold it.
Then came the release of Episode 2. I had a toddler by this time so I was not going to the premiere. This would not deter my husband, who grabbed a buddy and together they headed off early to tailgate at the local theater. Tailgate. Did you know that is even allowed? Well, evidently so. He backed up his big dually truck front and center and hooked up our portable TV to play the original movies for all other nerds (fans) in line. Decorating the truck were two toy lightsabers and the helmet of a new character in our lives, Boba Fett.
For those of you who don’t know, in the Star Wars universe Boba Fett is The Man. He is bigger than Vader, Skywalker, even Harrison Ford. There are fan sites totally devoted to this guy and they are totally serious. Little did I know that I would come to know Boba Fett in such detail that I am a virtual, if not reluctant, encyclopedia of facts about this obscure character.
We spent the day pushing strollers through the park, watched
the Ariel show, danced to Playhouse Disney, bought $7 ice cream that the kids dripped
all over their outfits. Finally after hours,
our husbands showed back up, talking a mile a minute like excited little
boys. They described all kinds of
amazing adventures that we half listened to as we threaded our way through the
huge crowds. Then my little excited boy-husband
handed back the camera and, I kid you not, announced “I want one of these in 5x7!”
|"Also, frame it and put it on my bedside table."|
A few years pass. Suddenly, the news is released that there is going to be Celebration 5…the first Star Wars convention in years, right in Orlando. I am told that we must not miss this. Fine. I did the hotel pool thing while he and his cousin spent three days of bliss looking at every Star Wars vendor in the US. They actually slept all night on the sidewalk in order to get in to see Jon Stewart interview George Lucas. (Even now, he says, “Totally worth it”) The most impressive thing to him seemed to be all the costumes. Evidently, fans- not paid actors or people working the show- but fans dress in elaborate costumes and walk around being seen at these things. He mentioned that next time; he’d like to dress up.
Next time? Dress up?
He spent six months making a costume…and not just any costume but a ‘Concept Boba Fett.’ Allow me to translate. When the first toys were being made, this action figure was supposed to be in a white costume. Soon that idea was scrapped but a few of the white Boba Fetts were already out there. So for his very first costume, my husband made an obscure take on a character that has two lines in a movie released in 1980. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I found myself at Megacon Orlando, sweating it out as a handler/bodyguard/assistant. I had no clue the kind of reaction this costume would get. He could not take five steps without someone asking to take his photo. Once he stopped, other people’s cameras came out of nowhere and suddenly there were flashes from all directions. It was like I had entered another world and I was surrounded by Nerd Paparazzi trying to just get a glimpse of my famous charge. It took us about 2 hours just to reach the front door. I have to say, I was blown away.
I take pride in being fairly sane and even with this huge reaction I was starting to feel that this whole Star Wars obsession was getting out of hand. The adoration he received at Megacon was like gas on a fire and I began to hear talk of “next time” and “next outfit.” At this point, I’ll admit, I began to loose control of the situation. I earnestly started backpedalling…not being very supportive…or all that interested. I realized that I’d better not feed this beast. It didn’t matter. Validation for him came from another source. He put that costume up for sale and made $1800. And nothing tells my husband that he is right like making money. As he jumped around in front of the computer in triumph, I thought to myself, ‘There’ll be no living with him now.’
When you love someone, you learn to be happy when they are happy. I cannot shake this programming that George Lucas somehow accomplished. So I might as well look for the good in it. It makes him pretty easy to shop for. He takes all the obligatory teasing in good stride. It actually has shown me an artistic side to my construction worker hubby that I never knew existed.
And so, my friends, that is how I ended up where I am today. I wake up in the morning, stumble in to the kitchen to pour my coffee and then head to the office that I share with my dear, sweet, adorable, brainwashed husband and this guy:
|Why yes, this would be a life sized action figure. Don't you have one?|
This is not what I had planned but underneath … somehow, I’ve always known.