Why we need a little Star Wars

For best results, listen to this while reading:

Something wonderful happens a month from today: The Force Awakens opens, which is an awkward phrase, but what is Star Wars without a little awkwardness?

I still own an original vinyl copy of the Star Wars soundtrack, purchased with my own money in 1977. It was the fourth album I ever bought, preceded by a folk album by Valdy, a Bill Cosby album, and something by Abba. I was a weird kid.

I used to blast Star Wars on the stereo and stare at the pictures inside the double-spread – because it was a double-album, you know; it must have taken weeks of paper routes for me to afford it. I would sit there and listen and recall the drama from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Or to be specific, Halifax. That’s where I first saw Star Wars. I was the first person in my Grade 6 class to see it, possibly my entire school. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told people that. In terms of cool, this is where I peaked. If I ever become single, it’ll be part of my dating profile.

Star Wars is my Woodstock. Star Wars defined how my generation would henceforth demand to be entertained. Star Wars became the yardstick. At church camp that summer, some kid argued with me that Logan’s Run was better than Star Wars. Logan’s Run? Church camp? Yeah, I was awesome cool.

Like that moment of cool, Star Wars would never be replicated, not even by the sequels. Empire was dark; I mean, Han and Leia? Gross! Jedi was okay because the Death Star was back. But Star Wars would always be the best, and I had the soundtrack to prove it… and the posters, and the magazines and the R2-D2 model kit.

The poster: now on my daughter's apartment wall. I'm so proud!

The poster: now on my daughter’s apartment wall. I’m so proud! (And my slippers; not so proud.)

Years later, I couldn’t get excited about the prequels. Times and movies had changed. We had become numb to spectacle. But a few months ago, I watched the first teaser for The Force Awakens, and as the Millennium Falcon burst onto the screen accompanied by the opening blast of John Williams’ score, I got goosebumps. I felt giddy. I couldn’t wait.

In preparation for the new film, I decided to watch all six Star Wars again. As I started with Episode 4 , my son, now 20, informed me that he had never seen Star Wars. Never seen Star Wars! Gasp! A new hope. Sit right down, son.

He lasted three minutes.

“Maybe you have to be 12 to get it,” he said, and left the room.

And that’s when it hit me. Star Wars is not that good.

The concept of The Force is as flimsy as Mark Hamel’s acting, the dialogue Jar-Jar stinks, and if you call your ultimate genocidal weapon a “Death Star,” you are not a despotic empire to be taken seriously.

But that very simplicity may be why full-on adults like me are so excited about a new Star Wars. In an age of atrocities complicated by politics, religion and culture, we’ve seen too much of the Grey Side. We long for a pre-ironic age when good and evil were clearly defined, and redemption was not only possible but easy, even for someone who blew up planets for a living.

For kids who grew up with Star Wars, the force is strong in this one, and that force is nostalgia.

I know I should have a bad feeling about this, that there’ll be more cardboard characters and stilted acting and Luke Skywalker is going to go all Atticus Finch on us, but who can pass up the chance to be 12 again?

And if I could manage to be the first person in my office to see it, I will once again be cool.


An audio version of this piece aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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38 Responses to Why we need a little Star Wars

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    That’s a lovely piece. What I like most about the film, the concept, the making of it, was the simplicity of it, the retelling of familiar stories and themes, the fact they did it on a low budget…all of it just so pure…and how much it has inspired generations. I mean, I walk through grocery stores, down city streets here in the UK, and it’s everywhere, really. Saw our first proper billboard announcement, ‘coming soon,’ at a small theatre in Oban this past weekend. And that photo you included — saw that same graphic on a T-shirt here in a grocery store and it really took me back (and OK, made me feel old, a product of the 70s). Thanks for sharing this wrinkle in time with us.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I need some pure. I’m sad and angry and bothered these days by the world and how ready we are to turn our backs. I have my post written for Thursday as well. It’s a lot harsher than this gentle piece but hopefully funnier too. Satire never changed the world, but it helps get me through it. I do what I do.

  2. LifeLoofah says:

    Coming from a point of view where I didn’t watch an entire star wars movie until I was in my 20s, I have a hard time understanding why so many people love these movies, including my husband. We watched the original 3 again recently and I couldn’t help but think that they really aren’t that good, story-wise and acting-wise. I even thought Chewy was just as annoying as Jar-Jar. But I’m still curious how The Force Awakens will turn out, considering the previous prequel debacle.

  3. “Star Wars became the yardstick”; the yardstick became the lightsaber?

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’m surprised my youngest son hasn’t kicked me out of the house yet for my absolute lack of interest in seeing the new movie. Guess there’s still time though. But I better be careful admitting that. You might kick me off your blog.

  5. goldfish says:

    “Star Wars is not that good.”

    Heretic! Burn the witch! I saw it twice, back to back on the same day.

  6. The Cutter says:

    Luke is going to turn out to have been a racist the whole time?

  7. List of X says:

    So now that you’ve admitted that Star Wars aren’t that good, do you finally agree that Logan’s Run was better?

  8. Jeff says:

    We just started watching them again. Episode 4 two nights ago. I had to nudge (kick) my wife every five minutes to keep her awake. It was her idea to re watch them in preparation for “Awakens”…
    I still love them and I still want a light-saber of my own cause I could build the coolest forts with trees I could chop down and chop up with one swing. Mama always said pursue your dreams 🙂

  9. I may not have seen the original movies in the theater, but I still grew up watching them… also… what do you mean they aren’t good?! Okay fine, they’re kitchy (don’t tell anyone I said that), but I love them. And in spite of my lack of love for the last 3 once produced, I’m all prepared to love the new one. I dressed up as a Jedi for Halloween, see, that’s me full of love for Star Wars.

  10. Susan says:

    I also bought the double album with my pocket money back in 1978, when my record collection consisted of ABBA’s Greatest Hits and a few 7 singles. The record shop didn’t stock it and had to order two copies for my best friend and me. She still has hers, but sadly I don’t because I no longer have a record player. My dad bought me a pair of huge earphones so that I could listen to it without disturbing the rest of the family. Smart move on his part!

    I saw Star Wars five times that year (yes, there is only one Star Wars and it’s the original – none of this “Episode 4” stuff) and I wanted to run away to America and work for Industrial Light and Magic, making models and doing matte paintings. I ended up working backstage in theatre instead, and that was pretty cool too.

    I’m looking forward to the new movie…

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The movie had a huge impact on me but I don’t recall much of the actual movie-going experience itself. My favourite movie experience was a few years later, seeing Raiders by myself in an almost empty theatre in the middle of the afternoon. (Long story.) Now THAT movie still stands up really well.
      Thanks for sharing the (shared) memories.

  11. Ned's Blog says:

    I, too, still have my vinyl two-record set with the ghostly image of Darth Vader on the back. I think you nailed it when you said it was a time when good and evil were clearly defined; Luke in white and Vader in black. I also have to admit, like you, when that John Williams score blasted onto the screen in that first teaser, I felt like an 11-year-old again, all goose-bumpy and slack-jawed. I already have tickets for the whole family on opening night and am counting the days. There’s something to be said about the rarity of an experience that truly spans the generations and creates a common language. You sprinkeld them throughout this piece and I recognized — and enjoyed — every one of them.

    Thanks, Ross.

    A well-written and heartfelt piece, this was…

  12. I loved Star Wars. And yes, it was pretty simplistic, but my, it was great! I don’t know if thinking now about how I felt then is good or not.

  13. ksbeth says:

    “Years later, I couldn’t get excited about the prequels.” i think there is medication for that –

  14. You were only in 6th grade when it came out?! There you go bragging on your youth again. So full of yourself. Empire is a superior film. Sorry. That Luke would go dark is reason enough to see this next one. Don’t worry. J.J. Abrams is the Jedi Zen Master. He won’t screw up this assignment.

  15. Elyse says:

    While I was older (20), I saw it the day it was released. I got a “May The Force Be With You” button, which, sadly I lost or I would be able to retire off its sale. It’s a great feel-good movie. I’m looking forward to the new one. Except that I will have to accept that, like the cast, I no longer look like I did when the first one came out.

  16. R. Todd says:

    Ross, we are a kindred spirit. Granted, I was only 6 in 1977, but I still remember going and watching Chapter 4 in the theatres and loving it so much that it defined my childhood and my imagination. However, I must admit, for as much as we are alike, I feel as if by some horrible accident (maybe some of George’s midi-chlorianes got into you or something) we are as opposite as Light and Dark. You see, you referenced A New Hope by the nomer Episode. And while it seems the world has taken a long drink from that hot cup of kool-aid (I made this for you), it is, and shall ever be, Chapter 4… at least to someone who refuses to admit that those last three abominations that came out even exist (I don’t, therefor that would be me I was referencing…)

    And I feel as if this response has gone on way too long.. But seriously, I’m totally giddy about the new movie, and I totally squealed like a school-girl when Han says to Chewie, “Where home.”

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