Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Wars Fandom: The Early Years

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. … well, actually it was 37 years ago at a drive in theater in a small Illinois town that set my life in motion for where I am today.  That night, I saw my first film. As a small kid I was instantly transported to this far off place and befriended by a cocky, play by his own rules scoundrel and a feisty, take charge self-proclaimed princess. George Segal and Goldie Hawn starred in The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, an amazing western tale. Okay, so that was the second film on the double feature. The first film was, Star Wars. Not, Episode IV: A New Hope, just Star Wars. 

Ready for take off
 As I sat on the lawn staring up at a giant outdoor screen watching a raging space battle happen, something resonated with me that to this day I can’t fully explain. Even at four years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Several years later after realizing Star Wars wasn’t a documentary and I couldn’t go off to join the rebellion, I decided instead I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. That’s stories for other times. 

Action figures
After seeing Star Wars, I became obsessed with the characters and the universe in which they existed. I can still recall when I got certain action figures and the battles I had with them. This was back when you actually bought action figures to play with instead of buying them to display in their cases. 

New Hope
At that time there was no internet and I don’t remember movie news being as popular as it is now so there weren’t constant updates as to when the next Star Wars would come out or in depth details on the plot. I think I remember finding out about The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi by an option to send in five proofs of purchases from the action figures to get a figure from the upcoming films. I just remember being excited to see what the next adventure had in store. 

Empire Strikes Back
I remember my mom taking me to see The Empire Strikes Back and her falling asleep during the film. Obviously she didn’t share my enthusiasm nor did she care that Lando Calrissian had betrayed his close friend Han Solo. I saw Return of the Jedi twice in the theater. I remember thinking at they end they should have had the actors come out and take a bow. I don’t know why I wanted the end of a movie to be like a play. Just thought it would be a nice closure to the end of the Star Wars experience. 

Return of the Jedi
I’m not sure what it was about Star Wars that had such an impact on me. I know I wasn’t alone. I’d say 95% of my generation who are into movies would cite Star Wars as one of their favorite or most influential films. Having recently re-watched the first film, I think I understand the broader aspects of the plot than I did as a kid. I’m not really sure what the Empire is or why they shut down the Galactic Senate. I do know that the space battles, light sabers and the creatures in Mos Eisley Cantina were all pretty cool. 

After Jedi, there were a couple of made for TV Ewoks movies and the Ewoks/Droids Saturday morning cartoons. Then as the 80s came to a close Star Wars seemed to fade out of style. I don’t think anyone imagined Star Wars would be as popular as it is today 25 years ago.  We’ll get to that in a couple of blog posts later.

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