Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Star Wars Fandom

For my first post-prologue blog post, I figured I'd dive into one of the things I geek out about: Star Wars. I'll talk a bit about how I got into it, how my life impacted my fandom, and how my fandom impacted my life.

This story goes back longer than I can remember. Growing up, my siblings and I watched the original Star Wars trilogy all the time. This was before they had released those VHS versions, where the sleeves had a black background and a character's face. The movies had aired on TV, and my dad had recorded it with our VCR. He even went so far as to stop the recording at the beginning of each commercial break, so that we'd be able to watch the movies straight through. It occurs to me now that there are people who don't know what VHS or VCR mean. I encourage those people to visit Wikipedia.

I don't remember seeing the movies for the first time. I don't remember being shocked that Vader was Luke's father. I've just always known. We watched those VHS tapes so many times that they started to wear out.

When I was in first grade, a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his, Nathan. "Nathan knows everything about Star Wars," he told me. And in my first grade mind, he did. When he pointed out to me that it was Luke's right hand that was chopped off in Empire Strikes Back, and Luke chops off Vader's right hand in Return of the Jedi, it blew my mind. How could he know so many details about Star Wars? I thought. He must be related to George Lucas. And yes, I knew who George Lucas was, even as a first grader. I started memorizing all of the actors involved with Star Wars, from Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill to Warwick Davis and Sebastian Shaw.

I received my first ever Star Wars toys Christmas of 1996. I remember getting a Luke Skywalker action figure in an Imperial Guard disguise (which I later learned came from the book Shadows of the Empire). My brother Patrick and I got a Micro Machines Millennium Falcon playset. The toys came with a flyer for the Star Wars Insider magazine, and we begged our parents to buy a subscription.


Around this time, my family was at movie theater (I can't remember what movie we were there to see), when I saw the following. At the center of the huge screen, there was a tiny TV, with scenes from Star Wars playing. A tinny voice spoke. "For an entire generation, people have experienced Star Wars the only way it's been possible - on a TV screen. But if you've only seen it this way, you haven't seen it at all." At this point, an X-Wing fighter flew right towards us through the TV screen, filling the whole theater screen, and the music ramped up. Star Wars was coming back to theaters!

I remember seeing behind the scenes specials on TV, discussing the added scenes that would be in the Special Editions, as well as the improved special effects. I thought it was so cool that they added Jabba the Hutt into A New Hope, and how they worked around the issue of Han walking around behind Jabba. (When it was originally filmed, Jabba was played by a human, and Harrison Ford walked around him at one point. So in the Special Edition, they modified it so that Han stepped on Jabba's tail.) Nowadays, I don't really think the scene is necessary (most of the dialogue is redundant after Han's conversation with Greedo), but it doesn't bother me either.

Around this time, I started getting into the Star Wars novels. Shadows of the Empire, a story that took place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, was one of the first books I read. I also read Heir to the Empire, and the Young Jedi Knights series, which introduced Han and Leia's children. (These children - Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo - are no longer canon.)

When the Special Editions came to VHS, we got our first official home video copies of the trilogy. And, in the special features (as well as our Star Wars Insider magazine) it was revealed that Lucas was working on Episodes I, II, and III. More Star Wars!

Episode I came out when I was in 6th Grade. Before it came to theaters, I found the junior novelization at the book store. I bought it and read the whole thing. So I wasn't surprised when it was revealed in the movie that Padme was Queen Amidala. I was surprised to hear how Qui Gon's name was pronounced. When I read the book, I had thought it was pronounced "Quee Gon."

As Episodes II and III came out, my fandom waned a bit. Not because I didn't like the movies - I loved them. And I was still reading some of the books. But I was getting into high school, and it didn't really seem like any of my friends liked Star Wars as much as I did. So after Episode III came out, my fandom didn't really play a big part in my life anymore. One summer, my parents were gathering things for a garage sale, and asked if we wanted to keep any of our Star Wars toys. I kept my Wicket figure, but let them sell the rest. Eventually, I lost track of Wicket, too.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college. I was attending Illinois Institute of Technology - a school largely comprised of engineering students - in Chicago, IL. My roommate was supposed to be a boy from Jamaica, but he never showed up. He'd decided to attend a different college, and the Housing Department at IIT hadn't taken him out of the system yet. So I lived alone for the first 2 months. I'm an introvert, so if an environment doesn't make friendships happen naturally (like, having a roommate), it's hard for me to make friends. There were a few people I'd hang out with occasionally, but I didn't really have any close friends. In October, the Housing Department started moving students around, to make up for students who had left the dorms to move into fraternities and sororities. A guy named Will down the hall asked if I'd like to move into his dorm, so that neither of us would get randomly assigned somewhere else. He seemed pretty cool, so I agreed. We got along okay, but it's not like we became instant friends or anything. Then, a few weeks later, I saw him and another guy on the floor heading down the hall to the lounge, with an Xbox and some cables to hook it up to the lounge's TV. I heard one of them say "Empire Strikes Back." "Are you guys watching Star Wars?" I asked. "Yeah," Will said. "Mind if I join you?"

After that, we became good friends, and I started making friends with other guys on the floor. It turns out that you'll find a lot of Star Wars fans at an engineering school. Go figure, huh? I also jumped back into Star Wars fandom. I started listening to Star Wars podcasts. I found one called The Forcecast, a weekly Star Wars news show which later became Rebel Force Radio. From there I learned about the upcoming animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which I started watching faithfully once it came out.

At one point, we were able to accomplish something I had never done before, and will probably never be able to do again. A marathon of all six films. We started in the afternoon with The Phantom Menace. Then we went to dinner, and then resumed with Attack of the Clones. (And yes, we planned it so that our break from watching the films corresponded with the 10 year gap in the timeline between Episodes I and II.) After Revenge of the Sith, we took another quick break to grab some snacks from the 7-Eleven on campus (to correspond with the 19 year gap between III and IV). By the time we were finishing Return of the Jedi, the sun was coming up. It was glorious.

Fast forward a bit more to my junior year. There was a girl named Jessica who was involved in the Catholic organization on campus. I'd met her my freshman year, and noticed how attractive she was, but I hadn't really gotten to know her until junior year. (Remember: introvert.) At the beginning of the school year, we ended up having a conversation at a Catholic event, and I realized how amazing she was. She cared deeply about her faith and her family, and she wasn't afraid to stand up for her beliefs. I spent most of the year working up the courage to ask her out, and finally did in the spring. I took her to dinner a few times, but we hadn't really gotten to the point where we would just hang out. But one day, after we had both participated in a service event, she asked me something. "Do you want to watch Star Wars?"

I dropped down on one knee and proposed to her right there. No, just kidding. But it was pretty awesome to find out that this gorgeous Catholic girl whom I was falling in love with also liked Star Wars! After watching Star Wars, we did start to spend a lot more time together - watching movies, doing homework together, etc. And two years later, I did marry her. Oh, and you know the Throne Room theme, that plays at the end of A New Hope when Luke and Han are getting their medals? That was the song that played as we entered our wedding reception.

We went to a Caribbean island called St. Martin for our honeymoon. As we were browsing the magazines in our room, I saw an ad that said "That Yoda Guy." It turned out, a man named Nick Maley, who had worked in the creature shop for Star Wars, had semi-retired to St. Martin, and opened up a museum with props, script pages, and other behind the scenes artifacts from Star Wars and the other movies he'd worked on. To this day, I still get the sense that people don't believe me when I tell them that it was a complete coincidence that I happened to pick the one Caribbean island with Star Wars museum.

Me and Nick Maley.

Me and a Tusken Raider
In October of that year, I got a text from my brother Michael. "Did you hear?" "Did I hear what?" "Disney bought Lucasfilm, and they're going to make Episodes 7, 8, and 9!" I paused, tried to remember what day it was, to confirm that it wasn't April 1. Nope, it was October. So this was real. "WHAAAAT!?!?!?!"

Not only did that signal the beginning of an era in which we would get new Star Wars movies every year (which I am absolutely loving), but it brought together the magic of Star Wars and the magic of Disney. About a year after the acquisition, when Jess and I were expecting our first child, my parents took the family to Disney World. Occasionally, I would be walking through the park, and a Disney World employee (they're called "cast members") would compliment me on my Star Wars shirt. "Have you tried Han burgers?" one of them asked. "Um, no," I replied. "They're kind of Chewie." The joke was lame, but it was cool to see Star Wars being incorporated into the Disney World experience. There had always been some connection (back when my family went in 1999, Patrick and I rode Star Tours - the Star Wars ride - 7 times in one day), but it was much more widespread now.

The greatest example of this was on our last day at the park. Jess and I went to a photo opportunity with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. When we got to Goofy, he pointed at my shirt, which happened to feature Darth Vader. Then he held both of his hands out in front of him, and made a motion that was unmistakable to a Star Wars fan. He was igniting an imaginary lightsaber. Without any hesitation, I did the same. We then proceeded to have an imaginary lightsaber duel, something I hadn't done since I was a kid. As silly as it sounds, it was a magical experience. And that's the kind of thing that Star Wars can do.

My lightsaber duel with Darth Goofy
Star Wars has given me hours and hours of entertainment. It sparked my imagination as a child. It helped break me out of my shell and form relationships. It transported me back in time and gave me a moment of childlike joy. Sure, it's just a movie, but it's also something more.

And that is why I'm proud to call myself a Star Wars fan.


Geek Pick: Geek Out Loud Podcast

Every so often, I am going to share some form of media - whether it be a blog, a website, a podcast, or a book - that I've enjoyed. I'll call them GCD Picks. Some will have to do with my geeky interests, some will relate to my faith, and some will relate to fatherhood. This is the first one, but in the future you'll be able to find a full list of picks by clicking GCD Picks in the navigation bar at the top of the page.

This week's pick is a podcast called Geek Out Loud. Well, I say podcast, but it's really more like a podcasting empire, run by a man named Steve Glosson. I originally heard Steve on several episodes of the Forcecast (now Rebel Force Radio). I liked his perspective, and his sense of humor, so I decided to give his show a try. I found his very first episode of Geek Out Loud, caught up to his current episodes, and have been listening ever since.

As I said, it's a podcasting empire, made up of several shows. Collectively, the shows are referred to as the GOLiverse (where GOL stands for Geek Out Loud). The main show is Geek Out Loud. Steve talks about pretty much all things geek - Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movies, books, comic books, collectibles. And he always strives to bring a positive attitude. It's a welcome escape from all of the bashing you see elsewhere on the internet.

He also has Disney Vault Talk, where he and his co-host Teresa Delgado go through the Disney animated movies one by one and discuss them. (They're almost caught up to the present day, so I think they're moving on to Pixar next.)

Steve and Teresa started a spin-off podcast from Disney Vault Talk called Rebel Yell, where they discuss the Disney XD animated show Star Wars Rebels.

Round 3 is a shorter podcast in which Steve and two of his friends, Derek and Sheena, will discuss 3 topics, and occasionally have trivia competitions with each other. This one is one of the funniest shows in the GOLiverse.

There are a couple of other shows that I don't listen to as regularly, since I'm not as interested in the subject matter. But when I do listen, they're still entertaining. Mark Out Loud is about professional wrestling. Rock Out Loud is about classic rock. And Mile High Tundra is about NFL, specifically the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers.

You can find episodes and more information about Geek Out Loud at their website, geekoutpodcast.com. Steve also blogs occasionally at geekoutonline.com.

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2 comments:

  1. I still have R2-D2, which I'm like 90% was actually originally mine.

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    Replies
    1. It probably was yours. If you ever come across Wicket, I want it.

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