“That's good. You've taken your first step into a larger world.” - Ben Kenobi, A New Hope
The words Ben Kenobi speaks to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope might as well be the same words spoken to anyone viewing the Star Wars movies for the first time. With the release of the Skywalker Saga on Blu Ray and all movies now streaming on Disney+, a whole new generation of fans will have their first memories of stepping into the larger world of Jedi and Sith, the Empire and the Rebellion, and the Light Side vs the Dark Side of the Force. So while we may not be able to celebrate May The 4th properly at the Millennium Fandom Bar, raising a toast to George Lucas, the Force, and our Space Mom Carrie Fisher, we can at least watch the movies at home and know that so many other fans are doing the same thing all around the world.
My first memory of Star Wars was not seeing it in the theater, but of watching a movie called Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi on VHS. I distinctly remember not being overly interested in the movie until a very certain scene came on the screen.
“What are those dad? And who is that?” I asked my father, pointing to brown bear-like creature with a spear and Carrie Fisher, her hair in a braid around her head and wearing a camo poncho and helmet. As a child obsessed with animals of all kinds and who imagined herself as a befriender of all animals, I was immediately hooked.
“Those are Ewoks and that is Princess Leia” my father said, confident in the name of the creatures thanks to the toy merchandising that was aimed at children his daughter’s age.
I would love to wax poetically about Carrie Fisher here and her portrayal of an atypical princess, who was both beautiful and strong, able to lead troops and befriend woodland creatures as what brought me into the fandom, but I would be lying. It was the Ewoks who captivated me. My father had a plastic Ewok toy set that he picked up for me, which I used to pretend I was Leia living among the Ewoks. Add in the cartoon with the adventures of Princess Kneesaa and Wicket and even the two Ewok movies, and up until the Jedi Academy books it was what carried my fandom. I was fortunate in that my friends that were aware of my Star Wars obsession, didn’t make me feel embarrassed that Ewoks were how I found Star Wars. They were just glad I knew what they were talking about as they debated the various lightsaber forms and debated if Han Solo or Chewie was really the better pilot.
I have talked to a lot of Star Wars fans over the years between Star Wars Celebration, my participation in the Lucas Film Costume Clubs, and times at the Millennium Fandom Bar or MFB as we call it. Some remember seeing the original trilogy in the movie theater, sitting with their popcorn, feeling somehow that their lives had been changed by an up and coming independent director, George Lucas, and “his little space movie.” They argue about their favorite one, most agreeing The Empire Strikes Back is the best film, but it’s not necessarily their favorite. Others never saw Star Wars in the theater, instead they followed the novels wondering what became of Luke, Leia, and Han, following their adventures and new characters like Mara Jade or Jaina Solo. “I survived the Jaina Solo shipping wars” is a slogan seen on bags and shirts on occasion at conventions. Prequel fans came into the fandom right as the internet was taking off and, in many cases, felt that the fandom that should have been welcoming new members was instead tearing down what brought them to the fandom. So they formed their own communities, where they could talk about a child Queen named Amidala, and podracing, and even enjoy Jar Jar Binks just a little bit.
The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker brought with them fans who had never seen the other movies. Star Wars had been out there of course, in comics form and on television in the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels. As always, there were fans with each new iteration who lamented it wasn’t their Star Wars, but in a way they are right - it is time for a new generation of fans to have their Star Wars fandom. We can still be there of course, enjoying what we loved and welcoming new fans so that we can spin lightsabers and discuss which Storm Trooper armor is actually the best and debate if Baby Yoda is the cutest thing in the entire Galaxy.
I know in sixteen years I will be at the Millennium Fandom Bar and sitting next to a young woman in a Rey Costume. I’m going to ask her what her first memory of Star Wars was and she’s going to tell me, embarrassed, Porgs brought her in. She will show me pictures of her Porg plushie and then talk about how loth-cats were almost as cute, but not quite. We’ll talk about Rey and what it
meant to have a woman as a Jedi on screen in a leading role. We’ll talk about ships, maybe the Millennium Falcon, but more likely Stormpilot and Reylo. I’ll show her a picture of a much younger me in costume as Rey and she’ll be so excited. Maybe she’ll even be one of the children I have taught in Jedi Training through my charity work with one of the Lucas Film Costume Clubs in Las Vegas.
I’m going to buy her a drink and tell her I’m glad she had Porgs, because I had Ewoks. We all come to this fandom for different things, but the Galaxy of Star Wars is so vast and wonderful there is something for each of us here. I hope you all remember on this Star Wars Holiday, what brought you into the fandom and enjoy it.
Stay safe, stay healthy and “May The Force Be With You, Always” Fandom family. Amanda Bond, guest blogger for the fandombar.com Community bLog