Tuesday, May 04, 2010

May the Fourth Be With You

Today is International Star Wars Day. I hope I don't feel compelled to talk with a lithp, I mean lisp, all day.

I'd like to take a moment from our regularly scheduled program to geek out on you. (If you think that IS the regularly scheduled program, then you can just keep your comments to yourself.)

When I was about five, I had a set of Underoos with R2D2 on them. No, they were not for boys. The original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope) was released the month I turned two. One of my earliest memories is of going to the theater to see Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back). I was five. The film was scary. The movie theater had a ceiling that was old and dome-like, the supports made of wood. I remember leaning back in my seat to avoid the scary and thinking that the ceiling looked like the underside of huge spider. Not exactly the most comforting thought.

By the time Episode VI (Return of the Jedi) came out in 1983, I was in love with Luke Skywalker. That's right, NOT Han Solo. I was never big on "the rebel factor." (Ironic really, as Luke was technically a leader in the rebellion, but with all the force stuff he was mostly a straight arrow.) During the nineties, I wore my hair short and blonde a la Meg Ryan or Jenna Elfman. When it would grow out and need a cut, my older brother would assume Luke's whiny voice and say, "But Uncle Owen! I was going to go into Tashee Station to pick up some power converters!" Ah, Luke! You are my first love.

I was as shocked as the rest of the world in finding out that Luke and Leia were siblings. Particularly after his undisguised admiration in Episode IV, and that highly un-sisterly kiss she plants on him in Episode V. And why aren't Jedi allowed to marry anyway? Are they basically highly violent monks and nuns? The world may never know, though there are plenty of people who've asked the question. Yes, I've watched their YouTube videos.

When I was in college, if I was feeling a bit of insomnia, I put on Episode IV and was asleep in 20 minutes. Not that I don't love this movie, but that I have honestly seen it 100 times if I'd seen it once. But no matter how many times I see it, I always cry at the end of Episode VI when Darth Vadar decides he can't stand idly by while his son is tortured, and throws the Emperor to his death in a cloud of cackling and blue lightning.

I still remember the kid who told me, in about the third grade, that because the Star Wars movies were episodes 4, 5 and 6, that one day they would make episodes1-3. I had hoped beyond hope that he was right.

Now I think my own imagination was almost better. Like so many old-school Star Wars fans, I find myself asking, "Why did they even make these movies?" But then I only have to pause long enough to consider all of the merchandising my Jedi have talked me into (or I've talked them into?) in the last two years and the remainder of the movies, as well as The Clone Wars, starts to make a lot more sense.

These "new" Star Wars movies (which my Jedi never call them), are called

Episode I: Attack of the Horrible Child Actors

Episode II: The Worst Love Story In This Or Any Other Universe

Episode III: Revenge of the Incomprehensible Plot

The original trilogy is hokey. From special effects that look drawn on to props that look like duct-taped and spray-painted broom handles. Lucas must have maxed out his credit card at Radio Shack for some of this stuff. But it is the campiness that makes it a classic. Ridiculously implausible scenery is coupled with stilted dialogue common to the genre. (It must be noted that the mediocre screenplays of the first are Academy Award worthy compared to the second trilogy.) However, the beauty of the first films is the genuine and believable interaction of the tree main characters. Harry, Hermione and Ron owe a lot to Luke, Leia and Han. What smart and tough girl doesn't want to find herself in such a triumvirate? Only with a different hair-do.

In his more recent efforts, Lucas substitutes flashy graphics and technology for genuine human interaction. Of course it was obvious that the banthas were just dressed up elephants! But they were real, and it made the whole thing feel more real. I just don't think you will ever elicit any kind of positive response about Jar Jar Binks from anyone older than, say, seven.

After the fiasco of the first three episodes, start to finish, animation was the only thing left to Lucas. Still, I'm quite a big fan of The Clone Wars. When I'm less distracted by the animation married to reality (because it is ALL animation), and long, meandering plot lines are replaced by 23 minute stories, and the actors only have to be as good as their voices, it works pretty well.

It is embarrassing to say for just how long I could go on this vein.

Just after Episode I premiered, there was a Trivial Pursuit Star Wars game issued. My mom bought it, but my brothers and I found it no fun after just a game or two. (My sister looked at us like we were all nuts; the Star Wars love is but one in a very long list of Ways We Are Not Alike.) Why? It was too easy. There was hardly a question we couldn't answer, and an individual's turn might drag on for 10-15 minutes.

As I survey the many pop culture references that still abound regarding these films, I think that for better or worse they are here to stay. It might be possible that these movies, particularly the originals, are the most influential cultural phenomenon of my generation. And they are, hands down, the best thing to come out of the 70's.

There is a prize in this post today. To enter, you must put a Star Wars quote into your comment. For even more fun, leave the quotes uncredited and we can all guess who said what.

The Force will be with you. Always.


Anonymous said...

I had Underoos too! Only mine were C3-PO. We must be related or something.

Melanie said...

I have a picture that I'm going to post on my blog especially for you.

Erin said...

"I would much rather have gone with Master Luke than stay here with you. I don't know what all this trouble is about, but I'm sure it must be your fault."

Typical...my kids are always using this idea. It's *your* fault, not mine!

Janssen said...

Who's scruffy looking?

I love the original Star Wars SO much. SO much.

Debbie Barr said...

"I have you now!"

I love love love Star Wars. I grew up stuck between two brothers, so it's kind of a given. And Star Wars Legos? Extra awesome.

Lisa said...

HA!! Janssen beat me to the quote I was gonna use.

Jenny said...

Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

Scully said...

I had those exact same Underoos! I'm pretty sure I still have the Certificate of Jedi-ness or whatever that was printed on the inside of the cardboard envelope they came in. I loved them, although perhaps not quite as much as my Wonder Woman Underoos.

Yankee Girl said...

I had a total crush on Luke as a child and then grew up and couldn't figure that out. Now I am firmly in Han Solo's camp and am going to invest some time with Star Wars this week. Thanks!

Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Erin--C3P0, but I'm not sure if it is episode four or six.

Janssen--Han Solo

Debbie--Darth Vadar . . . I think his next line is "What?" as he gets his vinyled butt blown out of the sky.

Jenny--That woman in the white robe with the Peggy Flemming haircut who shows the hologram of the Death Star. I guess the Bothams are spies? Is she the head Botham? I always thought it was funny that Lucas spent more concern for those "many Bothams" than for and ENTIRE PLANET OF ALDERAANIANS WHO WERE OBLITERATED. What was Leia's line, when sympathy is expressed, "There is no time for that now."??

Scully--My other Underoos were Barbie. It seems I have long been a contradiction.

Yankee Girl--Han Solo, and perhaps the funniest line in three movies. Or maybe it is just the delivery? As I watched Episodes 1-3 I found myself asking all the time, "Where is a character like Han Solo???"

Other favorites:

"You could use a good kiss."

"I don't know; I can imagine quite a lot."

"I happen to like nice men."

"Way to go Chewie; always thinking with your stomach."

I'll have to post footage of my 2 year old imitating the Sand People. Hilarious.

Erin said...

Yankee Girl quote by Han Solo...definitely the delivery. I laugh every time I think of that scene. Doesn't he say something like "stupid conversation anyway" or "boring conversation anyway" after he shoots the intercom? So funny!

Mine is from episode 4.

heidikins said...

...I have never seen the original Star Wars....can we still be friends?


Science Teacher Mommy said...


I guess so, Heidikins.Though I must admit to being sorely disappointed. ;)

mstanger said...

"Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes..."

Since I was a school teacher's son in the late 70s, we couldn't afford Underoos, but sitting on my window sill in my office are Darth Tater, R-2 Potatoo, and a Spud Trooper. I have yet to acquire Luke FryWalker, Yam Solo, Darth Mash, Spuda Fett, etc., but give me time. I guess my geek credentials are solidly intact.

I tend to agree that Episode II had the worst love story ever, but Dirty Dancing gives it some stiff competition.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Two things:

Mike, you are a geek.

I had no idea that owning Underoos made one rich.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Okay three:

I have to disagree on the Dirty Dancing thing. I mean, at least there was some degree of chemistry between the main characters.

You have to know that Hayden Christensen is a bad actor when the most expression he can muster toward the adorable Natalie Portman is glowering.

Lucas made like a billion dollars on this franchise; couldn't he have gotten a casting director who . . . no scratch that. Couldn't he have hired some one to help him work on the screen play?

mstanger said...

I am certain some anthropology/sociology types have written on underwear as socioeconomic indicator. I distinctly remember being told that Underoos were too pricey. Somehow, I soldiered on.

Re: Mr. Christensen, was it glowering, or just really intense concentration: "Duuuh, what's my next line?"

I admit to having personal issues with Dirty Dancing, which I saw only once at age 10, so my opinion there probably isn't worth much.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Hm . . . I could probably do a post on Dirty Dancing and the MPAA rating system in general. I saw it at a slumber party at age 13 or 14. My own slumber party. I prayed fervently that my mother would stay asleep for the duration and that I was cool enough to look like I understood what abortion was.

Angenette said...

I may be one of the few original die hard fans who actually liked the new 3. Granted, the child actors, Jar Jar Binks, and so many other things sucked, but for setting up the story we all grew to know and love, I think they were great. Especially revenge of the sith.

"But of course I know him. He's me."

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Angenette--Thanks for reminding me why I really love them. They are just good entertainment. I heard an urban legend that during the filming of the originals, there is one particular action scene when Mark Hamil stopped the scene to start quizzing Lucas about character motivation, etc. The story goes that Harrison Ford interrupted saying, "Kid, it's just not that kind of movie."

If I cry in Episode VI, I have to also say that at the end of Episode III I get a little bit teary when Obi Wan cries out, in a moment of really good acting, "Anakin! You were my brother!"

Good value, that.

chris w said...

You're gonna kill me for going in this direction, but I loved the Cinedome! I loved how the ceilings looked like spider webs. I think that's where I originally saw Star Wars as well.
Now they scare me when I drive by because those twin domes look like giant breasts. :)

I remember thinking that Luke was so cute in Episode 6 all dressed in black. HA!!!!
What a dork.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

"I have a very bad feeling about this."

[impish, geeky grin]

I never realized what a Star Wars geek I was until I played Star Wars Trivial pursuit at a young single adult activity. It eventually devolved into a tennis match between me and a couple geeks on the other team. I didn't even realize I'd seen the films enough times to pin down every random line or obscure detail.

That being said, I am nothing compared to my friend Matt. When you watch the originals with him, he not only feels compelled to quote every line, he also likes to give you tons of background info from all the additional Star Wars novels he's read. Dude, just let me watch the ewoks, OK?