I was negative 4 in 1977. I didn’t come to know of Star Wars until I was the ripe old age of 6, when I had no real conception of what it was other than some video tapes by the TV. My dad taped The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi from Showtime, and at some point I had started watching them. I didn’t know there was another movie until I was in third grade and met a friend who had older sisters with all of the original toys. Discovering those toys, an entirely different movie where Ben wasn’t even a dang ghost, blew my tiny little mind. From there, I started to explore the limited secondary material that was available, namely the novelizations and various movie adaptations. There was no real good way to get my mitts on the Marvel comics, so Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was the closest I could get to new content. I still tried, though. Man, did I try. At the age of 9, I had figured out how to get around the restriction to only search kids books on the library terminals I had available to me. I had to explain to the librarian that I understood that the book I was checking out probably wasn’t about the Star Wars I wanted, but I wanted to find out for myself. Turns out, I had checked out a scholarly history of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense program, which was a little dense for my tastes. In the next few years, both the Thrawn trilogy and the Dark Empire comics were released, triggering the explosion of new Star Wars content that we’ve been riding for almost 30 years.
If I had been told when I was 8 that not only would I have access to more Star Wars content than I could ever imagine, but also have the ability to interact with that content in real life, I wouldn’t have believed it. I couldn’t fathom something like Galaxy’s Edge when I was 8. It is the closest I will likely ever get to stepping foot on another planet, and all I had to do was travel to the mystical land of Anaheim to do it.
Being that I was born after the hype of the first two movies, I never had a chance to experience the first wave of Star Wars fandom, and I came to be a fan during the time when Star Wars had to be sought out rather than passively consumed. The one thing that I think most of us share is that we came to Star Wars at a young age, and that it had a positive impact on our lives in one way or another. Whether it gave us heroes to emulate, villains to love to hate, or a visual spectacle to marvel at, Star Wars has been with us for most of our lives.
There is a long tradition of being unhappy with new Star Wars that goes all the way back to 1980, when Empire Strikes Back was released. It seems like the only thing that has lasted as long as the original movies are fans complaining about the newest installment. This isn’t my way of saying that everything is great, or that everyone should love everything. There are flaws to all of the movies, that time has a way of smoothing out. The over the top slapstick of Episode I somehow doesn’t seem as egregious now. Part of that is that I’ve gotten older, part of that is that I recognize that the movies that have come out haven’t been for me specifically in a long time. I firmly believe that people imprint on the Star Wars they see before puberty, and that remains what they think of when they hear the fanfare, or the names of the characters. For me, I will always think of Luke on Cloud City, or Darth Vader arriving on the second Death Star. For others, they may think of Ahsoka or a particular clone trooper. Others still may picture Kylo Ren, or Grand Admiral Thrawn, or any of of hundreds of other characters. The thing that brings us all together is that we all immediately think of SOMETHING that means Star Wars to us. There is no Platonic ideal of Star Wars. To me, that’s what makes it great.