Film Film & Television

Growing Up with Star Wars and How it Changed My Life

It seems odd to me that just this past week, fans all over the world celebrated the 40th anniversary release of Star Wars. To think that Episode IV: A New Hope was released on May 25th, 1977 boggles my mind. It doesn’t seem like it’s been around that long, but when I stop and think back that Star Wars has always been a part of my life, that it would come to play such an important role in my life – I just can’t wrap my mind around it being that old. Because it doesn’t seem that old; watching the film again and again, it still looks and feels so fresh and relevant in today’s world – maybe even more so than in recent years. But, to me, it doesn’t feel as though Star Wars has aged at all. And that is what marks it as one of the most culturally significant films of all time – its timelessness.

For as long as I can remember, Star Wars has been a part of my life. Even from my time in the crib, my mother and father bought me a Star Wars blanket that they would put me to bed with. I had Star Wars toys growing up. We had Star Wars merchandise all around the house. Cups, plates, collectibles… to say that I grew up in a house of Star Wars fan is an understatement. I was surrounded by it. My parents even told me the first film they took me to see in theaters was Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back… not that I remember any of it since I was only two at the time. But the first film I remember seeing at the theater was Episode VI: Return of the Jedi when I was five years old in 1983. Hell, even my first comic book collection included several issues of Marvel’s Star Wars series. It’s always been there for me. But it wasn’t until a couple of years later that the importance of Star Wars in my life would truly begin.

Around the ages of 7 or 8, my parents began to separate. It was clear there was no conciliation in their marriage and that their divorce was imminent. Even as a child that young I knew what this meant. And, like most children aware of these kinds of situations, I began to take it badly. I understood what was going on but I didn’t understand why. And when you’re that young, sometimes you assume that it is because of you that things are happening. It doesn’t help that sometimes parents forget to emphasize that point, but I don’t think it can be helped sometimes. I just remember feeling goddamn awful about the whole situation and didn’t know how to clear my mind of the whole mess. Then one day I remember losing myself into the story of the Star Wars saga and that’s where I found my escape.

I would come home and pop in our copies of the Star Wars Trilogy video disk (does anyone else remember those) or VHS tapes and watch the trilogy repeatedly. I would pretend that I was Luke Skywalker and trying to find a way off Tatooine and race off to fight the evil Galactic Empire and face off against Darth Vader and the Emperor. That I would become a hero and that people needed me and wanted me around. Anything so that I could forget the troubles that were present at home. Sometimes I would imagine my parents as being part of the Empire so that I could take out my frustrations on them. Later, when both of my parents remarried, I would imagine their new spouses as part of the Empire as well for trying to take the place of my mom or dad. I know this wasn’t the case but try telling that to a distraught young boy/teenager. The point is that I was using the Star Wars films and comics as an escape from my reality. And it worked. It may not have been the most ideal way to deal with my feelings, but for the longest time I found the solace that I needed in the Star Wars saga.

 

To this day, whenever I am feeling a bit sad or down, I can always escape into this universe. And with the newer entries into the series that have come in the past forty years, it is easier to forget some of my troubles and be entertained at the same time. But more importantly than that, than losing myself in the series to drown out my sorrows, I have a newer, better association with the Star Wars saga than ever before – it also happens to be a favorite for my wife and three kids to watch as well. Sometimes, randomly, they’ll ask me to put on Rogue One, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the Prequels Trilogy or even the original Star Wars Trilogy; just so we can watch the films together as a family. And even though I must have tortured my younger sister endlessly with repeated viewings of Star Wars when we were kids, even she will randomly start one of these films and we’ll watch them together with her daughter and all of us, all seven of us will watch the films as a family and make a whole night of it.

So yeah, it’s hard for me to accept that Star Wars is 40 years old… but at the same time, it having been in my life my whole life, I know it’s true. But because I have such a fondness for the series, because it has been there for me as an escape from the hardships of reality, because it is still so significant, fresh and important to me in so many ways, it just doesn’t feel like it has aged. It’s timeless in my mind. There is no fading memory of the series in my mind. It is a constant and because it is so I find it surprising to see it turn forty. But that is the mark of a true classic, isn’t it? When sometime passes through time and can still remain relevant and entertaining as when it first was released.

Star Wars has been in my life for as long as I can remember, and I hope it will continue to be there for years to come with more new stories to come out in film and written form. And I hope it will be a constant in my children’s lives for many years to come, but for more joyous memories than what I used to associate it with.

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