Star Wars, 1977

This is the Genesis Film for cinematic influence on my life at this age.

I figured I would start this blog post off in a seemingly innocuous and predictable way, and begin it with one of the most important films in history, 1977's Star Wars. And I don't mean Star Wars: A New Hope or Star Wars: Episode IV, I mean when there was only one film and that film was just Star Wars period. Kind of like when Orlando only had one Disney park and that park was just Disney World and not The Magic Kingdom.

What can I say about the film itself that could possibly bring anything new to the table? We all know the story, we all know the sequels, and we all know the prequels. To say that Star Wars is canonical to a certain generation is an understatement. Most in my age group were hit with the first all-encompassing wave of merchandising and inundation to ever affect a demographic in regards to a film. And most of us can probably rattle off the least known characters easier than remembering our own families, or have put more effort into debating the fine intricacies not addressed on the screen than we have into our daily work. Star Wars (as a new entity) was to a 7 year old as water is to a shark--essential and perpetuating. Even the poster at the top of this blog loomed over my first grade classroom like a holy visage even before any of us had seen the film. We were all too familiar with Darth Vader's gaze prior to our indoctrination.

Which brings us to another poster I had (see above) and my ultimate misunderstood personal hero, Darth Vader. Not Anakin Skywalker or the crusty old white man they pop the mask off of at the end of Return Of The Jedi, but Darth Vader, the black leather wearing, black helmeted, robotically-integrated man/machine/demigod. The first glimpse of his imposing presence on screen coming through the smoke was all I needed to see--I was hooked. He was unbelievably powerful, he could fly a star fighter, he had a cool ass voice, and he could crush your larynx with a flick of his finger. He was a big man in black controlling all the minions in white, his knights in shining armor. The only other people who wore capes back then like that were Superman, Batman, and Dracula, and I loved all those guys too, but Vader was all 3 rolled into one. Beyond evil or morality, he was law a bad ass spiritual mother... My favorite shirt was based off of this shirt (though a) my mom got it for me in red from JC Penney's, and b) it was spelled correctly):

There were other characters too that I loved, such as Chewbacca, Han Solo, and that cute powerdroid that was stuck in the Jawa's Sandcrawler, but no one even came close to being the majestic awesomeness of Darth Vader. Boba Fett would eventually come close, but he was no Vader.

Of course I had this record, which I eventually memorized:

And all the action figures you could get at that time, the original 12:

I have vivid memories of going to the Treasury (the Southern California version of Target in the 1970s), looking at the toys, turning the corner and seeing a hang card with the picture of a Stormtrooper (someone had ripped off the figure). At this point I knew nothing of Star Wars action figures, but it didn't take long to figure it out. This wasn't the Fonzie doll I was looking for, this was BETTER. I ran around the toy section until I found the full display, and there among the gangs of Stormtroopers and C-3PO figures was one Darth Vader, complete with push-out red lightsaber. My mom ended up getting him for me and I still have him (as well as the rest of the collection which grew through the first two movies by leaps and bounds). From that day until the sad day when I put aside the action figures they were my constant companions, even traveling to New Zealand and Samoa (where I got to see the film in a theater in Apia) with me.

And thankfully the action figures were the same size as my Fisher Price Adventure People so they all integrated nicely. And I had the posters, the games, the comics, the novels, the fast food giveaways, the cereal boxes. I would draw Star Wars related pictures for hours. Hell, I still have the original pillowcases from 1977 and I use them:

To say that this is just a film is like saying McDonald's has a red and yellow sign. It is a film, but it's more than that--much more. It's part of us, who this generation is, who we dream of being, what we think of our interaction with each other. Make a reference to a quote that Jesus made and some might not recognize it; make a quote from Star Wars and just about EVERYONE of a generation will get it. Star Wars can be best summed up by Obi-Wan Kenobi: 'It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.'


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