As near as I can tell, I am the only person in the United States — perhaps in the Western world — who is immune to the lure of Star Wars. I remember seeing the original when it came out and thinking how dreadful the acting was, like the high school play with really good special effects. I’m not sure I saw The Empire Strikes Back, but I had completely lost the plot when those Teddy Bears started flying hovercraft through Redwoods. Was that the third movie? I must have seen at least one of the prequels because I could definitely pick Jar-Jar Binks out of a line-up. But by this time I was completely lost. I couldn’t tell my Padwan from my Palpatine, I know Darth is Luke’s father, but at the point where Obi-Wan morphed from Alec Guinness to Ewan McGregor, I stopped caring who was related to whom. In fact, I can’t even tell you who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I thought Darth was bad, but then there was a whole movie where he became an emo young man with pouty lips. It seemed he was the hero — or at least the anti-hero — of that flick. So was I mistaken? We won’t even mention the conspiracy theories abounding that Jar-Jar Binks has secretly been pulling the Galaxy’s strings all this time.
However, when every Facebook post, every conversation and every discussion started revolving around The Force Awakens, I realized this is a cultural phenomenon. I have a nearly seven year old Goddaughter who, on a recent trip to Disneyland, was lured away from Pixie Hollow and the Disney Princesses by the new Jedi Academy attraction. I can see, in not too many years, she’s going to be asking me what it was like to see that original Star Wars movie WAY BACK WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT, like in the Olden Days. I suppose that’s my generation’s answer to “What did you do in the War, Daddy?” I figured I had better get my light saber on and bone up on all things Star Wars. To make matters more complicated, the Star Wars movies of my day have been followed by Star Wars movies that actually took place before the originals.
There are hotly contested schools of thought as to whether you should brush up by viewing the movies in the order in which they were made or in chronological order — which makes the first three movies now Movies Four, Five and Six. One friend did suggest I should just see the original three movies, forget the subsequent three and then go see The Force Awakens. Others maintain, past movies be damned, just see the latest and all will be revealed. But wouldn’t that be like saying you can just pick any one of the seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past and you’ll have “done” Proust. Actually, I’m glad I brought up Proust. Unlike my lack of familiarity with Star Wars, I am one of the few who actually has read that whole damn Proustian septet. I imagine entering the Galaxy will be much like immersing oneself in Proust’s claustrophobic little Parisian society — except perhaps with better special effects, fewer adjectives and a lot less covert homosexual activity. So I shall dive into Star Wars as I did with Remembrance — in one marathon session from the first chronological episode to the last.
I shall also be mindful of what the inestimable Quentin Crisp said about Remembrance:
“characters disappear for years on end…They return years later — always in a worse state.”
I remember the Star Wars movies being exactly like that. Who knows, George Lucas may, in fact, be our Proust. At least most of his fans have actually seen the movies, unlike, as I noted in this post, roughly two thirds of the people who pontificate that “one simply MUST read Proust” but have barely cracked the spine of Swann’s Way.
So, I will don my Jedi robes and press on. I’ve even made the commitment to order the boxed set of the first six Star Wars movies…with commentary. Considering how confused I got on the first go around, I’ll need all the Cliffs Notes style help I can get. I will probably be the last person in the U.S. to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But I shall be the most informed.
That is if I don’t keep confusing Darth Vader with Baron de Charlus.