Why Star Wars Matters To Me
My son, four years old, said he wanted to go outside and play Star Wars. I said shit yeah, kid, let’s do it. So he got his Darth Vader lightsaber, and gave me this foam sword that’s more like a medieval knight’s sword, and we headed outside.
He said he wanted to be Kylo Ren. I didn’t even realize he knew who Kylo Ren was.
He told me I was Darth Vader, and that Ren was now a good guy, and he was fighting Darth Vader.
So, we battled for a while and he suddenly said: “KYLO REN’S SWORD HAS THE THINGIES.”
I did not know what thingies he meant, but he clarified when he grabbed my foam sword and pointed to the crossguard (aka the “quillons,” aka the “thingies”). Ah, right, okay. So, we traded lightsabers, which actually is totally appropriate since I’m Darth and he had Darth’s red saber.
We lightsabered for awhile.
And we chopped off hands for awhile, too, because that’s just how Star Wars rolls. (Normally, I’d be appalled at my four-year-old being excited at the prospect of lopping off limbs, but he didn’t seem fazed by it and, hey, man, JEDI GONNA JEDI.)
Then he’s like, “Oh no! My Force powers are gone. Let me see if I can get them back from my lightsaber.” And he presses his sword to his chest and makes BZZRAOW VWOMM noises. But no, sadly, the lightsaber did not give him back his Force powers. (Children, I find, understand that stories need conflict better than many adults do.) So, he says, pointing to the trees (as we live in the woods): “It’s Endor! We can ask the Ewoks to get us our Force powers back.” Which is how I learned that I, too, was now lacking in Force powers. First though, he said he had to lightsaber my armor off so I could be Anakin again.
Which he did.
BZZRAOW VWOMM VMMMMZZ.
Okay, evil Darth armor gone. Anakin returned.
Onward to our Ewok encounter.
He says, “We need to summon the Ewoks.”
Then he says, and by the way all of these are direct quotes because I wrote this shit down:
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was born with a trumpet. But I never blew the trumpet. Let’s see what it does.” Then he makes a doo-doo-doo sound and: “Look, I summoned Ewoks!”
Then he explains that the Ewoks make for him “wood armor” because sure, why not, and then we’re off for more adventures. He tells me that my Darth armor keeps growing back and that I have to occasionally lightsaber it off (and now I’m like, man, that’s awesome, some kind of self-aware dark-side armor that keeps resurrecting itself like the Venom symbiote), and later we hang out with Wookiees on Kashyyyk and we also find a patch of discolored driveway asphalt that he assures me is a “blood puddle” (!) from a clone trooper (!!) who got squished by a “speeder motor” which is a speeder bike but with a bigger motor and then the speeder motor spread the blood around (!?) and that we can use our Force powers to resurrect the clone trooper from his blood (!!!#@&*!). (Also in there, he stirred his sword into the dirt and said, “A long time ago in another different galaxy far far away, this dirt is old. It is from BEFORE THE DARKNESS.” Holy shit, what?)
It was gonzo bizarre-o good stuff.
It’s certainly not the only storyworld in which he’ll play. He’s a huge (and sudden) My Little Pony fan. And other times he just makes up his own weirdo narrative events — this morning he was playing with (no joke), two stuffed lizards, a plastic egg and a plastic potato. (The egg’s name is Eggy, the potato is Angry Potato.) And they were playing some kind of stealth game with the lizards? I have no idea what was going on. And sometimes, too, we’re treated to more stories of robot dog Hamslice and his detective pals, Baloney and Hair.
But Star Wars has stuck. Just as it did me when I was his age. He loves the world and the characters. We’ve bonded over LEGO Star Wars. It’s a thing.
I was his age, in fact, when I first saw Empire Strikes Back in the theater.
A drive-in theater, actually. My sister and her boyfriend took me and his little brother. We watched the movie. I cannot promise that they also watched the movie, but that was their teenage business, not mine. Given that I had no way of returning home and just popping the movie into the Blu-Ray player or pulling it up on the AppleTV, I was content to replay the experience with toys and costumes and crayons and comics. Then when Return of the Jedi came out, we waited in line around the block only to have it sell out. (We ended up seeing a movie called Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, which inexplicably starred Molly Ringwald, was in 3-D, was terrible.) After college, I lined up and actually camped out for Phantom Menace tickets. I’m covered in nerd froth for the new one.
I had the Burger King drinking glasses.
I had a lot of the toys — including ones you had to get by sending away Proofs of Purchase.
I still have a lot of the toys — and my son, B-Dub, still plays with them.
I have the new First Order stormtrooper from SDCC (thanks to Adam Christopher).
I made lightsabers out of sticks when I was a kid.
I used my swingset as an X-Wing.
I still have my ratty, dog-eared hardcovers of the original Zahn trilogy.
And now, of course, I have my own Star Wars book coming out. My own little postage stamp of canon. Actually, my head-canon kind of… became real canon? In one of the biggest narrative universes to have ever existed? That still trips my breaker every time I think about it.
Star Wars informed my early understanding of storytelling. Thankfully, my understanding didn’t stop there, but it was the seed that started it all, I think. It gave me characters I love and a simplistic, elegant view of both narrative and morality that inevitably you push back against while simultaneously reaching for it. It made me friends. It was a love my family shared then, and it’s a love my wife and my son share now. It is the universe that keeps on giving. It made me feel like I could do anything, because if a literal dirt-farmer from some galactic nowheresburg could somehow change the galaxy — along with a princess, a walking carpet, a scoundrel, another scoundrel, and a couple of Laurel & Hardy droids — then maybe I could change the galaxy, too. Or, at least, maybe I could someday write my own chapter in the Star Wars mythology.
That’s what Star Wars means to me.
It means friends and family. It means the power of story. It means the power of possibility. It’s about the underdog versus the bully, about the righteous against the oppressor, about fun and derring-do and heroism and understanding that we all have a little Dark Side in us, and all have a little Light Side in us.
I’m happy to be a part of it.
And I love that my son is all-in, too.
I’m glad you’re along for the ride, too.
May the Force be with you, nerf-herders.
See you when Star Wars: Aftermath releases this Friday.