When Was The Best Time To Be Born As A Star Wars Fan?
It’s a simple question, and based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, it probably depends on where you are in life. For this discussion, we will pick from the years 1970, 1990, and 2010.
Best Time: 1970?
I have always known I was born at the perfect time to be a Star Wars fan, 1970. Of course, this does not make my ultimate decision biased in any way. In May of 1977, I was 6 years old. (Yes, Devin, it was only Star Wars at that time, not A New Hope.) All the movies I had seen until that time were Disney movies. (I guess I have come full circle.) All my friends were talking about it. I had to beg my dad to take me. Had I been a little younger, he probably wouldn’t have taken me, or I may not have been able to follow the movie. Had I been a little older, I would have been that much closer to death and missed any Star Wars incarnations created after my demise.
I was there at the beginning. I remember all the hype. American lost its collective mind, and so did I. My generation paid its dues. We waited in long lines. We returned to the theater multiple times. We bought all the toys. (No, Devin, they were not collectibles at that time. We actually tore open the boxes and played with them.*) These toys allowed us to use our imaginations to create new Star Wars adventures on our bedroom floors.
We consumed so much that we ensured this would become more than just one movie. We preserved Star Wars so later generations could experience it. We were like the Greatest Generation, those that were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. We embraced a movie in a time when access to entertainment was arduous. It built our character and made us stronger. We were there when (spoiler alert), “I am your father!” and Luke and Leia being siblings were surprises.
Although this was my generation, my analysis will be objective. I will now discuss the other two generations.
Best Time: 1990?
For people born in 1990, you are the middle child in this discussion. I am a middle child. I know the pain of not receiving much attention, and I empathize. You had the rereleases and the prequels. You are not the winner.
(Spoiler: The above paragraph is written for humorous effect, using the stereotypical attitudes of many Star Wars fans that the prequels were a disappointment and not of good quality. It is also intended as comic irony. My statement of empathy would lead the reader to expect a more thorough analysis of this age group, but I then complete my argument in two sentences. For a fairer yet less funny discussion of this middle group, read the epilogue.)
Best Time: 2010?
Now we move on to those born in 2010. You have The Force Awakens. You also have the animated series Star Wars: the Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Your midnight movies, used to get as many people there as early as possible on opening day, start at 7:00 pm on the day before opening day. At least the 1990 group had to wait until actual midnight for the first showing of the prequels.
You have all levels of Star Wars video games for all different kinds of gaming systems. The graphics and game speed are light years beyond anything I enjoyed as a child. However, you don’t have to exercise your own imagination in the process.
The Paris Hilton Of Star Wars?
All very cool, but it is an embarrassment of riches. You are the Paris Hilton of this discussion. George Lucas is like Conrad Hilton. Both founded enterprises which developed vast fortunes. My generation is like Barron Hilton, Conrad’s son. Barron helped his father build a successful corporation. My generation helped Lucas’s little movie become a phenomenon. Then there was some child of Barron’s who represents nothing of importance in this discussion and then came Paris.
Paris has great wealth. Some would say she had a great career. She has enjoyed a lifestyle many would envy. However, I just remember footage of her running out of gas. Paparazzi helped her out by buying her gas. When the gas can was brought to her, she informed them she had never put gas in a car before. Bottom line is, you have lots of great stuff, but you haven’t earned it.
So I guess it is fairly obvious which generation is the best for being a Star Wars fan.
And The Winner Is?
The answer is 2010.
You may be a little shocked at my answer. First of all, as great as 1977 was, who wants to wait in a line for three hours to see a movie? We had to go 20 times to see it in the theater because most of us had not heard of VCRs, nor did we have $1,000 to buy one even if we knew what they were. With no idea that we could one day own two versions of the same movie on four different formats, we had to try to absorb as much as possible before it disappeared.
Let’s do a little mind experiment. It’s 1977. You decide to meet your friend Tommy at the theater to see Star Wars. Luckily, the movie has been playing at this two screen theater for 24 big weeks, so getting there three hours early is not necessary. The movie is set to start in five minutes and Tommy is not there. What do you do?
Has Tommy forgotten about the movie? Is he just running late? Is he at the one other theater across town where Star Wars is playing? You can call Tommy, if you have a dime for the pay phone, the pay phone is working, and no one else is using it. As fate would have it, those hurdles have been avoided. You call Tommy. No answer. You decide to leave Tommy a message, but then you remember this is 1977 and the only person you know with an answering machine is Jim Rockford from TV’s The Rockford Files. So now you have to decide to leave or wait to see if Tommy is late. If Tommy is just late, you can catch the next showing in three hours. If Tommy never shows, you can leave or go see the movie alone.
Now let’s imagine the same scenario in 2015 on opening day of The Force Awakens. You text Tommy, “Where are you?” Tommy responds, “Am running late.” You text back, “Okay, we can catch the next one in 15 minutes because it’s playing on six screens.”
Also, as far as being there when being the big reveals were revealed, they actually weren’t surprises. This was an era prior to the internet, and there weren’t a thousand websites and podcasts telling you details of movies months before they came out. The term “spoiler alert” was unnecessary and did not exist. Even so, David Prowse had already let it slip Vader was Luke’s father. I remember Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show talking about Return of the Jedi the morning of the day it was released. He said something to the effect of, “I understand Luke and Leia are brother and sister.” (I could find no evidence of this on the internet, so if anyone else remembers this please respond in the comment section so I know I didn’t just create an urban legend.)
Clone Wars and Rebels
Second, let’s talk about the animated series to which the 2010 kids have access. Both The Clone Wars and Rebels are very good. In 1977 we had…well nothing. Our animated series of the day were G.I. Joe and The Masters of the Universe. Back then, all cartoons were made ridiculous by the fact they had to have educational purposes or moral lessons at the end of every episode. “He-Man, you fought 42 of Skeletor’s henchmen today. What did you learn?” “Well, I learned to look both ways before crossing the street because you never know when 42 monsters will jump out of the bushes and attack you. Also, there are cars.”
The closest thing we had in my time was The Star Wars Holiday Special. It was bad. (Devin, I know you have to keep up your schtick of loving the special. It is a very funny point of reference for the show, but deep down you know. It was bad.)
Furthermore, who wants to play with small figures when entire worlds await in video games. All those little blasters of the action figures were so easily lost. Lightsabers fell out of arms. The last time I saw Darth Vader’s lightsaber my granny was picking her teeth with it. What good has ever come from using your own imagination? Very smart and creative people are paid to do all the heavy lifting for today’s Star Wars fan. Because that is the American way.
It is universally known that toys and games are better for the 2010 kids, and knowing is half the battle.
Finally, 2010 was a great year for Star Wars fans to be born because they probably have very cool Star Wars fans as parents. If you don’t believe me, just ask my son.
*Click here to listen to a discussion on toys vs. collectibles with Devin and Jeremy
This epilogue is the expression of my true feelings. I have not been mind tricked, uh, I mean coerced by the emperor, uh, I mean the web (Jedi) master of this site. It has nothing to do with the fact that children six years of age and younger do not read the articles published here, and we would like as many people in their mid-twenties to feel included.
Hopefully, all the Star Wars snobs have stopped reading this article so I can make a little confession. I actually like the prequels. I could even argue why I might rank Attack of the Clones over Return of the Jedi. Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anybody. It’s a little easier to admit since I read Cass R. Sunstein’s The World According to Star Wars. If someone of his stature states the prequels have value, it gives me a little confidence that I’m not crazy.
The Reality of 1990
Without more elaboration, I will simply say, the prequels are just beautiful to look at. As important as having a good story is, the Star Wars movies also benefit from great visuals, not to mention the best score ever performed.
The twenty year anniversary rereleases were also fun. I saw all three in a one thousand seat, single screen theater in Washington D.C. I had to line up for tickets before I went to work in the morning to see the movies on their respective opening nights. People wore costumes to the screenings. A spontaneous chant of, “Star Wars! Star Wars!” broke out before A New Hope started. (Sorry Devin, it was A New Hope at that time.) It was like the atmosphere for the original movies, with a few modern updates, allowing two generations to share a few moments of joy.
Lastly, as you read this article more than a few of you may have yelled, “The Clones Wars and some really cool video games belong to the children of 1990!” You are right. So in retrospect, I should say the winner actually is . . . 1990. I guess I just wanted to pick my son’s generation so I could end the essay complimenting myself for being a cool Star Wars parent.
Congratulations 1990! Just don’t read the first sentence of the second paragraph.