Look, I get it.
I was ten years old when “Star Wars” first hit theaters, and it had a fairly seismic effect on me.
I have vivid memories of first seeing it –- possibly as part of a birthday party -- at a long-since-demolished movie house on East 86th Street between Lexington and Third, and my mind being summarily blown. In pretty much one fell swoop, I was indoctrinated. Almost immediately, my adoration for the comparatively quaint “Planet of the Apes” (the until-then gold standard for sci-fi) was handily eclipsed by all things “Star Wars” (rivaled *only* by my unwavering fandom for KISS). Like pretty much everyone else in my peer group, I bought right into the whole thing.
The funny thing about that, however, is that at the time, there was a genuine dearth (pardon the sorta-pun) of actual “Star Wars” merchandise available. Upon the release of the film, Kenner hadn’t rolled out their first line of action figures yet. I don’t remember how long after the fact the toys actually showed up, but it wasn’t exactly overnight, if I’m not mistaken. For the longest time, the only bit of genuine “Star Wars” ephemera I owned was an oversized button that read ”DARTH VADER LIVES.” To my considerable discredit, I am depicted wearing it in my fifth grade class picture, and grimacing accordingly. My mom, as you can imagine, was thrilled.
In due course, out came the toys and the rest of the merchandising blitz (again, rivaled *only* by KISS). In relatively swift succession, the next two films in the series arrived. If I’m being honest, I must admit that the bloom was fairly off the rose by the time the Ewoks showed up. Moreover, I was quite let down when they unmasked Darth Vader to reveal …well, Humpty Dumpty. I was envisioning someone more like Gene Simmons.
Anyway, here’s the thing.
As fucking ridiculous as the cult of “Star Wars” was circa the first three films, it was still relatively MANAGEABLE. At the end of the day, despite all the toys and the comic books and the Halloween costumes and the odd television special, they were still just MOVIES. There was no street team. There was no viral marketing. There was no maddeningly ubiquitous advance buzz. We let things happen when they happened, and society, nay, Western Civilization as a whole didn’t seem to lose sight of the fact that this was just entertainment, however expensively crafted.
Honestly, prior to the first “Star Wars” film (oh, excuse me, pedants…. “Episode IV”), I only ever saw a fleeting commercial for it, and there was still a great deal of mystery about it all. You had to actually go see it to learn all about it.
Suffice it to say, that’s not really the case anymore.
Let’s suggest, for a moment, that I want to see this new “Star Wars” film (even after completely losing my taste for the whole thing following an abortive viewing of “The Phantom Menace”). If I want to go into it with blind objectivity, I pretty much have to sequester myself in a goddamn cave. It’s not just about avoiding social media (much less the entirety of the internet, in general), I can barely step outside without being inundated with images, iconography and synchronized commercial tie-ins. Hell, my own son already wears a fetching black “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” t-shirt (with that weird soccer ball droid on it), and he obviously hasn’t seen the movie yet. We’ve already reached maximum saturation … haven’t we? Please tell me we have.
I’m going to (eventually) check out the movie. I have to. My kids are dying to see it, of course –- although I don’t know if the characters and the myth are as significant to them as they were to me in 1977 (I think “Harry Potter” still trumps all, for them). And, of course, being that members of the original cast are back, I am genuinely curious to see how it’s all going to hold up.
But the difference is this: To put it in the parlance of the insufferable music geek, in much the same way I didn’t expect m b v, the long-in-the-making follow-up album to My Bloody Valentine’s watershed opus Loveless to make me a youthfully sneery 24-year-old again (and, believe me, it didn’t), I have precious little faith that “The Force Awakens” is going to live up to strenuous expectations and transform me back into that wide-eyed, wonderment-addled ten-year-old.
I can hear the purists click their tongues now, laboriously quoting Yoda’s somber “That Is Why You Fail” admonition. Whatever. I’m okay with that.
It’s quite possible that the Force is no longer with me.
We shall see.