A wannabe Jedi Knight in his tunic swung his lightsaber to my left. In front of me sat a young woman in white, her hair in Princess Leia buns on each side of her head. Jedi younglings stood with their parents behind me.
No, I wasn’t hallucinating. I was standing in line to see the first showing of the new “Star Wars” movie. For the two hours my family waited outside on that sometimes-drizzly day, I spotted nearly every major character in the seven “Star Wars” movies as diehard fans arrived in costume. News vans waited on the curb while reporters with tag-along cameramen wandered through the crowd.
Dressed simply in a “Star Wars” t-shirt and hat, I knew I would not get my 15 minutes of fame. But the longer I stood there, the more the reporting bug gnawed at me.
To the embarrassment of my younger children who are not as impulsive as I sometimes am, I walked to the front of the line and began asking if there were people present who saw the first “Star Wars” movie in theaters in 1977. I found eight of these “original” fans from the line’s beginning to where I stood about 60 people deep. Of the “elite eight,” I was the only female.
With the exception of one 40-something-year-old dad who admitted he was only there because his son was a fan and a 30-something-year-old man who said his parents took him to see the original when he was an infant, the other old-paths fans raved about how Luke Skywalker and company affected them back in ’77.
“It was so new to us,” one man commented, “like nothing we had ever seen before—the special effects particularly.”
A man right behind me was fascinated by my original Luke Skywalker action figure. I only mildly flinched when he reached to hold it, scolding myself for feeling like a kid who didn’t want to share.
As he checked out my toy, this pleasant man with two daughters by his side began to tell me of the “Star Wars” toys he used to have. We became lost in nostalgic conversation while the 20-something-year-old guys in front of us tried to appear not to be eagerly eavesdropping.
“You mean you were there to see the first one in 1977?” one of them asked me, almost reverently. When I nodded and told them I had also waited in long lines for the premiere of five of the others, I rose to near-legend status in their eyes. They looked admiringly at my original, somewhat-crinkled “Return of the Jedi” trading cards, but then they lost me when they began debating which weapon was more effective—the Stormtroopers’ E-11 blaster rifles or Han Solo’s DL-44.
One of my children whispered that some of these people seemed to have blurred the line between reality and fantasy. It did seem peculiar to hear people discuss the movies, the weaponry and imaginary outer space locales as though they were real. I began to ponder: “Why would anybody wait in line for hours to see a movie?” “How have these movies retained their popularity for nearly 40 years?”
I could only surmise that real life often leaves us craving an escape via fantasy/make-believe. The daily grind of the 9 to 5 leaves us spent and wishing we could soar through space in hyperdrive. The must-do chores at home make us yearn to rescue princesses and wield glowing lightsabers beside Jedi warriors.
And let’s face it: the old theme of good vs. evil/light vs. darkness gets us every time. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader is, at its root, no different from John Wayne vs. Old West villains in the 1950‘s or Spiderman vs. the Green Goblin in 1964. Before we understood political correctness, we kids played cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers, and everybody wanted to be a cowboy or cop. This good guy/bad guy theme carries over from childhood make-believe into fantasy movies for all ages.
I believe people flock to such movies because deep within they yearn to see good triumph over evil.
Life seems dark some days. We hear news of mass shootings, child pornography rings, political corruption. We wish we could do something. We burn within to be able to have just 10 minutes alone with that mom’s boyfriend who shook the crying baby to death. We nearly explode with the desire to right the wrongs, to stop the criminals, to see justice done.
But our hands are often tied. We just keep plodding along in the darkness, hoping for the light, looking for a brighter day.
Some find their escape in unsavory things such as abuse of drugs and alcohol which only adds to the darkness. Others find comfort in their faith and prayer, working to brighten the world through love and unselfish service.
And occasionally these same people choose to sit in a darkened theater for two hours, far from the madding crowd…..living vicariously through the heroes who fight for the light and beat the bad guys. When Luke stays on target and fires the fatal blast which takes down the dreaded Death Star, we feel our hearts swell with the triumph of right over wrong. When Obi-Wan Kenobi defeats the devilish Darth Maul, we inwardly cheer to see justice done.
I won’t give away the plot of the newest “Star Wars” movie, but suffice it to say it has the same triumphant feel of good rising to overcome evil. There’s a reason the first movie back in 1977 was called “A New Hope.” Mankind longs for hope. And there’s a reason this newest one is called “The Force Awakens.” Humanity longs for a spiritual awakening—the rising of a force that will bring an end to the darkness.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas has been accused of a lot of things—from pushing Eastern mysticism to ruining the movie industry by making Hollywood producers/directors even greedier for blockbuster status. I only know that much of his success stems from his genius ability to tap into one of the deepest yearnings in mankind—the constant hope that light will triumph over darkness.
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at email@example.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.