With the outside world a disaster the (woo)key to all our problems could be to dim the lights, visit the the dark side and find comfort in those epic fights among the stars.
I would have liked to have been one of those people who took up baking, crochet or exercise while staying at home. Instead, I can tell you that the Ewoks home planet is the moon of Endor and that Jedis use blue or green lightsabers, Siths red, while Jedi Master Mace Windu uses purple. To be honest, I’d always had a lukewarm response to the Skywalker story. I always thought I was a bit too cool to watch Star Wars; I’d much rather go outside than watch films that I thought were boring. But along with the rest of the country, I no longer go outside enough.
If it wasn’t about being cool, it was definitely about being a young woman. I don’t know whether I stopped myself from enjoying things under the guise of remaining feminine or if society decided that for me. If the pandemic has taught anyone anything it’s that life is tough enough without our own self imposed rules about what we should and shouldn’t enjoy, so I allowed two of my housemates to sit me down and start episode four. As my adventure began I soon learnt that the correct way to watch Star Wars is in release order rather than chronological, therefore, it’s four, five, six, one, two, three, seven, Rogue One, eight, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and finally, nine. That was the way everyone else had seen them so it was the way I should see them too.
Did I enjoy the films? I don’t know. There’s an undeniable magic to the first trio, seeing something you’ve never seen before, being introduced to an immense new world. There are also inarguable flaws; without a more elegant way to put it, the prequels are boring. Although in fairness, I fell asleep during Attack of the Clones so maybe I missed the most exciting sequence.
Someday I’ll tell my children how in the midst of a pandemic the guys in my student house forced me to take an R2-Detour into a world of Jedis and Sith Lords. And about how I learnt that the way they made the lightsabers glow was to cut out bits of the film so the light would shine straight through. Just that little bit of space and something would glow. This year we have all been immersed in the rather negative collective experience of isolation, but Star Wars reminds us that collective experience can also be a source of immense pleasure. With the halting of gigs, festivals, and sports fixtures it’s easy to forget how wonderful it feels to experience mutual joy. Let’s all try and remember that for when we get our world back.
One of my housemates spoke about how his Dad showed him the films when he was a kid, and that was why they meant so much to him. He probably didn’t say exactly that, he was probably too embarrassed. But I knew. I felt like I was getting to know my housemates for the first time. To know them as they were aged eight or ten, little boys who would play pretend afterwards, then teenagers who fancied Leia in the gold bikini. Then once more as university students who wanted to recapture the youthful magic as the virus pulled the rug out from under them. It’s a funny word nostalgia, it comes from the Greek ‘nostos’, return home, and ‘algos’ pain. But maybe it’s not always so painful to let ourselves return home. Perhaps if we’re quiet enough and concentrate just on the screen, nostalgia can feel comfortable and snug, like putting on an old glove. Nostalgia for something I never knew? Do you think that’s possible? Or maybe it’s nostalgia for now. For being twenty and having all the time in the world.
Matt said the films were so popular because they were, “about everything: love, friendship, war, peace, and the fabric of the universe”. That’s why you can watch them over and over again at any time during any phase of life because there’s always something new to see. But he also said ‘Attack of the Clones’ rests entirely on Padme’s midriff so who knows how much he’s focusing on the mutual need for friendship between R2-D2 and C-3P0.
In another world if I’d have watched these films in a normal year I’m not sure I’d have liked them. But Star Wars just happened to come at the right time. In one of the toughest bouts of isolation it was nice to just see something fun. Maybe the Star Wars series is the perfect set of pandemic films, allowing us to immerse ourselves in something vast and beautiful. A Rey of sunshine in a very dark time, they were exactly what we all needed. Offering us a New Hope that even when the world seems so terrible, we can sit with each other for 22 hours and 25 minutes and go to a galaxy far, far away.