Intersections – The Star Wars Effect
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I’ve spent the past two weeks getting private messages and texts from married men. At some point during a holiday party last week, a man motioned for me to join him in a dark corner. My spouse noticed and nodded his head at me like he was giving a kid permission to eat all the Halloween candy. I felt like a homewrecker and a naughty school girl for the first time in my life. All because of “Star Wars.”
“Did you like the movie?” the man asked. This is the intro question for all of my illicit encounters regarding “The Force Awakens.”
I know better than to blurt out my response. The movie-going experience is subjective, and each viewer’s reaction is nuanced. It doesn’t matter what movie we are discussing. Our own personal issues and hopes and disappointments are evident in how we react to everything.
I counter with, “What did YOU think?”
I choose my words carefully before I engage in a conversation about “The Force Awakens.”
Most of my friends not only liked the movie, but liked it enough to see it twice. This is not to say the movie was so amazingly awesome that it needs a second viewing. Honestly, the first viewing for me was filled with tension. I was afraid of giant missteps like the prequel “Star Wars” movies. I viewed every line and action with a critical eye. I needed to get to the end so I would know the spoilers and no longer be in limbo about what happened to these characters.
The second viewing allowed me the chance to relax and watch the movie for what it’s worth. A space opera. A futuristic set-in-the-past Western. It’s supposed to be fun. Of course, there are elements of the hero’s journey and mythology. There is a dash of Shakespeare and Greek tragedy. If you need to earn your thesis by dissecting this movie, look for the Anansi character, the Oracle, and an allegory for every major religion.
Or you can enjoy the fact that a Wookie is our co-pilot, and he speaks a language we can’t understand.
Because I have kids, I suffer through a lot of bad movies. Movies that make Zoolander seem like an Oscar contender. My review of “The Force Awakens” is favorable and yet reveals no spoilers.
For the past 38 years, we’ve felt abandoned by the Force. Like a girl left on Jakku, we’ve wondered about our heroes. The original adventure of our youth was never perfect. Obi Wan lied to Luke and engaged in a fight with Vader that he could never win. Yoda refused to be direct, but we loved him for his riddle-like syntax and Muppet stature. We re-enter the imperfect world of “Stars Wars” in “The Force Awakens.”
We meet Rey, a scavenger who is sensitive to the Force. She joins FN-2187, now Finn, a Stormtrooper who wants to escape the enslavement of the First Order. BB-8 is a rolling droid who shows emotions better than most humans. We reconnect with Leia, Han, and Chewie. They are weary, sarcastic, and loving. They aren’t perfect. They never were. The movie clearly echoes the spirit and action of “Star Wars.” There are the same old bad guys and new bad guys and new good guys.
Fortunately, there is less whining. Fortunately, I didn’t feel abandoned anymore. At the end, I clutched my heart because I was so glad to see my favorite old Jedi and princess and smuggler on the screen again. I felt like a kid again. “The Force Awakens” gathers us together like the lost children we were and makes us feel at home. There were space chase scenes, blasters, aliens, and explosions. There was the Dark Side of the Force, and we are forced to admit how much we used to love Vader and anyone who can wield a red lightsaber.
I have some friends who hated the movie. It isn’t for everyone.
I’ve read a lot about the gender and racial implications of the two main characters. We are bringing our limited Earthling biases and expectations to a world where people fly through space. Regularly. I promise to alert you when there are gender and race things we need to worry about.
I loved Finn and Rey. I loved seeing Leia again. If I learned anything from this movie it’s how hard it is to pass on your legacy to anyone, be it child, Ben Solo, or new director, J. J. Abrams.
We get to battle with lightsabers. We get to fly through space. We get to imagine that our best friends from a long, long time ago stay with us for a lifetime.
I’m serious about this “Star Wars” stuff. I’m serious because it is supposed to be fun. We need the escape. That’s the “Star Wars” effect. Grown women and men whispering in dark corners about the Force. Arguments about what makes a good villain and good hero. A mother dressed up as Princess Leia to go see a movie. Sure, my kids were embarrassed, but we all left the theater smiling. Since we don’t have the Force, fun will have to be enough. May it be with us, always.
Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.