When the first Star Wars movie came out forty(!) years ago did anyone know the magnitude of what was about to happen? George Lucas hooked us by following the age-old mythic story formula. We watched the main characters battle against evil and transform into the heroes we knew they could be--with help from their trusty guides. We eagerly awaited the next installment of the story and when each was released, we became more attached to the characters.
Those first movies dominated the childhoods of anyone growing up in the 1980s. As adults, we continued to be hungry and got a treat went out came a whole backstory filling in more heroic struggles and character development to enrich the characters we already knew. And then, we got even more installments that continued the story into the future. It was like bedtime when mom or dad reads story after story and never says, "Okay, time to go to bed."
Even now, it's not yet time to go to bed. Considering the ongoing bottomless marketing jackpot it might be tempting to feel like a sucker (see image above of the "highly accurate" collectible figure of Princess Leia with an installment payment plan option). But I prefer to see the magic. Stories invite us in, and Star Wars has done that on many levels. In addition to following the real-life stories of the actors that found instant fame with the first movie, so too the stories of our lives have become tangled into the timeline.
When the movies were re-released in the late 1990s, I had just started dating the man that would become my husband. We shared stories of seeing Star Wars for the first time. We were small and the story was mammoth. As we continued to date, we went to see every re-release together. And then we turned out for the new ones.
When we had children of our own, Star Wars captured the imaginations of our children. This made it even more fun than the first time. As our children get close to their teenage years, it continues. But now, there is an interwoven theme of sadness and loss. Mortality on and off screen with Han Solo and Carrie Fisher and an aging Luke Skywalker. We are getting older too. Our parents even more so. Our kids too.
For all the money that has been made (and that we've spent) on Star Wars over the years, it's a little heartening to realize that even though it's been a marketing blitz, the story comes first (and in fact that's why it's been so successful). While our own stories may not be quite as epic, they are as deeply woven into the saga as if we had been there fighting alongside Leia, Han and Luke. In fact, we've been there all along and the force is with us all.