According to some, today is Star Wars Day. Why, those of you who have not heard this before may be asking? Because it’s May the Fourth, as in “May the Fourth be with you.” To be completely honest, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Star Wars Day. On the one hand, it’s awesome because Star Wars. And on one recent May 4, I attended a wedding with Star Wars-related elements that was one of the most fun weddings I’d ever been to. But I also feel like Star Wars deserves better than a lame pun. All six Star Wars movies were released in May, and George Lucas’ birthday is in May, so why not celebrate on one of those days instead?
With all the talk of Star Wars on my Facebook feed today, I got to thinking about how it had been a few years since I had watched the movies, so maybe I should put them on in the background while I’m doing stuff around the house. I’m too busy to watch all six, it’ll probably take me until next weekend to finish that, but I’ll keep working on it little by little. That got me thinking about how Star Wars is practically unique among movies in terms of how many different ways there are to watch the entire series. Release order (classic trilogy, then prequels), chronological order within the Star Wars universe (prequels, then classic trilogy), or ignore the prequels altogether? Or perhaps some modified order, like flashback order (watch the prequels after Empire Strikes Back, then Return of the Jedi last, so that right after you find out about Vader’s origin, you get an extended eight hour flashback explaining how that happened) or Machete Order (same as flashback order, but skipping Phantom Menace entirely, because it doesn’t add a whole lot to the story, and allegedly it’s everyone’s least favorite)? And which versions? The theatrical releases, the 1997 Special Editions, the 2004 DVDs, or the 2011 Blu-Rays?
Star Wars creator George Lucas claims that the changes were made to make the movies closer to his original vision for them, since special effects technology has advanced significantly since the first movies were made in the late 1970s. But these changes have upset many fans. I don’t have a problem with that. I get that. But what I do have a problem with is the people who go around making blanket statements like “true Star Wars fans know that there are only three real Star Wars movies” (in other words, the prequels don’t count) or “true Star Wars fans only watch the theatrical releases, not the Special Editions.” This is part of a wider movement I have noticed more and more the last few years, something I call geek-bullying. And this phenomenon is not unique to the Star Wars fandom either. I have been criticized for treating Paul McGann’s Doctor Who movie on an equal footing with the other Doctor Who series, for continuing to watch new episodes of The Simpsons to this day, and for not watching Star Trek at all.
I have a lot of friends who are into science fiction, role-playing games, and comic book conventions. I was never into these things as a kid, and I think that was more related to fear of geek-bullies than lack of interest. I knew that in order to fit in with groups like this, I had to know a lot of obscure things about these fictional universes, and I had to have a lot of money in order to have all the right toys, books, and the like. What makes geek-bullying so sad is its blatant hypocrisy. So many of these people who identify as geeks and nerds talk about having been bullied as kids, yet they don’t seem to think about how these “a true fan of this does that” statements set up exactly the kind of environment that resulted in their exclusion in another setting. The victims have become the oppressors. You either have to be exactly like this or you’ll be intimidated and treated like a lesser being. Only the Sith deal in absolutes.
This is why I don’t like to label myself a nerd or a geek. I don’t want to be told that true nerds and true geeks have to like certain things and dislike others. I just want to be me. I’m watching the Star Wars 2004 DVD, with all the changes that upset a lot of fans. I know Han shot first, and I’m not particularly thrilled about Hayden Christensen being in the final scene of ROTJ, but in 2004 the theatrical releases weren’t available on DVD, there were no plans to do so, and it’s not worth me going out and spending a ton more money just so a few minutes of the movies will look the way they did in the 70s and 80s. If I did not own any of the Star Wars movies on DVD, and I were to buy them for the first time on DVD after the original theatrical versions had been released on DVD, I’d probably go with the originals, but it’s not worth it to buy another set right now. And I’m going to watch them in flashback order, including all three prequels. The article I linked to above on Machete Order, in explaining how and why to include the prequels, says “Maybe you actually like the prequels (seriously?).” The message this author is trying to send is clear: no one really likes the prequels all that much, and if you do, there’s something wrong with you. While this was probably intended to be tongue-in-cheek, it is also a classic example of geek-bullying. So what if you like the prequels? Maybe you look for different things in a movie than what the author of this article does. It doesn’t mean one way is right and the other is wrong. (Personally, I don’t think the prequels have stood the test of time as well as the classic trilogy, but I don’t dislike them either.)
Many people who consider themselves geeks like to say that being a geek is all about being really into your passions. If that’s true, then let other people be really into their passions, and stop bullying them or making fun of them for having unpopular passions. Do not be seduced by the Dark Side to become a bully.