star wars

Exit 158. Staring at this picture on my wall.

I’m really late this week.  It’s summer, I’m not working, and my routine is all off.  And I don’t really have anything on my mind to write about.

Earlier today, I was staring at this picture on my wall, wondering why it was still there.

kid icarus death star with name blurred.jpg

“Pit from Kid Icarus Attacks the Death Star.”  Artist: me, 2011.  Colored pencils on paper.

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent most of 2011 in a relationship with “Acrux,” who moved away a couple months into our relationship, making this decision without even telling me until it was a done deal.  A couple weeks after we moved, she Skyped me from a coffee shop.  Her dad was in a band that often played at this coffee shop’s weekly open mic night, and she showed me their band on Skype and introduced me to her best friend and some of the regulars at the coffee shop.  Acrux and her friend were playing a game where each one would give the other a topic to draw.  They asked if I wanted to play, I said sure, and they gave me the topic of Pit attacking the Death Star.

That was a good night.  That is what I thought a long distance relationship would be like.  As my long term readers and friends know, it wasn’t like that at all.  In the four months that we stayed together, we only Skyped three more times; I pretty much had to beg to get her to spend that time with me, and she wasn’t all that attentive to begin with.  That was pretty much the way things always were with us.

So why did I leave this picture on my wall, even though I got rid of a lot of other things that reminded me of Acrux after we broke up?  I don’t know.  Maybe because it’s awesome.  And funny.

And why am I writing about it today?  I don’t know.  Why not?

Exit 78. That’s okay, because you can have some leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.

The full trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released earlier this week, and advance tickets for the movie, which opens in mid-December, also went on sale.  I completely missed this.

There was a time, specifically most of my 20s, when I was on top of all Star Wars-related news.  I didn’t exactly grow up with Star Wars.  I remember seeing it on the big screen at one point; I think it was during a theatrical re-release around the time Return of the Jedi was first released.  But I was too young to fully appreciate what was going on, and since I didn’t have a lot of the toys, and I didn’t keep watching it as an adult, I wasn’t really that knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe.  I remember seeing bits and pieces of The Empire Strikes Back on TV over the years, but I know I never saw Return of the Jedi.  I really got into Star Wars during the 1996-97 school year, my third at UC Davis, when I had a roommate who was a huge Star Wars fan.  Coincidentally, this was also the year that the movies were re-released with new footage (and, thus, when the “Han shot first” controversy first erupted).

So what changed?  Why am I not following Star Wars as closely now as I used to?  I really don’t know.  It isn’t because I don’t like Star Wars anymore; that isn’t true.  It isn’t because I was disappointed with the prequels; I’ve said before that my opinion of the prequels is less unfavorable than that of most people I know.  I still don’t know what it is, but I think the major factor is just that I don’t have time to keep up with movies and entertainment franchises at that level.  I have a very demanding job, and I only have so much time.  Also, society has changed.  Activities like cosplaying, binge-watching, and “Geeking Out” (whatever that means) have become mainstream hobbies that also include adults (at least among the people in my world).  I simply don’t have enough time to devote to this.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not going to be like some of my conservative Christian brethren and say that when adults who are into this sort of thing, it reflects a profound lack of maturity that must be fixed and prayed for.  Cosplaying certainly isn’t any less mature of a way to spend one’s time than golf or fishing or shooting or motorcycles or any of the other things that the people who say this think that adult men should be doing.  If being a full-time geek is your thing, good for you.  Have fun with it.  I enjoy hearing your stories and seeing pictures of the costumes.  It’s just not something I can devote that much time to.  And I really don’t appreciate the way some people try to put me down for not being enough of a geek.  That takes the fun out of it and turns those people into bullies.  In addition to all the people who act incredulous when I say I don’t follow Star Trek, or those who think I’m wrong for not hating the Star Wars prequels, or those who get all high and mighty about how dumb sports are when I say I also like watching sports, I’ve also had people put me down for things as ridiculous as saying that pi is my favorite number instead of e, phi, Euler’s constant, or other far more obscure mathematical constants, because liking pi is “too pedestrian.”  Really?  This is how you’re going to treat people?  Asshat.

So back to my point.  So far, I have not bought tickets or made definite plans to see The Force Awakens.  The only person who has invited me along so far is going to a showing late at night as soon as it opens.  I have to work the next day.  It’s not worth the stress to me to call in sick the next day.  With my job, the early morning start time is pretty inflexible, and it’s actually more stressful to plan not to be at work than it is to just go to work (which is why I really hate getting sick).  I’ve told this to my friends before, that I don’t see a lot of movies these days because my friends all go at midnight, and I can’t do that with my work schedule.  Some of my friends have responded by saying that most of them would gladly watch the movie again, another time, and I can go with them then.  Thanks, but this really isn’t helping.  For one thing, most of the time, that never happens (although thank you for those who have in fact followed up that way).  More importantly, though, it still makes me feel excluded.  It’s like my friends saying, “Hi, we’re all going to go out to a great dinner, and we know we’re planning it at a time when you’re unavailable, but that’s okay, because you can have some of our cold leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.”  Gee, thanks.

The problem is that there really isn’t any alternative.  I don’t feel right asking my friends not to have their fun just because of my work schedule.  So if I do see The Force Awakens, there’s a good chance it’ll be either going to be with people who have already seen it, or alone.  And there’s a good chance it won’t be on opening night, since a lot of theaters seem to have sold out before I even heard that tickets went on sale.  But plans could still change.  We’ll see.  Always in motion is the future.

Exit 1. Do not be seduced by the Dark Side

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.