Is it the end? Or just a pause for regeneration?
by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist
On the night of December 18, 2019, a piece of my childhood came to an end. Though I would not be shocked if Disney found a way some day to resurrect the Star Wars saga, it seems that the storyline which began when I was seven years old, in the back of my parents’ car at the drive-in theater, has come to an end.
My friends and I grew up with Star Wars. Though we learned at some point that the first movie was not actually the beginning of the story, still the release of the first three movies enthralled us. I had a Luke Skywalker poster hanging in my bedroom, complete with fuzzy edges, well into my early teenage years. The action figures, which today would be worth hundreds of dollars, were scattered around the basement.
We watched those first three movies more times than I can remember. Old enough to venture to the movies on our own, we saw both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on opening weekend. At least once a week in the summer months, we would escape to the air-conditioned dollar matinee at our local theater where more often than not one of the Star Wars movies would be playing.
We liked the lasers, the sword fights with light sabers, and the drama that unfolded slowly across three releases years apart. Speckled in among the action scenes were deadpan comic lines, “You call this a rescue?” and the yelping cries of an “oversized furry floor rug” who could fly a spacecraft. No one ever questioned how every character in every movie mysteriously could understand the Wookie language.
Nestled between the laser shows, special effects and bar patrons who looked like Muppet rejects were messages and values intentionally embedded in the storyline to be absorbed, unknowingly and unwittingly, by teenagers enthralled by the space saga.
Obi-Wan Kenobi taught Luke not to trust his eyes, but to trust his feelings. “Use the Force Luke,” echoed in Luke’s head and served him well. Sometimes, things are not as they seem though we often unquestioningly accept the realities which are presented to us.
Loyalty served the rebels, and eventually the resistance, well. Luke abandoned the invaluable lessons taught by Yoda because his friends were in trouble, setting up the great cliffhanger at the end of Empire Strikes Back. The loyalty that bound the characters to each other helped them destroy the Death Star multiple times. Loyalty eventually brought Han Solo and Luke back to the fight, often against their better judgement.
Yoda, a little like Yogi Berra, has some of the best lines of the early movies. One of my favorites is ”Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Profound it is, as life will always be unpredictable. We can make all the plans we want, but sometimes life views our plans and just laughs. “Decide you must,” based on the best information available, and always trusting our instincts.
Perhaps the most important lesson came from Han Solo, replying to C3PO: “Don’t tell me the odds!” The odds are often against us; and yet we find a way to persist. We have hope for the future that a kind of force (reference intended) will help guide us through. It is also important to remember that the consequences of decisions are not always immediate. It took 42 years for the Star Wars saga to come to an end. One has to wonder if, in 1977, the actors knew they would still be playing their roles while collecting Social Security.
Sitting in a dark cool movie theater out of the heat of summer, we never consciously recognized these themes embedded within the Star Wars movies. But somehow, deep inside an unconscious psyche, The Force demonstrated how we were all connected, and therefore responsible for one another. The themes of loyalty, hope, and reaching for the stars resonated deep within our teenage minds– values still cherished and worth teaching in middle age.
As the final credits rolled on that cold, dark December night, and the familiar theme music swelled to a theater-filling crescendo, it was easy to think that this piece of my childhood had ended. Going forward without Star Wars may sound frightening, but Yoda counsels us that “Fear is the path to the dark side.” And even when we fail, Yoda consoles us that “The greatest teacher, failure is.” In the midst of failure, hard to see this is, but persevere we must.
Not so naïve am I as to think we have seen the end of the Star Wars brand. No doubt the creative minds at Disney are diligently conspiring to extend the storyline–and bottom line– to the next generation. If the old themes and values continue to animate subsequent movies, another cycle of the saga might be just what our fractured world needs.
May the force be with us!
Other posts authored by Greg Cunningham can be found here.