by Jan Bottiglieri
I was a super-happy, fairly normal little girl… but kind of a weird adolescent. I know, that sounds redundant—aren’t we ALL weird as adolescents? Yeah, but by the summer of 1977, a a few extra factors were contributing to my particular brand of weirdness. I was one of the only kids I knew being raised by a single mom. I had just started to experience a lot of bullying that made me feel unsafe but I couldn’t talk about it. I was starting to do badly in school, after an elementary school career consistently at the top of my class. Unlike every other 8th grader I knew, I had no desire to experience “more” of the world or really to keep growing up at all. And finally, I thought a lot about death, and what happens after we die, and how everything dies, and how every day, just a teeny bit, I was dying too.
It took me a long time to figure out that the reason I didn’t want to grow up was because I was afraid—afraid that if I grew and changed too much, when my Dad came back, he wouldn’t recognize me. The reason I thought so much about death was that, after four or five years of pretending it hadn’t happened, my brain was finally able to process the fact that my Dad could not come back.
“HOLY SHIT,” you’re probably saying now, “PLEASE START TALKING ABOUT STAR WARS.”
I really remember the second time I saw it. It was the first time I went to the movies by myself. I don’t recall if I tried to get a friend to go with me—chances are, I didn’t, because I was always too afraid to call my friends’ houses, assuming that they would not want to spend time with me, even though they were, you know, MY FRIENDS (I mentioned my weirdness, right?) I walked to the Arlington Theatre (RIP, Arlington Theatre.) It was super-hot and felt like a long way. I may have pretended I was on Tatooine. All I knew was that I HAD to see Star Wars again.
Look, thousands of people have written about Star Wars and why they love it. I guarantee, 99 percent of those reasons apply to my love of Star Wars. As an actual person who was actually alive in 1977, I can confirm that the movie just felt different somehow. The hero whined, the princess shot a gun, the droids were amazing and they didn’t communicate in monotone “robot talk,” and the villain was actually villainous. He snuffed a whole planet full of people out of spite! Luke’s landspeeder was a beater. I can’t stress that enough—his car was dirty, which made the whole movie feel more authentic. Star Wars had spaceships and alien jazz bands, but it was a world that also wanted to be real.
Fast-forward almost 20 years, and I found another reason to be deeply grateful for Star Wars. It was about 1993, and my husband and I were hanging out at home with our toddler. Star Wars was playing, probably on laser disc. (RIP, laser disc.) Suddenly, my son stopped what he was doing to stand stock-still in front of our television, mesmerized by the images, the sounds, and John Williams’ sweeping score. The toy dropped from his hand as he gazed up, transfixed. I felt my heart swell with joy and gratitude as I realized what was happening: he was becoming a Star Wars fan.