Star Wars: The First Time

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Oh, what the dirty minds out there are thinking, I’d love to know.

My husband and I just finished watching Star Wars: A New Hope for approximately the gazillion and fifth time—and it’s still damn good, no matter how many times we watch it.

As the opening text was rolling, though, Drew said, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch this for the first time.

I looked at him and said, eloquently, “Huh?”

When he stared at me blankly, I said, “What do you mean? For the first time in the theater? For the first time as the Special Edition? For the first time with the crappy new ones?”

“No,” he said. “As just the first time—I’ve been watching these movies since before I can remember.”

“Oh!” I said. “Well, I CAN remember, and it was magical.”

You see, I was in sixth grade when I first saw Star Wars. I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but somewhere in the midst of my Anne McCaffrey and Dragonlance obsession, my mother realized I’d probably like Star Wars. She told me about it, and I dimly remember crinkling my nose and saying something like, “I dunno…”

I vividly remember, though, going to Planet Hollywood and finding the TAPE (yes, the VHS) of the remastered version, released (I believe) shortly before the Special Edition films hit theaters in 1997: I was 11 and 12, respectively. We found the remastered version of A New Hope in the ‘popular releases’ section, and I remember we were both puzzled by the ‘Episode IV’ subtitle. We asked the nerdy guy at the counter if it was truly the first movie, and he assured us that it was in fact the right starting point.

Luke, Leia, and Han in all their 70’s glory.

We watched it that night on the “big” TV in our black-and-white basement (with the surround sound!), and my entire world changed. I was obsessed, in the way that only pre-teens can get obsessed with something. We watched all of them within a week, and I had to BEG my mom to let us rent and watch a movie on a weeknight.

Being a good mom, she indulged me. (Hi, Mom.)

Return of the Jedi ‘done me in’. Ewoks? Yeah, I loved them—still do, in fact.

They’re like teddy bears with weapons! (May the piracy furies forgive me… Image via starwars.wikia.com)

After that, I collected action figures, even though I was probably too old. I remember finding the remaster VHS trilogy in my parents’ closet for Santa to bring me, a month or so before Christmas. I had a Star Wars sleepover birthday party, to which I made all of my (female) friends wear Star Wars costumes. (I was Luke, naturally.) I bought all the soundtracks and listened to them obsessively. I watched the movies on the tiny TV/VHS system in my bedroom, and I have fond memories of snuggling up to watch them when I was sick. I even read some of the novels.

It shaped my life in the same way that Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, Braveheart, and the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight all changed who I was. Honestly, it’s up there with the moment I read Hemingway’s short story, “Cat in the Rain,” in high school and realized that I wanted to study English literature in college. My life has never been the same.

I think, oddly, of the How I Met Your Mother quote when Ted’s best friend Marshall says to Ted’s almost-wife, Stella:

Look, Stella, that is Ted’s favorite movie of all time. He watches it when he’s home sick with the flu. He watches it on rainy Sunday afternoons in the fall. He watches it on Christmas Eve. Ted watches Star Wars in sickness and in health; in good times and in bad. Do you really think you can pretend to like a movie you actually hate — for the rest of your life?

Could I have married a man who didn’t like Star Wars? I’m not sure—all the guys I’ve ever been involved with have liked it. My high school boyfriend’s mom liked to tell the story of how her first date with my boyfriend’s dad was to see A New Hope. (They’ve since had a messy divorce… hmm…)

A New Hope was magical for me in a way that Brave would have been if I’d seen it at 8, that Harry Potter has always been, The Lord of the Rings was when I was 17, and Buffy was when I was 24. It’s one of those worlds you can get lost in and not emerge from for months.

So, can I imagine the first time?

Oh, yes, I can. I will never forget it. If I have kids, I’ll save this movie until they’re old enough to appreciate—unlike my husband, they’ll remember the magic of the first time. Any friend of mine will have to watch it. And I’ll always go back to it when I need a boost, or when I’m happy, or when I just want to get away for awhile. It’s part of who I am.

Do you remember the first time you watched Star Wars, friends? Tell me your story. What other stories have had this impact on you?

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4 thoughts on “Star Wars: The First Time

  1. Hey, but in the list of life changing moments, where’s the love for Doctor Who? Like Star Wars, I’ve been watching the Doctor since before I can remember ( the advantage of a Scifi loving father ). Doctor Who was the first time I really came across the idea that you have to look beyond what you’re actually seeing to enjoy a show ( or really anything ) … an episode is just a bunch of Papier-mâché on wires with the occasional rubber mask, but if you actually listen to what’s going on there’s actual moral ambiguity and depth.

    Served me well in Babylon 5 watching as well.

  2. The first time I saw Star Wars was 1977, in the theater. I was extremely young, I believe it was the second movie I’d ever been to; the first being ‘The Apple Dumpling Gang.’ I vividly remember being completely transfixed, so much so that when it was over I remember being so surprised that it was still light out when we left the theater (we had gone to the 7:00 p.m. show in the summer). It felt like I had been to space and I was disappointed that there were no stars to see as I left. As soon as the intro started, I knew Don Knotts and Tim Conway didn’t stand a chance.

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