Jar Jar Mitzvah

Once a month, Miranda and I get together with two other similarly-aged couples for a rousing game night. For people our age who are burdened with the duties of parentage and struggling in middle/lower/perceived management, it is our last bastion of freedom. Our games range from the party variety (Loaded Questions) to the nerdy variety (Settlers of Catan) to the nerds of the party variety (Guitar Hero, Burt Bacharach Edition).

During these games we often find out rather privileged information about each other. Often this information comes unsolicited and is difficult to forget, no matter how hard we try. But one of the most shocking admissions came one night when I found out that one of these friends had never experienced what we, and most of the rest of humanity, consider a crucial action signifying entry into manhood, even though most of us had all basically done it as boys.

“I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies,” he said with a shame that was as thick as the morning fog on Endor.

With the exception of my dear wife, who thinks that she “saw that one Star Wars with the cute little teddy bear people,” we were all dumbfounded. This man’s wife, who had been told about this condition beforehand, shook her head in shame and embarrassment that it was now well-known that she had to take a serious step down when exchanging marriage vows.

We vowed at that moment that we would redeem his dignity and manhood by having a Star Wars marathon where he would be indoctrinated in the world and ways of Star Wars in one sitting. We were ready to suggest that he be strapped into a wicker-back chair with his eyelids taped open à la A Clockwork Orange, but he had never seen that movie either. But he was ready to embark on the venture under his own free will. So we set the date and anxiously awaited our voyage to a galaxy far, far away.

In telling other people about our plans, it was remarkable how similar the reactions were. First, nobody could believe that there was yet someone alive who had never seen any of the Star Wars movies before. Then, when people considered our planned marathon, it was as if every person we talked to had considered such a thing before. But like telling off your boss, biking across the state, or eating every item off of the Denny’s breakfast menu in one sitting, it was something that you only thought about but never actually set out to accomplish.

After the gasps subsided, the inevitable first question was, “So, what order are you going to watch them in.” It was a valid question, seeing as how George Lucas started the franchise with episode IV because the world was not ready for one Jar Jar Binks. Of course, we watched them in chronological order by release date, something that every inquirer seemed to agree with, having personally made that decision in their minds years ago. It was as if they asked what prayer we would utter on our pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, knowing they would obviously choose the Prayer of Sorrow. “Next year in Naboo,” they said under their breath. “Next year in Naboo.”

Star Wars has always played an intricate part in my life. Of course I am far from the biggest Star Wars fanatic. I might not know the serial code on Boba Fett’s blaster, but I have also seriously considered purchasing a tauntaun sleeping bag. One of my earliest memories is of watching A New Hope on TV when I was about three years old. Just as C-3PO and R2-D2 traversed the unforgiving desert sands of Tatooine, the plastic tube I had in my ear to prevent infection worked its way out into my fingers, ensuring that I would have to go through another medical procedure to put one back in. Even at three years old, I envied the life of an android. A few years later, I was able to go to Disneyland for the inaugural year of Star Tours, back when Michael Jackson was involved for some reason. Even after that, I roughly played with Star Wars figures with no regard for their future value. All I knew is that my Banthas belonged in the mud pit in the backyard.

I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

I watched and rewatched all of the available episodes during my childhood and adolescence. The playground rumors that episodes I through III were going to be made in the near future were set aside along with the rumors that MC Hammer was a Mormon, Jose Canseco injected liquefied Smarties before every game, and a banking crisis would cripple the US economy in 20 years. Eventually though, the rumors were confirmed, to much weeping for joy that my generation would live to see the long-awaited prophesy fulfilled.

Of course, as a prelude to his prequels, George Lucas revolutionized the industry by re-releasing, for the fourth time, episodes IV, V, and VI in the theaters. Only this time they were über-digitally enhanced with ÜberHX Technology™. Each movie also had some wholly unnecessary and terribly fake-looking additions, like plastic surgery on a 55-year-old woman that had once been the beauty that brought thousands of young, nerdy boys into manhood. But, I still went to see these re-releases for the first show on opening day. One of the proudest moments of achievement in my scholastic career was walking out of a particularly boring pre-calculus class, with a parental letter granting me full indemnity, in order to go see The Empire Strikes Back. It is good to know that I had parents that knew the priorities of a worthwhile education in the force.

Eventually the prequels came out. When I saw Episode I in the theaters, the sheer excitement of the throngs of Star Wars faithful was infectious. The news broadcast stories of people dressed in full Wookie regalia who had been waiting in line at their local movie theater for weeks. Sitting in the theater on opening day, when the frightening Star Wars logo burst onto the screen to the sound of John Williams sneezing, the response of the audience, cheering and screaming, was orgasmic. By the time the outdated blue credits sputtered onto the screen, we were all filled with shame and regret and the desperate need to take a shower. As anticlimactic as the junior miss episodes of Star Wars were, true fans like me still accepted them as a necessary part of the franchise, if only for the intrinsic hotness of Natalie Portman.

My friends and I sat in front of a gigantic television set for the now-much-hyped marathon. We cozied up on our separate couches and let the Doritos and caffeinated beverages flow. In many ways, it was what I had always imagined the life of an adult to be when I was a child. And yet, I never felt so childish as I did sitting there on a Saturday morning and accomplishing none of the actual responsibilities that I had in my life. But by seeing all of the movies in succession, it was as if my experience was heightened. I felt the frozen snot of an upside-down Luke on Hoth. I shed a little tear at the quickening of Yoda. I gave a slight fist pump when boy Anakin won the pod race. I moaned “Nooooo!!!” along with Vader a few minutes before the end of our experiment. We watched roughly 14 hours of film when all was said and done. My friend walked away from it a man, albeit a now nerdier man than ever. And I walked away with a greater connection to one of the greatest stories ever told.

My son, who just turned four, has recently discovered Star Wars for himself and is now able to identify in the most obscure of characters. Though he was somewhat upset that he did not receive the Princess Leia figure for his birthday, the battle-ready Yoda and clone fighter were enough to appease him for the time being. I look forward now, after my recent re-education, to being able to raise him up in the ways of Star Wars. I sense that the force is strong with this one—the force to become unreasonably obsessed with a series of movies. I will take him as my young padawan and together we will take on the mission of the Jedi; to protect the universe from evil and tyranny. Or at least build forts with the couch cushions and use paper towel rolls as our light sabers over the weekend. There will always be responsibilities waiting, but sometimes, you just need to go down to Tosche station to pick up some power converters.

The valentine cards my son will be giving out his first year of school.


Tricia said...

Lego Star Wars has helped me pass the legacy on to my kids. :)

Marsha said...

I want to go on record, that I have NO recollection of giving you any excuse note to attend a movie, of all things!
And may I say -- I've missed the blog. You are a very entertaining and bright spot in my day.

Rachel said...

I was startled when you classified Settlers of Catan as a nerdy variety of game. It seems you have made a terrible error due to the fact that I LOVE playing Settlers of Catan and I am far from being a nerd. Please make note of that and use a more correct classification in the future, such as: the type of game that only the coolest, non-nerdiest people play. Thank you.

mh said...

Would you do a Star Wars marathon again? Maybe I will add that to my bucket list. My 2 year old daughter makes light sabers out of spatulas, and walks around our house saying "Roger, Roger!" Even when her brother is at school she requests to watch the movies.

Dimond24 said...

I may or may not own a full fledged Darth Vader costume.

Once again your mom's comment is hilarious. Maybe you should have her post some of her versions of your stories.