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Thank You, Star Wars

Tomorrow, an end will arrive 42 years in the making. The Skywalker Saga – which started with the titular Star Wars in 1977 – will finally come to a finish with the release of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. I’m counting down the hours until 7:30 PM tomorrow. 

Although it isn’t the end for all Star Wars movies and other forms of media, I’m a little sad to see the Skywalker Saga come to the end. Let’s be real, for the majority of those 42 years, the focus has been on the Skywalker family and their stories in that galaxy far, far away. Episodes I-VI were the story of Anakin Skywalker, and I am praying that IX proves to be part of his story, too. As of now, the only Skywalkers alive in IX is Leia Organa (born Leia Skywalker) and her son, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (half a Skywalker). There are many theories to how Rey fits into the story and may secretly be a Skywalker, but I’m of the belief that Episodes VII-IX are actually the story of Ben. There are many unanswered questions to IX (The droids and Chewbacca better survive), but I am confident that JJ Abrams will bring a fitting end.

But 42 years. Star Wars is the story that just kept growing. One trilogy, we’re done, oh let’s do another for the prequels, we’re done, and now we’re wrapping it up with three more. I was just a kid when Episodes I-III were released, and I still remember the wonder I had at going to each of them. Even though we knew how that story was going to end (Anakin becomes Vader, twins are born, Empire takes over), watching it all unfold was captivating. I never understood the hate that the prequels got. Star Wars is Star Wars. I get the same thrill every time I go to see a Star Wars movie for the first time, and when The Force Awakens came out, I was near tears I was so excited. In 2005, I had believed that Star Wars was over, forever. Then, ten years later, it was to begin again, and I had no idea what to expect. I was a kid again. It was thrilling. Even though I didn’t love The Last Jedi, to me it just meant that eventually, one of them had to be my least favorite. And my excitement for The Rise of Skywalker, well, somehow, it keeps managing to grow as we get closer. The limit doesn’t exist. 

What is it about Star Wars that has infatuated generations? As long as I can remember, I’ve been a Star Wars fan. My dad had the actual, original VHS of the original trilogy. Then we had the Special Edition VHS. And now I have them all on DVD or digital. I’ve had countless action figures and toys. Shirts. Books. Funkos. Bottle openers. Steering wheel cover. Salt and pepper shakers. If you can put Star Wars on it, I’ve probably had it. I even have a tattoo that says “May the Force be with You.” I just got laid off from my job, and my best friend sent me these motivational books Be Like Yoda,” “Be Like Lando,” and “Be Like Leia” as pick-me-ups. As a kid, I wrote a letter to George Lucas and got a message back from Lucasfilm and some cool patches. 

It is a cultural phenomenon. Look at Baby Yoda – he is apparently taking over the Internet and the world. I have never seen anything so universally adored. But Star Wars is everywhere. Dozens of shows have parodied it – it even had a parody movie in the Mel Brooks’ classic Spaceballs. Countless shows have mentioned it. Who in the civilized world doesn’t know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father with the misquoted, “Luke, I am your father?” Star Wars didn’t just change the movies – it changed global culture. There is a Star Wars equivalent for everything and anything – at a craft show, someone had toilet paper that said, crudely, “Come to the Dark Side.” What other movies make such an event of releasing their trailer? But what is it about these movies that people love so much? 

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is front and center in each trilogy: Anakin, Luke, and Rey. We watch a nobody – a slave, a farmboy, and a junk trader – become something greater than they could have ever imagined and make a difference. And isn’t that truly what all of us really want? To make a difference? All three wanted to be someone more than what they were. And they did it! They went for it, and became more than they could imagine. It is a story of adventure, and most of us like being swept up in an adventure story. It is the classic story of Good vs Evil – but also the belief that good can remain in evil. You have Luke successfully bringing Anakin back to the Light, and now we have Rey convinced that there is still good in Ben/Kylo Ren. 

Who didn’t want a friendship like Chewie and Han, C-3PO and R2-D2, or even Anakin and Obi-Wan (prior to that fight on Mustafar). How many people have responded, “I know” to their significant other’s “I love you,” with Han and Leia in mind? It is universally accepted that there is nothing cooler than Darth Vader entering a room to “The Imperial March.” How many kids have used wrapping paper rolls in fights, making lightsaber sounds, and imagined what color lightsaber they would have? Mine would be green, by the way. Or pretended to fly the Millenium Falcon or an X-Wing? Despite it taking place so long ago and so far away, we can see ourselves in the story. It draws us in. We dream of being a Jedi Knight or Rebel pilot. It takes us out of our world and into an entirely different world. It sparks an imagination that some of us left behind in childhood, or rather, keeps it alive. 

As a writer, it absolutely amazes me what George Lucas was able to do. He didn’t just build a new world – he built a galaxy. His story has lasted more than forty years, and it shows no sign of stopping. As a storyteller, I know that only 98% of us will have a fraction of his imagination and success, even accounting for outside influences (Like Flash Gordon)

It isn’t just stories of adventure and courage. There are also themes of growth, learning, and failure  As Yoda said, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” And you don’t need to be in a galaxy far, far away to learn something from that. If you think back on it, there are a lot of examples of failure in Star Wars and what happens when you don’t learn from it. There’s a lot of learning from others’ mistakes. Star Wars is filled with whimsical, wise tidbits throughout the series. 

The late, great Carrie Fisher once said “It’s about family. And that’s what’s so powerful about it.” And I do think that is part of the draw. It is about family. In the original trilogy, it’s about a son’s desperate attempt to bring his father back and protect his sister. In the prequels, it is a husband’s determination to save his wife and unborn child which ultimately become his undoing and result in the son having to bring his father back. The sequels show a man, lost, feeling disconnected from his parents and their desperation to bring him back. Light and darkness cycle through this family, but what remains is love and hope. Anakin’s love made him do anything to save Padme and their child(ren). Luke’s love for Anakin Skywalker convinced him that Anakin was still there, alive. Han Solo and Leia’s love for their son, Ben, had them convinced that Ben could be saved, and Han was willing to die for that. And it’s Luke’s love for his sister that causes him to give her a chance to flee to safety and also tell her what he’s known since he saved their father: No one is ever really gone. 

This love leads to another theme – hope. Someone – Padme, Luke, Leia, and Rey – believe that there is still good in their loved one who turned to evil. They believe there is a chance he can be saved (The Skywalker women never turned to the Dark Side, by the way). It is this hope that continues a journey – although in Padme’s case, it is eventually passed onto Luke.  Perhaps the greatest lesson of all these movies is that of. hope. Each movie ends on a hopeful note, that better days are to come, that they are still fighting. There is no force (see what I did there?) greater than hope.There is hope each time someone says “May the Force be with you/us.” They believe in something. The Force gives them hope. As Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso say in Rogue One, Rebellions are built on hope. Star Wars shows that you can always find hope.

The Skywalker Saga may end, but the story will live forever. I look forward to the day where my future children learn about the Skywalkers and the ways of the Force. Thank you, George Lucas, for giving me the movies that changed my life and stories that have influenced me as a writer. Thank you, Disney, for bringing Star Wars back to me in ways I thought were over forever. 

Thank you, Star Wars, for teaching me about bravery, failure, friendship, love, and so much more. Thank you for showing me that hope exists,  even in the most dismal of times. And Star Wars shows us what hope can do – from the hope that two children can someday help save the galaxy, to finding and stealing your enemy’s weakness, that a son can save the father, or simply that they are there to fight another day – there is always hope. Thank you. May the Force be with you, always.

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