In 1977, I was barely a teen and a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an avid movie and TV watcher — as much as a kid could consume. So when I heard that a film set in space was getting a lot of buzz, I was curious. And the buzz around Star Wars was immense. All the other kids were talking about it, as well as the adults, and I had to see it.
My grandparents took my sister and me to our first viewing at the iconic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. When that gigantic, seemingly never-ending Imperial Destroyer appeared, I was awestruck. When I saw Luke Skywalker, I was in love. When I saw Leia, I was intrigued. Star Wars had everything a little girl could want: action, handsome heroes, a princess, cute sidekicks, and a happy ending. But it also created in me a huge sense of wonder: What were these planets? What was the Force? Could I have my own lightsaber and R2-D2?
Most importantly, the princess could hold her own and didn’t need saving because she was capable of saving herself. To be fair, I didn’t see it that way at first; I crushed hard on Luke Skywalker and then Han Solo, and Leia was an impediment in my still-forming mind. However, the more times I saw the film, the more I began to see that princesses didn’t need to wait for princes to save them. They were tough. They were capable. They took care of themselves.
Something started awakening in me. It would take years to come to fruition, but a little bit of the internalized patriarchy in me was being chipped away, and it had big ol’ cinnamon-roll hair on it.
Then there was the tech. The ships. The weapons. The hyperspace (when it worked). The special effects, which felt ground-breaking. So many creations to spark my imagination and have me going on my own adventures in my dreams. I was Leia, holding a blaster, making plans, running around the galaxy with my trusty droid and a handsome boy by my side long before Finn trailed after Rey and BB-8. Sometimes I had a lightsaber, because of course girls could wield them even if we hadn’t seen it onscreen yet. I was a kid. This was all in my imagination’s wheelhouse.
Despite not being old enough to drive and barely old enough to take the bus by myself, I managed to convince my parents to let me see the film in theaters six times — twice with my sister and the rest by myself because she was satisfied after two viewings. I was thrilled to stand in line for hours with other kids and adults who loved the film the same way I did, talking about our favorite parts, making sure not to give anything away if anyone around us hadn’t seen it, comparing all the other science fiction and fantasy works we enjoyed, debating Star Wars vs. Star Trek. As a baby nerd, this was heaven for me.
Inside the theater at each viewing, there was laughter and amazement. There was cheering and clapping during the exciting parts. We are all one with the Force.
Star Wars remains one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it more times than I can count. Seriously, I lost count around viewing 230. I have it on VHS, Laserdisc, Blu-Ray, and DVD. If it could be uploaded to my brain, I would do it. I know where every error and funny part is; I can recite whole scenes by myself. I’ve explicated the meaning more times than my friends care to remember.
Is the film a bit clunky? Sure, it has a bit of a shaggy dog quality and a lot of errors (Coke can, anyone?), but George Lucas was making myths, and myths need time to grow. It was simple and straightforward and earnest. Luke was a hero in the making and wouldn’t reach that status fully until Return of the Jedi.
In retrospect, it was an amazing time, and my little kid mind was blown wide open by Lucas’ creation. Traveling from planet to planet, meeting new life forms, talking to droids, avoiding Darth Vader, using the Force — it was all life-changing and thrilling in a way Star Trek wasn’t because it was mine. It came out when I was old enough to see it firsthand instead of in retrospectives and re-releases. It was my movie, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite viewing experiences despite all the tinkering around Lucas did with it over the years. It will always just be Star Wars to me, A New Hope and crawls and enhanced special effects be darned.
It even crept into the stories I wrote with friends in high school. Their fiction had started in a world with dragons and magic. I brought in bad-ass princesses, Indiana Jones, and the Dream Police, though Robin Zander made an appearance in the Luke Skywalker role.
And yes, of course, even in those stories, Han shot first. Greedo was going to kill him; what else could he do?