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To quote another enduring franchise:
“After all this time?”
I was six years old when I first saw A New Hope. Over the course of the weekend, my dad showed me the rest of the films in the trilogy, as well as The Phantom Menace which had recently been released on VHS (that should give you a clue about how long ago this was). I remember sitting way too close to the TV, rewinding the scene where Luke looks at Tattooine’s twin suns over and over again.
I’m 22 now and as I write this I’m wearing a Rogue One t-shirt. Rey, Jyn Erso, and Bodhi Rook action figures sit on my desk at work. A signed copy of Chuck Wendig’s tie-in novel Aftermath is prominently displayed on my bookshelf. I can name any given Star Wars character in a scene, and more importantly I have strong opinions on all of them.
Star Wars is going through a renaissance right now. Between a new trilogy kicked off by the excellent The Force Awakens and a new series of anthology films filling in the breaks between trilogy flicks, not to mention the kickass animated series Star Wars Rebels and the excellent novels. Still, it’s not the world’s biggest fandom, with the MCU and DCEU fighting for the crown of best cinematic universe and Harry Potter coming back for an unexpected renewal.
So why care about a franchise that prides itself on cheese, optimism, and some unarguably terrible moments?
First off, Star Wars is cheese, but it’s quality cheese. The original films have shaky effects and terrible dialogue, but brim with so much heart that it’s impossible not to love every single second. And true, the prequels are not particularly good and mark a somewhat dark era in Star Wars history, but the Clone Wars animated series more than makes up for the missteps in Lucas’s overly CGI-ed series.
And now we come to the Star Wars renaissance, with new Star Wars content on the horizon for the foreseeable future. It’s hip to like Star Wars again, with The Force Awakens smashing box office records like the Empire’s AT-ATs smashed Rebel defenses on Hoth and major stars vying for coveted roles in the ever-expanding series.
But most importantly, Star Wars has re-emerged at a time when we need it most.
When the original Star Wars debuted in 1977, the Vietnam war and political unrest dominated the news. The movies reflected the grimness found in the culture, and A New Hope was aptly titled in that it was a burst of fantastical joy and hope for a world that deeply needed it.
Star Wars is a fairy tale, not necessarily meant for children but for all ages. It’s a story with princesses and knights and smugglers. It’s a story about ordinary people discovering the powers inside themselves and fighting to right great wrongs. And prequel trilogy aside, most Star Wars films end with a victory. The heroes survive and struggle and win. No matter how cheesy a medal ceremony might be, or dancing Ewoks, they are still reminders that good does triumph over evil.
The Force Awakens and what we’ve seen of Rogue One are a welcome return to the hope of the original trilogy. “As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance,” Poe Dameron tells his team as they prepare to fight the First Order’s massive superweapon. “We have hope! Rebellions are built on hope,” Jyn Erso tells the gathered rebels in the Rogue One trailer as they face insurmountable odds.
Neither of these films falls prey to the cynicism present in a lot of blockbusters. In an era that’s built on destroying the idea of superheroes and good guys, these films firmly stand by their heroes. They have elements of bittersweetness – we still don’t know who from Rogue One will survive, and plenty has been said of the tragic current statuses of the original trio – but there is ultimately hope.
There’s also heart too. In a year when we had two films based on superheroes fighting each other, star Felicity Jones confirms that Rogue One’s team will genuinely care about each other. Rey, Finn, and Poe are all close and fast friends who have each other’s backs, even when it would have been easier to write them as bickering and distrustful of each other. The films, prequels aside, are about the enduring power of love and friendship. In a time where the political divide is as strong as it has ever been, that’s another message we could use more of.
There’s an earnestness to Star Wars that makes it endure long after the fanfare of the opening crawl fades. You can find yourself in the stories, and they’re a balm to the tumultuous political situation we find ourselves in. Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Rey, Finn, and Poe will always be there for us, to show us that courage and hope can always be found, and that’s what the world needs more of nowadays.
Current obsessions: Star Wars, the Star Wars cast, Shondaland, any and all sci-fi TV shows, diversity in YA novels, yoga, red lipstick, female characters, coffee, sloths, my cat, having too many opinions about pop culture.
Kate grew up along with the rise of the internet and as a result spends way too much time having lots of opinions and picking fights about female characters. She saw Star Wars when she was six and has been ruined ever since. Her bylines have appeared on Women & Hollywood and AfterEllen.com, and she one day hopes to write and direct professionally. Until then, she spends her free time geeking out about pop culture from a feminist perspective and playing with her cat, Poe Dameron.