I grew up in a Trekkie household, in which neither of my parents were interested in Star Wars. It wasn’t that I couldn’t watch the movies, we just didn’t have them. I never saw them on TV, and none of my friends had me over to watch them. My cousins who enjoyed the films lived too many hours from our house for a sleepover. So I didn’t experience a galaxy far, far away until I was at the old age of 22.
I say “old age” because entering the Star Wars fandom as an adult made me feel like I was a grandma at a kid’s party.
Let me clarify: a kid’s party full of gate-keeping nerd-boys who don’t want anyone else in their club, ever.
As I’ve learned since my love affair with the Star Wars universe began eight years ago, fans of this franchise are often their own worst enemy. While there are many wonderful people in the Star Wars fandom, there are just as many who are determined to keep things the way they want them, the way they think Star Wars ought to be—they don’t want anything or anyone new or different from what they grew up watching (or reading).
When I encounter people like this, I get mixed reactions. Some are shocked that I didn’t grow up watching Star Wars, and proceed to tell me why it was integral to their own childhood and how I missed out and how my parents didn’t know what was good science fiction. Others just jump straight ahead to The Questionnaire. You know the one.
“Do you even know the right order to watch them in?”
“What’s the difference between a TIE fighter and an X-wing fighter? No, not the shape, I mean like the actual engine pieces and construction components and method of flying and types of ammunition.”
“How many midi-chlorians does Anakin Skywalker have?”
“Rey’s force sensitivity is too much for someone who’s never trained before. It’s just not realistic. How can you possibly think she’s a good character?”
“So how many Star Wars comics have you read?”
Sometimes, these people get in my head. There is so much Star Wars knowledge out there that I’m still learning and catching up on that I feel light years behind everyone else. And while I know fandom isn’t a competition, the diehards certainly make it feel like one.
Despite the desiderium I feel at not having this knowledge in my life, for the most part I appreciate that I didn’t see these films until I was in my twenties. Although dealing with obsessive fanboys who believe they are the only “true fans” is both frustrating and exhausting, I have a point of view of Star Wars that is unique and untouched by blinding childhood nostalgia.
It’s true that I’ll never know what it feels like to be a kid, looking up at the screen and believing the magic that Princess Leia, Luke, and Han created together in the first three films. I’ve never played with fake lightsabers in my backyard. I’ve never been certain that Han shot first. I’ve never stood in line for a Star Wars premiere. And I’ve never seen the original cuts of the films, so my impression will never be the same as what Marcia Lucas envisioned for viewers. (I actually like the new finale song at the end of Return of the Jedi, much to the dismay of the Collectress.)
But you know what else is true? Star Wars is for everyone, no matter your age or gender or race. Star Wars is a universal story about fighting oppression, seeking truth, finding acceptance within yourself, the struggle of duality, and dealing with loss. It’s a story that connects with people around the world because we understand it intrinsically. It’s the story of us.
Experiencing said story as an adult isn’t any less wonderful than the alternative. My Star Wars journey is its own type of magic, and you know what? Better late than never.