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As a Star Wars fan, the Force is always with me

Entering the theater Friday night to watch “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the coda to the newest trilogy and the nine-film Skywalker saga that began in 1977, I was giddy with excitement. (I ended up watching it twice last weekend.)

As a proud cinephile, much of my life has been shaped by the great movies I have watched and none have had as much impact than the “Star Wars” films. 

Ever since I first watched the original trilogy on VHS as a young, elementary school kid, the films have been a critical component of my childhood.

I can vividly remember trying to orchestrate a complicated lightsaber battle — albeit one with brooms — with my dad in my backyard similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul’s final epic confrontation in “The Phantom Menace.” 

For a Halloween event at my elementary school when I was in either fourth or fifth grade, I remember thinking how cool I was dressed up in my Jedi wardrobe as a young Obi Wan, complete with his long, trademark Padawan hair braid.

In high school, for my senior project, I labored over what topic to choose before coming back to the familiar trappings of George Lucas’ adventure saga. I ended up researching the religious aspects of “Star Wars” — and believe me, there are many.

As a young child, I collected “Star Wars” figurines and comics; as an older teenager, I bought numerous replica lightsabers; and last Christmas, I even received a signed movie poster from Daisy Ridley who plays Rey in the newest trilogy.

The films have also helped me forge stronger bonds with friends and with family members. I remember playing (and usually winning) a “Star Wars” trivia board game with one of my good friends that asked some of the most obscure questions and helped refine my knowledge of the universe and all of its many planets and characters.

I have come to really cherish all of the films, even the ones that have their fair share of flaws, because they exist and are still part of this magical, whimsical universe.

Aside from the fantastic battles and memorable characters, what I have always enjoyed most about the “Star Wars” universe is the incredible imagination and ingenuity it took to create. And the fact that it was created first and foremost for children. 

And I think that’s the point. The films were never primarily intended for adults — that was never creator George Lucas’ intention. He instilled the movies, especially the original three, with clear themes — good vs. evil, the power of hope and friendship — that would serve as guideposts for young children as they grow older.

During the “Star Wars” 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2017, he explained his intentions behind his universe. 

“It’s a film for 12-year-olds,” he told the crowd in Orlando. “You’re about to enter the real world. You’re 12 years old. You’re gonna go on in the big world. You’re moving away from your parents being the center focus. You’re probably scared. You don’t know what’s gonna happen. And here’s a little idea of some of the things you should pay attention to: friendships, honesty and trust and doing the right thing. Living on the light side, avoiding the dark side.”

As “Star Wars” has saturated every fabric of our society, it’s easy to forget the films are essentially examinations into the lives and decisions of seemingly ordinary people — Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker and Rey — as they approach adulthood. Who will they grow into and become? Will they turn to the dark side? What is their destiny? 

These are questions we all face in our lives. We all have some sort of destiny or path before us we must encounter. Though it might not be filled with intergalactic space battles, we all face our own personal dark sides, whatever they may be.

The films also stress the power of learning from the past and learning from our mentors, whomever they may be, who have so much to teach us, if we only stop and listen. 

One of my favorite scenes in “The Last Jedi,” released in 2017, comes when Luke Skywalker is talking to Yoda, now a Force ghost, about his struggles to connect with Rey, his quasi-pupil.

“I can’t be what she needs me to be,” he tells Yoda.

“Heeded my words not, did you?” Yoda tells him, in his wonderfully iconic syntax. “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure, also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

“Star Wars” has taught a generation of young people that it’s okay to fail as long as we try and that we should aim to grow beyond the people (parents, teachers, etc.) who are there to guide us–as they would want us to do. What sage advice.

As “Star Wars” films and television shows continue to get released each year, the underlying universe continues to grow and expand, while becoming increasingly more diverse and inclusive. There have likely been more prominent female characters and characters of color in the latest trilogy (Rey, Finn, Rose Tico, Jannah) than the previous two combined.

As I get older and encounter more challenges in my life, I do my best, in Lucas’ words, to stay on the light side and avoid the dark side. But no matter how complicated my life might get, the films are a security blanket for me. When I watch them, I’m a kid again. The world seems bigger, brighter and filled with infinite possibilities. 

Thanks, “Star Wars,” for the countless memories — and the lessons.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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