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May the Force Be With Us

(Warning, there are spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi)

On Christmas morning, before everyone else had finished unwrapping their presents, Mom and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. We’d already had Chinese food for Christmas Eve dinner, and watched everything the Hallmark channel had to offer, so a movie and a bucket of popcorn were the next obvious Christmas rites for our Jewish family.


“Why can’t I go to the movie too?”

Sometimes I think that the Star Wars universe has as much to do with my world view as anything I learned in my Jewish Day School. The idea of the Force, an energy that exists within us and that connects everything in the universe, has always felt right to me; and the movies about the people who access it, and reject it, have always resonated for me as much as, or let’s admit it, more than, any bible story.

My first experience with the Star Wars universe was at age seven, when Return of the Jedi came out in theaters and my family went to the opening weekend. Jabba the Hutt stared down at me from the screen, dragging Princess Leia by a chain, eating unmentionable things, and laughing at what he could make people do. I fell asleep, because it was late, or because I was terrified, and I missed the Ewoks, my whole reason for going to see the movie. But Jabba was part of the resonance of the movies too: the darkness, the violence, the betrayals, were all real to me, as was the feeling that I might actually be alone in the universe; not just in my school, or my hometown, but in the whole freakin’ universe.

Anyway, we arrived at the theater early to see The Last Jedi, because there was no one on the roads on Christmas morning. It took a while for the movie theatre staff to catch up with us, so we were first on line for popcorn when they got there, and since we had nowhere else to go, we sat in our oddly uncomfortable reclining seats and watched half an hour’s worth of commercials and previews. Thank God for the bucket of popcorn. Except, I didn’t buy anything to drink, because I knew I couldn’t pause the movie for a pee break, so I was left with that puckery feeling in my mouth that made me wonder why I kept eating the excessively salty popcorn, seemingly against my will. There’s gotta be something added to movie theater popcorn that makes it addictive, but I don’t know what it is. Clearly this has something to do with the power of the dark side.

Finally, the iconic Star Wars music started blasting out of the speakers, and then the golden storytelling script was reeling back into space, and we were off!

I need to get this out of the way first: The Last Jedi is not a perfect movie. Someone forgot to edit the script, and managed to leave in nine or ten acts instead of the customary three or five. The movie seemed to end so many times that when it finally did end, I was suspicious. I thought another act might start to unfold under the credits. I can sort of understand the multiple almost-endings, because they gave all of the heroes and heroines a chance to save the day at least once. Sure, Rey is the titular Last Jedi, but there’s also Rose and Finn, and Poe and BB8 and Leia and, of course, Luke, and those icicle dogs, and Laura Dern, out of nowhere. But despite all of that, the movie worked for me.

I was worried that the long awaited return of Luke Skywalker would be a disappointment; that maybe he would be too bland or perfect in his old age. Instead, he was wonderfully grumpy, and he held the central message of the movie: you never lose people, even if they are far away, and even after death. That was a message I really needed to hear. Other characters filled out that message too, explaining it as part of the force. Yes, one of the bad guys creates the initial “bridge” between Kylo Ren and Rey, but there are other bridges that he has no role in, and even that one goes beyond his control.


The force was strong with this one.

I’ve had moments like that in my life, where I’ve almost felt like I could touch the hand of someone far away, or hear the voice of someone long gone. I can’t always tap into that network of everything, but when I can it is powerful, and bittersweet, because while you feel the connection, you feel the distance even more.


There’s something fitting about delving into the Star Wars universe during this time between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. This space is often filled with grief for what we’ve lost, and the darkness of winter, but there’s also hope and a sense of continuity. We sit in the movie theater and the music continues to play through the credits, and we know that the story will continue to unfold, soon.


Cricket is waiting.





Star Wars, Again


“What are Star Wars, Mommy?”

I was worried about seeing the new movie. I dragged my heels, afraid to be stuck in a movie theater, flooded with alienation and disappointment. The prequels were traumatizing, I guess. All of the hype and commercialization leading up to The Force Awakens has overwhelmed me, and I was worried that the old stars would just be there for cameos, and everything would be unfamiliar and boring and patched together.

Thank God I was wrong.

No spoilers, in case there’s anyone left who hasn’t seen the movie, but I loved it.

When I was seven years old, my school bus passed a movie marquee every day where they counted down the days to the premier of Return of The Jedi. I don’t remember if I’d seen Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back by then, or just heard so much about them that I was caught up in the excitement.

We went to see Return of the Jedi on a Saturday night, and the first thing I saw was Jabba the Hut, and I was horrified. Maybe I was already tired, but after a few minutes of watching Jabba the Hut stick his tongue out, pull on Princess Leia’s chain and shake his snotty belly, I fell asleep as an act of self-protection. I didn’t even get to see the ewoks!

I made up for it later, though, and saw each movie too many times to count. I loved the ewoks. It’s not so much that I loved the idea of a race of militant fluffy creatures with high pitched voices, speaking a language I did not understand. I loved that they were the perfect combination of teddy bears and puppy dogs. I would travel to the planet of the ewoks in my mind and spend hours there.

As a kid, I did not identify “The Force” with religion, even though Obi Won Kenobi (Obey One?) was clearly a religious figure. The force, to me, was the unspoken energy in the world, all of the bits and pieces of connections and information and energy that no one talked about or acknowledged. The force was all of the things I knew but could not articulate and the air was thick with it. I could feel it. It was the ESP-like knowledge I had about people but couldn’t explain. I would notice a facial expression, or a tone of voice, or remember disparate pieces of information, and in some part of my brain all of that came together and I knew things no one had told me. All the time.

I didn’t think of it as something I could harness and use, for good or for evil. I thought of it more as the threads that kept me attached to other people, so I wouldn’t feel all alone in the world.

Obi Won represented a grownup who would teach me and protect me and be kind and reliable. He was not Yoda, who was always speaking in riddles and making me feel stupid and not good enough, and he was not Darth Vader or Jabba the Hut, using their adult power against me.

By the way, I did not appreciate the redrawing of Jabba the Hut, in George Lucas’s re-edit of the original films, where you could see the lost scene of Jabba walking with Han Solo. It was just wrong that he could walk, that he was thin enough to pass through a doorway. No. Jabba was a giant slug in a dark cave, the most disgusting, hedonistic, immoral creature ever witnessed. He was there to contrast with the clean, precise evil of Darth Vader. He was the Id run wild: killing, eating, taking whatever he wanted without conscience. He was never on a diet.

This Christmas Eve, friends of ours gave Cricket and Butterfly Star Wars toys, one of which I did not recognize (the new droid), and the other was a storm trooper. The storm troopers never really had much impact on me, except that when SUVs became popular, every time I saw a huge white SUV towering over me, I thought of the evil empire. The girls are ready to see the new movie, and all of the movies that came before.


Butterfly thinks her storm trooper makes a nice pillow.


Cricket won’t let the new droid out of her sight.

Butterfly is like an ewok, in looks and in personality. She is childlike, and stubborn, and full of love and loyalty. And she thinks Chewbacca is a tall drink of water. And Cricket would like to have a light saber and a droid of her own.


“I’m an ewok?”


The force is strong with this one.

I ate all of my popcorn before the movie even started, because we got there early thinking there’d be a line on Christmas day. But I didn’t need the popcorn to distract me during the movie. I know that Mark Hamill was the least successful of the three lead actors in the first three movies, but he was the one who stuck with me. He was the heart of everything, and if he hadn’t been believable, none of it would have worked. Luke was me, and I was riveted to my seat waiting to see him, and now I can’t wait for the next movie!

Maybe I’m too old for the training, but I want to be a Jedi. I wanted to be a Jedi way back when too, but now it actually feels possible.