Sunday, May 22, 2005

Unleashing my inner Princess Leia

As the media has built up to the release of Revenge of the Sith, I feel like we've only been getting one side of the Star Wars story this week--the boy's perspective. I've been a huge Star Wars fan ever since the summer of 1977, between 3rd and 4th grade, when I was first swept away by George Lucas' vision. Star Wars was the first movie that ever truly transported me to another universe, and I was the exact age to appreciate the magic of the first trilogy with fresh, uncynical eyes. I can also peg my life's timeline to the various movies. I wonder how many other women my age can pinpoint the exact moment they entered puberty to the day they realized that Han Solo was actually cuter and cooler than Luke Skywalker. (When The Empire Strikes Back first came out, I was upset that Leia chose Han over Luke--no one knew they were siblings then--but by the end of the summer of 1980 I'd been won over by Han.) And forget Princess Leia's much-discussed slave girl outfit. The first kiss between Leia and Han was the highlight of the trilogy for me.

The three-year wait between movies was agonizing. At age 14 I actually worried that I'd die before Return of the Jedi came out and I'd never see Han get rescused from carbonite deep-freeze. Recently Harrison Ford has been quoted as saying he tried to convince George Lucas to kill off Han Solo. I am thankful that he didn't get his way. I'd still be in therapy recovering from that one.

Despite Star Wars' huge marketing machine, they didn't make it that easy for girls to play, too. The small action figures didn't interest me that much, though one of the first purchases I ever saved up for with my own money was a 12" Princess Leia doll (which I still have!). I had a very cool Art of Star Wars book that I hid in my closet. I even hid my prized possession, my autographed photo of Harrison Ford that I received in response to the only fan letter I've ever written.

I wish now I didn't feel like I had to hide those treasures. I can't say now exactly why I felt embarassed by them. These days in my office I unabashedly display a composite photo of my husband Michael and myself digitally doctored to make us into Han and Leia.

I have lived in a different state when each film was released up until the two most recent, when I lived in North Carolina for both. The new movies don't interest me nearly as much. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were objectively bad to my adult's eyes, but I can understand how a new generation of kids would get swept up in them. We're going to see Revenge of the Sith tonight. I'm afraid of being disappointed, but at the same time I'm eager to see whether George Lucas can at least build a bridge that will allow our kids to enjoy the original saga.

And Princess Leia, you'll always have #1 fans in Gen X.

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