July 15, 2018
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“The Last Jedi”: I’m just glad to be invited

Sarah Smiley | BDN
Sarah Smiley | BDN
Sarah Smiley
By Sarah Smiley

Did I like the new Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi”?

To answer, first I need to tell you this:

A long time ago (no, actually, it doesn’t seem that far away), 4-year-old Ford would not stop singing the Batman theme song. By “singing,” of course, I really mean “humming,” because the old Batman song has exactly one word in it. That word is Batman. Then, if you’re “singing” the song, there’s a lot of humming. And when you’re 4, you do this over and over again, basically until you go to bed.

My husband, Dustin, was so annoyed with Ford’s incessant humming — even if he did look really cute dressed up as Superman but singing “Batman” — that sometimes he couldn’t be in the same room. “The song has just one word,” Dustin would say, pulling at tufts of hair on his head. “One word, 4,000 times a day. It’s too much!”

One day, Dustin came out of his hiding spot in our bedroom and into the living room quite abruptly. Veins were popping out of his forehead, and he was clutching an old VHS tape in his hands.

Ford only stopped humming to say, “Hi, Dad.”

“Okay, Ford, it’s time for me to share something with you,” Dustin said as he shoved the VHS tape into the player below our television. In no time at all, the familiar sound of trumpets heralded the opening notes of John Williams’ Star Wars theme song. The outline of yellow block letters was rushing backward, followed closely by the words of the opening crawl for A New Hope.

“Maybe this will make him forget Batman,” Dustin said as he sat down next to me on the sofa.

Ford stood in front of the television with his eyes wide and mouth hanging open. Owen, then just 2-years-old, was next to him.

Ford has been humming the Star Wars theme song ever since. Yes, for 13 years straight.

Star Wars has been a part of my world for nearly as long as I’ve been a mother. It has monopolized all of our Halloweens and birthday cakes, and for many years, the underside of the boys’ beds was filled with miniature Star Wars figures and Lego sets. Ford dropped the Batman phase and never looked back, just like Dustin had planned, but Star Wars has been with us every day since.

Our youngest son, Lindell, never had a choice for his Halloween costumes when he was a toddler; his brothers dressed him as R2-D2. And before long, Lindell was hooked, too. Slowly, his sheets and walls were covered with Star Wars, too.

At first my boys liked all the spaceships, lightsabers, and, of course, the funny droids. However, as the boys grew older and their understanding of narratives expanded, they became aware of the political undertones of Star Wars. They made connections with world events and how George Lucas’s writing was affected by the Vietnam War. They understood the subtle and muddied nuances of good versus evil, which had seemed much simpler to them just a few years before. They began to talk about how the music reveals or connects themes across different episodes. And they made predictions about where the story might go in the future.

In other words, in the past 13 years, the movies have not changed, but my boys have, and they relate to the stories in new ways.

When “A Force Awakens” came out in 2015, a decade after the last installment (“Revenge of the Sith”), it was like an unexpected gift. It was also somewhat of a national holiday at our house.

We counted down to the release like we were waiting for Christmas, and then we went to the theater together. I wasn’t even sure if I cared about “A Force Awakens,” but just like Ford staring at the television when he was 4-years-old, I was swept up in the excitement.

Throughout the years, I’ve also taken the boys to see “Star Wars Live,” a symphony in Boston, Massachusetts, and I’ve celebrated May 4 (May the 4th be with you) like it’s an honest to goodness holiday. I’ve made Death Star waffles and Yoda pancakes, and I’ve bought up all the Star Wars shirts. I even learned how to play the theme song on the piano.

When “Rogue One” came out in 2016, I bought the tickets a month in advance, just like the year before, and we counted down the days. We did the same for “The Last Jedi” this month, and I took the boys to see it at 7pm on a school night. Because, you know, it’s Star Wars.

Recently, a friend asked, “Did you like the movie?” and I immediately said, “Yes.”

Then I paused. “Wait, I’m not sure,” I said.

My friend looked confused.

Did I like it as a movie in general? Meh. But Star Wars as an idea has been my boys’ childhood since before at least two of them were teenagers with lives of their own.

I think maybe I liked “The Last Jedi” simply because I like that I’m still invited to tag along. Someday, I know, Dustin and I both will miss that humming.

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