Star Wars Celebration Episode VI: Revenge of the Rich

It was getting late in the day and it occurred to me that I hadn’t spent money in a while.  I needed something that said, “Hey, I was at a Star Wars convention,” better than me simply saying, “Hey, I was at a Star Wars convention.”  So I headed over to the official merchandise store to see how best to part with my hard-earned cash.

There were plenty of t-shirts, but nothing that really jumped out at me (although the one with Lando saying, “Welcome to OrLANDO” came pretty damn close), and besides, clothing is terribly practical.  Although there was also a really neat bowling shirt that, had it not cost $60, would have gone home on my back in a heartbeat.  I really don’t need anymore hats, so those were out.  There was a beautiful set of books called Star Wars: Frames that consisted of over-sized prints of individual frames from all six films, personally selected by Lucas and stored in a nifty wooden display case with an embossed Darth Vader seal on it.  Fantastic presentation.  But seeing as it was $3000 and I like being able to eat and sleep under a roof, that was out.

I finally settled on a pair of mugs:  an “I Love Soundrels” mug with a picture of Han Solo on it for Hannah, and a Hoth Blue Milk glass mug for me.  It had the Celebration logo on it, it had a pretty clever sense of humor, and it could hold a lot of beer.  Win-win-win.

And about this time my flat feet were suggesting it might be a good idea to stop walking and get out of this place.  But I was overcome with the usual sense of melancholy and regret that I always get when I’m ready to leave a con.  Did I see everything I could?  Did I get my money’s worth?  What if that one cool thing is going to happen right after I leave?  There’s a sense of belonging when you’re surrounded by such a large group of people tuned to the same wavelength you are, and it’s hard to leave that and go back to the real world.  It’s been particularly hard at the GenCons I attended, where I was there for three or four days, and faces became familiar, only to be left behind come Sunday afternoon.

But things seemed to be winding down, my feet were hurting, and I wanted to get home in time to catch the first Buccaneers pre-season game.  So back out into the Florida heat and into probably the worst experience of the entire convention.

When I’d arrived, they had buses running people to the convention center at a pretty good clip.  But when I went to leave, I saw a really long line waiting at the shuttle pick-up, and a small bus picking up a handful of people.  Well, I thought, there’s bound to be another along shortly.  People are getting ready to leave. There I go thinking again.  I stood there for about half an hour, watching the line only get longer, until people from the back started streaming past me looking none too happy.  Turns out there was one shuttle running to all the hotels and parking lots.  At the rate I was going, I might get back to my car by the time the con re-opened on Sunday.  So I sucked it up and decided to walk, aching feet and all.

Of course, it rained.

So here we are, hundreds of words and six blog posts later.  What did I get out of the Star Wars Celebration?  Beyond the obvious aspect of being able to say I was there, and having tons of pictures and knickknacks to prove it, what I got out of it was that this whole thing started with a guy who just wanted to tell a story.  And like anyone, he’s not perfect and may have made some mistakes, but through it all he was just trying to tell the best story he could.  And along the way, parts of that story meant different things to different people, and that was okay too.  We were all in this one place at this one time because that story meant enough to us to want to be immersed in it, to feel a part of it, and maybe to feel a little validated in how we felt about it; if this many people shared that feeling, we couldn’t all be wrong.

It seems popular these days to be dismissive of Star Wars, especially in the wake of the prequel disappointment and Lucas’ continued treatment of the original versions of the films as some kind of red-headed step-children he’s embarrassed by.  People want to look at it as some dumb kids movie that too many people got too worked up about, something that takes time and effort away from weightier, more important movies.  And a lot of people blame its success for “ruining” Hollywood, as if somehow the cinema landscape before 1977 was this wondrous land of never-ending quality where no one was in it just for the money.  In short, they feel like in order to grow up, they’ve got to cast away childish things, and Star Wars along with them.

That’s their loss.  You can grow up, but not grow old.  You can challenge yourself with tougher, bleaker entertainments, and still enjoy the simple pleasures of a farm boy rescuing a princess.  You can put the toys and costumes away, and still wonder what it would be like to make a noble stand against evil with nothing but a lightsaber between you and the enemy.  You can be an adult and take on all those adult responsibilities, and still feel like a kid again, a few hours at a time.

That’s what I got out of the Star Wars Celebration; that it was a true celebration.  Of not just how Star Wars made us feel, and still makes us feel, but how far one person’s imagination can truly reach.

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