Sunday, June 12, 2005

On Being a Fan

Za finally wore me down and got me to see Episode 3 of Star Wars at the Senator Theater. A unique feature of viewing Star Wars at the Senator was a 6 minute documentary showing before the main feature. A young lad from Baltimore filmed the Star Wars fans waiting to buy tickets for episode 1 back in 1999, and then the fans who lined up this year. It is a real treat to see some of these same guys, older, fatter and yet still Star Wars committed. You see them fighting each other with plastic light sabers, playing bongo drums, and of course the fans in full costume (either a storm trooper or Darth Vader). The documentary also is full of hilarious dialogue, e.g. some young men are laying down in sleeping bags and report that people keep driving by and throwing things at 'em.

But, being that melancholic thinker sort, I couldn't help but realize how little I resemble these Star War fans. Afterall, Za finally got me to go (after 2 margaritas). Well, he also said: "Star Wars is very important to me." Ok, so I went. But, I felt really alien if not a bit lonely. These odd Star War enthusiasts have a complete community, and it seems a rather accepting community organized around a long-lived passion for Star Wars.

When we entered the theater and I looked around at all of the young kids, I reflected back on the very first time I saw Star Wars (episode 4). This was when I was 7 years old in a movie theater that probably doesn't exist anymore. My parents took me and my brother and we were mesmerized. I still have not forgotten the famous "bar scene" in that episode, or Chewbacca (who my brother can still imitate). I remember forcing my parents to line up for the Empire Strikes Back a few years later ("Luke, I am your father."). So, I had something like a fan nature when I was little. Does being a fan of something require a child-like disposition?

When the film started, I was giggling the same way the 7 year old did when R2D2 made his silly squealing noises. I loved R2 when I was a kid. I still love him. And, then the film progressed and I realized that to really get into this episode, to love it like those fans, I had to remember my 7 year old self. I had to suspend my years of "critical" training (especially, the critic I am of film) and be mesmerized by the story that started when I was a kid.

I felt sort of sad that I didn't have kids of my own to watch this with; many of the folks in the audience who were my age brought their children.

I am still a bit disconnected from Za's passion for Star Wars. I tried to conjure some of it up Saturday. But, he is a fan and I am not. Being a fan requires, it seems, for you to protect part of your childhood from your adulthood. I have gotten too old. I find it either a waste of time, childish, or a bit looney for people to line up the night before to get movie tickets or concert tickets. I don't have posters of my favorite bands up anywhere. Damn! I am sort of tarnished. Because I think that fans have a joy for life that I want desperately to reclaim and to share!