Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why I spoiled Star Wars:The Force Awakens For Myself (Spoilers)

At the drive through window my wife said she honestly didn't understand why I was so upset and had been for a couple days.

"They aren't real" she said, adding  "no offense".

In 1983 12 year old me sat with his family on the same night at the same time as we always had and tuned into the broadcast of the finale of M*A*S*H.  As Hawkeye was carried aloft in a final helicopter ride and saw B.J.'s last "Goodbye" spelled out in rock I sobbed. My mother asked me what was wrong and my father (I am sure) said something derisive about "being too sensitive". I told them I didn't want "them" to go. "They" were my friends and we were saying goodbye.

Alan Alda's Hawkeye has always reminded me of my father, a tall lanky insubordinate smartass. There is a shot in the original Star Wars where Han Solo, piloting the Falcon away from chasing Star Destroyers silently looks determined and yet smug. 

Han Solo reminds me of my father too. He, Luke and Leia are also my friends and have been for 37 years. 

I didn't have many friends growing up. I was a chubby mixed breed with greasy light brown hair. I was bullied a lot for being too smart, too ugly, too boisterous, too shy, too sensitive. I grew out of (and back into) chubby, grew into glasses, grew into (and out of) weight lifting. It took 35 years to grow out of being bullied.

I turned abrasive, and hard to know. I maintained a small friend ratio in the real world.

I was never bullied by my other friends.

As I mentioned in my recounting of the Star Wars Marathon, the original film was a spinal tap into my dreams. I collected everything I could about Star Wars. I read Splinter in the Mind's Eye, the Han Solo trilogy, the Lando Calrissian one shot. I read Starlog. I bought action figures and vehicles, model kits and even eventually a mini-figure diorama of Jabba's palace in which I painstaking and sloppily painted each figure myself.

When the Special Editions were released in 1997 I was delighted, as like all of us I hadn't seen the original trilogy in a theater in over a decade. I waited in line for a week at the York theater in Toronto to see The Phantom Menace in 1999. I made new friends real and imagined, including a dude who spent one hundred thousand dollars on a home theater setup that needed 240 volt power and ran electrostatic speakers in 1999.

I spoiled The Force Awakens because I suspected from the moment the cast was announced and shooting began that Harrison Ford would kill my friend.

(I also have enormous issues with the filmmaking of TFA. While beautiful looking, and delightfully fun, the movie is a mess of co-incidence and short cuts. It feels like a much longer film that had an entire subplot excised for time and covered with reshoots.)

The death of Han Solo was heartbreaking. I wept silently as a young woman behind me sobbed. The movie had shuddered to a stop. The sturm and drang of the climax as modeled exactly on the end of Star Wars was meaningless, as were the plot points that followed. 

I had stopped caring. Ford had brought his A-game and achieved his greatest wish. He killed Han Solo with the help of Lucasfilm, and Han's death is unearned.

Unconsciously I grieved and I was so shaken coming out the theater I wondered if I would care to continue to watch Star Wars movies. Three and a half decades of my life disappeared and I mourned their loss.

I had spoiled TFA for myself to prevent this very thing from happening. Ford's various appearances at promotional events gave the trick away, as he seemed (to me) to finally realize that what he had been rejecting for so long was unfiltered love from the fans.

Even as the movie unspooled exactly as I had read over the previous year I held out desperate hope. The details had changed but the broader themes remained so I hoped, I hoped right up until Han Solo fell into a bottomless chasm, betrayed by one he loved. I felt betrayed and abused in my love for Star Wars.

"They're real to me" I choked to my wife at that drive thru and wondered about my sanity.

I am told I have a lot of mirror neurons which give me greater than average empathy. I have been told that my abrasive nature is a direct result of having been hurt throughout my life because I am "too sensitive". I am told there is nothing wrong with me.

I miss my friend and wonder if it worth risking being hurt again.

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