Inspired by i09’s Exact Moment When feature, I’ve been thinking about my love for Star Wars. I can pinpoint it to one particular scene in A New Hope (which will always be called Star Wars as far as I’m concerned).
At 13, I’d already decided I didn’t fit in my hometown. I grew up in a church that believed in predestination. Only god knew who was going to Heaven. Nothing you did or didn’t do was going to affect your status among the elect or the damned. I was pretty sure where that put me on the spectrum.
In the summer of 1977, I hung between junior high and high school. My junior high friends were going their separate ways and I hadn’t met my high school friends yet. It didn’t really matter, because I lived on a farm with no one close enough to visit without a car, anyway. Driving was years away from me.
That’s where the library came in: my mom dropped me and my younger brother off there every Saturday morning when she drove into town to buy groceries. I read my way through the adult science fiction section, because these were the misty days before the invention of YA.
I don’t remember a bookstore until I discovered the Dawn Treader in Ann Arbor: a glorious warren of a secondhand shop, crammed into a basement full of towering, overstuffed shelves. Until that moment, my reading was strictly at the mercy of whatever the librarians stocked. Jules Verne led me to Ray Bradbury, who led me to Pierre Boulle. I read Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark books and Lin Carter’s Callisto books. I read Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard and anything else I could get my hands on. I read anything that would take me away from my small town, even though I never saw myself reflected in the characters in the books.
I hadn’t even heard of Star Wars before my mom took me and my brother to the movie theater. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had. I didn’t have the right vocabulary. I hadn’t seen the Westerns that inspired it or the WWI dogfights it quoted. I would be years before I saw The Hidden Fortress. At that point, I hadn’t even seen 2001. But I loved Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes TV show. In my room, I had a globe with all the craters of the moon. I remembered when my parents got us out of bed to watch men land on the moon. I remembered standing outside in the snow when I was little, staring up at the moon after we’d gotten home from Christmas Eve service, and imagining the astronauts bouncing across its powdery surface.
As soon as the blockade runner blasted across the movie screen, I was awed. Characters were introduced so quickly: the droids, the princess, Vader, Peter Cushing (whom I loved from the Saturday afternoon creature features on TV). It was hard to follow, hard to know who the central character was supposed to be.
The experience was amazing, but I didn’t actually fall in love until Luke puts his foot up on the berm and gazes into the twin sunset on Tattooine. John Williams lavish score swells — and my life had irrevocably changed. I finally, for the first time in my life, saw myself on a movie screen.
I was the farm child who dreamed of getting away. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be special. I longed for a teacher who would give me the tools I needed to make a difference.
Once I saw Star Wars, I could imagine a way out. Star Wars set my imagination on fire. It’s not too much to say that it rescued me.