Thirty years ago, when I was about seven, my dad took me to a late-night showing of Return of the Jedi, at the old-time movie palace landmark RKO Keith at the end of Main St., where cobblestone still lined the center of Northern Blvd. I remember, at the movie’s close, walking out into the night air with my dad, to the center parking lot in the middle of Northern Blvd., bewildered by what I had just seen and having been introduced to a whole new world of fantasy.
Three decades later, the circle is now complete, as I have tickets in my hand for the opening late-night showing of Ep. 7, to which I will take my 8-yr old son and 6-yr old daughter. We’ll be watching it in the Houston Palladium, equally grand, but not quite as historic. I look forward with slight amusement to the bewildered expressions and awe of my own children after the movie.
I think stories like Star Wars show us there is a yearning in our collective consciousness for a greater Story – something true, something noble, something Good. It’s distinctly postmodern:
- the antiquated “relic” look of technology – shows the time of industrialization has come and past; and we are now disillusioned with technology. Returning to the earth (Tatooine) and its good forces reflects some of the same themes I am finding in the writings of Wendell Berry.
- an aversion towards fascist totalitarianism as seen in the Nazi-styled Empire – which seems to make a reappearance in Ep 7 The Force Awakens:
- it goes to show that postmodern themes still resonate; we’re still repulsed by / drawn to the same ideals as we were 40 years ago when Ep 4 A New Hope lit up the screens and struck a chord…
- we reject any grand scheme, beit political or religious, and yet we yearn for some greater story that is true – this yearning for a metanarrative. It must not be enforced dogma or else we will resist it, yet we long for “It” – whatever it is – to be big enough, universally true enough, so as to touch our souls deeply in a special way, and we all have to feel it.
- and of course, the spiritual bent of “the Force”. In the words of (who I presume to be) a now-aged Leia: “The Force – it’s calling to you… just let it in.” See if you can watch the preview and hear those words without feeling something tingle inside:
Maybe it’s the Force.
All to say that this saga continues to be the Story of our times; depicting our yearnings writ large on the screen. It is the only feasible metanarrative for us all because it is fantasy and demands no religious devotion or fanatical adherance. And yet people give it, showing that we will give our devotion somewhere…
I welcome this, in the same spirit of Tolkien and Lewis, who saw that fantasy was a gateway to reacquainting ourselves with Reality, while reality became less and less real. The stories indeed are true, but we have aged, stopped believing, grown cold cyber-appendages, and lost sight of the Spirit, the Good. Lewis would say, “It’s all in Plato… bless me, what do they teach them at those schools!” Sometimes fantasy is more real that reality, or at least points us back to it.
I, for one, as a person of faith, eagerly anticipate any resultant spiritual discussion. It’s a gateway. To talk about Star Wars is compatible to talking about faith, and that’s a beginning.