Finally taking a moment to write about one of the best Star Wars articles I have ever read: FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 “Star Wars Killed a Universe to Save a Galaxy” and to comment on this chart:
See that depression from 1987 to 1993? I remember that well. It was a dark time for Star Wars fans.
I was born the year Star Wars hit theaters – the far left of the above chart. It was just “Star Wars” back then – no one called it “A New Hope”. Hope wasn’t the word, phenomenon was. Star Wars was the biggest phenomenon on the planet, smashing cinema records across the globe.
By the early 1980s, I was growing up in a Star Wars world. The Empire Strikes Back was one of the first movies I saw in the theater. I don’t remember it, but it set off a cascade of Star Wars commercialism and fandom. Within the next few years, I had action figures, space ships, magazines, patches, shirts, bed sheets, lunchboxes, place mats, plates, cups, birthday cakes, desk lamps, books, LPs, cassettes, breakfast cereal, Halloween costumes, and dozens of the old Marvel Star Wars comic books.
I saw Return of the Jedi opening day. I had The Ewok Adventure and Battle for Endor on VHS, and watched the Droids and Ewoks cartoons.
Although I had some GI Joe and some He-Man, I was all into Star Wars.
By the mid-1980s, however, Star Wars began to fade in popular culture. And in my suburban Long Island town, the New York Mets were the big thing. They had Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and were World Series champs. Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca took a back seat to playing pick up baseball and following the Mets. The Mets were cool and Star Wars was old news.
When I moved to Florida in 1987, I bonded with kids over baseball. No one liked Star Wars. Star Wars was yesterday’s movies, a trilogy that had run its course in pop culture. It was during this time that I put my fandom in carbonite.
A few years ago, I wrote about how deep froze my fandom was for over 10 years.
All through junior high, high school, and my four years in the military I suppressed my Star Wars fandom for what could only be called “the sake of fitting in”. Like most people who struggle with social acceptance in junior high and high school, I definitely didn’t want to be an outcast. In the military, with it’s alpha-male heirarchy, sci-movie geekdom is not looked highly upon – although I did hang with some folks who were fans and we did wait in line for three hours to see Episode 1 the night it opened.
Junior High to my military days were 1993 to 2000. After I bought the Timothy Zahn novels and the Dark Empire and Old Republic comics, played X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and Dark Forces on the PC, and had other toys and media.
But the Star Wars drought (1987-1993) was at a weird time for me. A time when social circle mattered, when sports and girls took precedence, and despite a few books and a few video games, there really wasn’t much out there to invigorate my fandom.
It was a dark time for the Rebellion.
This is one of my “in my day, we trudged the ridges of Hoth barefoot, uphill both ways” stories. I am glad Star Wars is so tremendously huge these days. I am glad the galaxy is so big, so many people can find their niche and create more stories. I am glad I can share my fandom with the next (and even next after that) generation.
I will be very curious to see if Star Wars ever goes through another 10 year drought. I seriously doubt so, at least during my lifetime. Star Wars is now in company with older mythology in universe creation. Star Wars my be owned by Disney, but it is bigger than Disney. It may even be bigger than Greek or Roman myths in regards to popularity. There may be times when people dust off the Original Trilogy because they haven’t watched the Skywalker story in decades. There may be a time when the Skywalker Saga is just one of many different chapters in a grand epic collective story of a galaxy far, far, away.
And when human civilization dies off, and real aliens discover Earth, and uncover our myths and legends, I wonder what they will think of our imaginations.