Monday, December 12, 2016

A Reel Opinion: The Christmas Spirit Awakens

A long time ago (actually, a few years back), when Lucasfilm and parent company Disney announced that the 7th episode in the STAR WARS saga, sub-titled THE FORCE AWAKENS, would be released in December (2015), as opposed to the traditional month of May (all six films prior were in that month), there was a great disturbance in the hardcore fanbase. Millions of voices cried out in terror; blasphemy they said, it’s not right, they said. And Disney’s billion-dollar investment seemed to be getting off to a start that wasn’t entirely stable.
In the end, it didn’t matter…for THE FORCE AWAKENS wound up being one of the biggest box office draws of the year and in all-time history (which means, a lot of people showed up anyway), and most of those angry voices were suddenly silenced. But with the rest of the STAR WARS films slated for December for the foreseeable, always-in-motion future (including this year’s first spin-off, entitled ROGUE ONE), those familiar cries are rising again. Geek-culture, especially long-time STAR WARS fans, can be an oversensitive lot; and after all, the six STAR WARS films which were released in May basically rewrote the rule-book for blockbuster films as a whole, and the month is still considered to be an un-official STAR WARS month in pop culture.
But as a First Generation fan, this Blogger can argue that STAR WARS is right at home in the month of December. As a young Padawan in the late 1970’s and 80’s, December always meant Santa would be bringing new STAR WARS toys; new figures, ships, playsets…and maybe an inflatable lightsaber to bop the little brother with. For years, Christmastime always meant STAR WARS time, and Lucasfilm knew it from the start. The franchise was one of the first, if not the first to market itself on the toy market. With a universe filled with likeable heroes and spaceships, it practically sold itself and it changed the toy industry forever. Even during years when there was no new film in theatres, there was still that hope of finding a new planet, hero, or spaceship under the tree. For kids, Christmas means toys, and no other toy in the galaxy came close to the fascination and magic that a STAR WARS toy would bring, and to this day this Blogger’s family still manages to sneak in at least one STAR WARS-themed gift every year. 

But the firm foothold the franchise has on the holiday season isn’t limited to just marketing and selling toys. Cable stations began running marathons of the first three movies over 20 years ago during the holidays, and would eventually add the second trilogy to their programming. STAR WARS-themed decorations and greeting cards are easy to find, and John Williams’ magnificent music has a whimsical, holiday feel to it. Even the very early days of the franchise knew it had a holiday connection; the well-intentioned, yet ill-fated STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL aired on TV in 1978.
So in a way, STAR WARS is truly home in December. For the first generation of fans the holidays can trigger an asteroid-field’s worth of childhood memories to fly through; memories of new toys on a Christmas morning which would inspire their imaginations to revisit their favorite scenes or to create new ones, and memories always awaken the holiday spirit in everyone. They remember the term, “let’s play Star Wars”, which became a battle-cry for a generation of kids, and in the end, the young are what STAR WARS is all about. On the original production notes for STAR WARS (1977), series creator George Lucas quoted from the preface Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote for his non-Holmes novel, THE LOST WORLD:

I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man
Or the man who’s half a boy.

Merry Christmas, and may the Force be with you.

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