46 SC Exhibitions Magazine 2016 Twenty first century grown ups who bemoan the hegemony of fantasy based franchise mov ies which is to say most of us at one time or another have only our own youthful enthu siasms to blame But the first Star Wars trilo gy is also credited with opening up a dazzling world of fan culture liberating nerds and geeks from the condescension of their elders and the mockery of their classmates and placing their passions at the center of the universe Like rock n roll before it this cultural dispensation may not have been immediately respectable but it proved to be instantly profitable and endlessly renewable How new was it really History has a way of making novelty look secondhand Elvis made his indelible mark on baby boomer conscious ness by putting a white face and an adolescent pout on a style of black Southern music that had been around a long time Beatlemania was built mostly on echoes of Elvis and Chuck Ber ry Star Wars was if anything an even more self conscious throwback a film student s act of promiscuous homage a hodgepodge of styles and allusions In his generous slightly patronizing New York Times review Vincent Canby noted the movie s evocation of Flash Gordon serials and a vari ety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic Quo Vadis Buck Rogers Ivanhoe Super man The Wizard of Oz The Gospel According to St Matthew the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table George Lucas s fel low cinephiles could point out his debts to John Ford and Akira Kurosawa Star Wars might have looked like science fiction and played like an aerial combat film but it was also a west ern a samurai epic and at least when Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were on screen to gether a screwball comedy An exemplary act of what some of us would learn in college a few years later to identify as the distinctive post modern aesthetic strategy of pastiche But what at the time did any of us know about any of that If you were 11 in 1977 Star Wars was something new under the sun Which doesn t mean we thought it came out of nowhere There were action adventure mov ies multi sequel science fiction allegories comic books that had initiated generations of fans in the pleasures of serial narration There was The Lord of the Rings the books and Ralph Bakshi s animated movie Planet of the Apes the movie and the animated Satur day morning cartoon spinoff Star Trek Mad magazine Plenty of fuel to feed a fan s budding imagination All of those were the kindling and it s pos sible that if Mr Lucas hadn t struck the match the explosion would have happened anyway What ignited in the summer of 1977 may not have been only even primarily the love of a particular film In retrospect the larger phenomenon of Star Wars represented what looks like the inevitable product of demograph ic and social forces The great man theory of history always does battle with more deterministic accounts Here was the nascent population not yet known as Generation X hungry for novelty distraction comfort order mythology heroism whatever it was that our post 60s recessionary moment seemed not to be supplying All we needed was a baby boomer to give it to us get rich in the process and incur both our worship and our re sentment for the rest of our lives He would be the inventor but we would be the end users and we would make the thing ours What was true of Star Wars would be true a few years later of the personal computer And both would even tually provide a further generational bridge be tween the now graying X ers and the ascendant millennials But more about that in a minute I m the an cient mariner here and this is still my story I m not sure how many times I saw Star Wars the year it came out but I am certain that until the arrival of my children a DVD player and a copy of Toy Story 2 there is no movie I have seen as often in such rapid succession The novelist Jonathan Lethem two years older than I am has written in a piercing essay called 13 21 1977 about seeing it 21 times usually by himself during an especially painful period in his life I can t quite match that total and there was no pattern to the viewings I think my parents took me the first time Later I took my little sister Another time I went with a girl from my sixth grade class on some awk ward early approximation of a date At least one friend s birthday party involved a Star Wars outing Going to see it was in my recollection The cast of the original Star Wars Harrison Ford Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill Alberto Botella flickr

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