Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The Star Wars Party

TB attended a birthday party on Saturday with a Star Wars theme.

If you don't have kids around this age, you may not appreciate what that involves. The parents dressed in costume, and provided costumes for the kids. They made light sabers out of 'pool noodles,' and modeled a pinata on the Death Star. They saw a few scenes from one of the movies – TB hasn't seen any of them, and his descriptions were too vague for me to figure it out – and even had fencing lessons in the backyard. When he returned, TB was resplendent in his tunic and leather necklace, and was convinced that Star Wars is just about the coolest thing ever.

So, now we have to show him at least the first movie. Cultural literacy and all that.

I wasn't much older than TB is now when Star Wars came out. I remember being in the theater and being completely overwhelmed at it all – the opening scene with the battle cruiser slowly taking over the entire screen, the ominous sounds of Darth Vader as he boarded the rebel ship, and the roller-coaster feel as Luke and the x-wings made their way down the alley of the Death Star.

I also remember my Dad, who grew up in Tennessee in the 40's and 50's, laughing hard – he has a contagious belly laugh – at the 'canteen' scene, when the bartender says of the droids, “we don't serve their kind here.” After the movie, he explained to his uncomprehending 8 year old son why that was funny. And I remember wondering, for years later, why all the girls liked Han instead of Luke; had I figured that out sooner, it would have saved me a lot of time.

What I didn't realize was just how long a cultural life the movie would have.

Most of the cultural effluvia of my youth has been consigned to the outer reaches of youtube, or dvd box sets. TB and TG have no concept of the Fonz, or the Brady Bunch, or Mork, or Sweathogs. Sesame Street only slightly resembles the Sesame Street of my youth; the dvd of the first season actually comes with a warning label that it may be too intense for young children. (Now it's all Elmo, all the time. Bleah.) Some of the music of my childhood survives on XM Kids – TG does a falling-down-funny version of “Funkytown” -- but mostly as novelty.

But Star Wars is strong enough to survive the ewoks and the second trilogy. That's saying something.

In the early 80's, I remember being floored when a neighbor briefly rented a VCR and was able to show Star Wars in his living room. It struck me as simply incredible that you could watch a movie anytime you wanted, in your own home, without commercials. By the mid-80's, we had cable, and I don't even want to admit how many times I caught Star Wars on HBO.

In the mid-90's, just to show off, Lucas re-released Star Wars to theaters. TW and I saw it – before she was TW – in a theater packed with people our age saying things like “wow!” without irony.

Now our son goes to Star Wars parties, and comes back speaking of “Ooobi-won Kenobi” and the Bad Star. (Seriously, we need to show him the movie.) It has marked another milestone.

Now we have a few months to come up with a theme for TB's birthday. The bar has been raised. Somehow, I don't think a 'Gilligan's Island birthday' would quite cut it. There are classics, and then there are classics.

You could try for a Battlestar Galactica party. Then you'd have the old and the new working again.

There needs to be an update of Welcome Back Kotter. I mean, shouldn't every kid have a sense of who Vinny Barbarino was?! - TL
I bet TB would dig the Muppet Show episode with Mark Hammil. It's on DVD, and requisite family viewing.
The parents dressed in costume,

Good god. Is this required? I'm gonna go stand in front of the microwave for a while.
A more amusing question is "what pop culture artifacts from our childhoods should never, ever be used as a theme for a child's birthday party?"

A few suggestions:
--A Very Maude Birthday!

--Kramer Vs. Kramer

--Party at Studio 54! Including a pinata of a crescent moon with a coke spoon.

--The Aliens Birthday, complete with alien bursting out of the cake. "Blow out the candles you bitch!"

--Platoon Party!

Brother of Dean Dad and Dean Dad obviously share a genetic sense of humour!!

We are all Star Wars all the time around here. We've let both boys watch the original trilogy and Phantom Menace, but not the two where Annakin turns to the dark side. And thanks to Star Wars Lego on the Wii, we're also all about Indiana Jones now, although I won't let them watch Raiders either. It does my heart good to see them love the Star Wars movies as much as I did.

And FWIW, I always loved Luke best...
TW and I saw it – before she was TW – in a theater packed with people our age saying things like “wow!” without irony.

To parade-rain a little, I will say that I was not happy when I left the theatre in '97. I could feel the changes in the timing that re-edit did (namely the shortening of the tail end of the attack on the death star) and I thought they disimproved the film. The explosion improvements were too ostentatious for my taste. The original original was better and Lucas should not have messed with it. But then, I've come to see that it's sort of a career-long sophomore slump with him, THX 1138, American Graphitti, we both reasonably good movies, Stars Wars was great, Empire was great (thanks to Andre Norton) and Raiders was great and after that, whoa, dude, couldn't you have died in an airplane accident or something?

['But I'm glad your kid likes it, all the same.']
Lucas really should rerelease the original trilogy every few years, because there's nothing like seeing it in the theater. I was a teen when the rerelease came out, and a life-long Star Wars fan, and it totally blew me away.

I don't know what it says about me, but I always thought Han was the cool one, and Luke a total dork. But I always thought Leia was the coolest, though, and Threepio and Artoo were my favorites.

Total sacrilege, but I always liked the Ewoks, but maybe that's because I was a kid and am a total sucker for anything cute and furry.

Anyway, I'm glad the traditions of Star Wars geekery are being lovingly passed down to the new generation.
A group I worked with reserved a theater for a midnight showing of the re-release. Before the show started we were doing "the wave" while a guy led us in cheers. Ultimate geekosity!

I didn't mind the edits so much, but found myself forcefully thrust back into 1975 during the rebel briefing before the attack on the death star. Every rebel pilot was a man. If the film were made today, there'd be women pilots too. Much as I don't approve of Lucas tinkering with his films forever and ever, if he'd spliced some women pilots into that scene I wouldn't have been struck by what now feels like an anachronism.
Oooh, I so get the Han thing, and I still love Star Wars. I'm glad that another generation is growing up curious -- though I only really have time for the first trilogy.
How about a Schoolhouse Rock party? Or something from the Sid & Marty Krofft stash?

My husband is a regular reader of yours and sent me a link to this post. I've done a lot of reading/writing/surveying on how Gen X parents are passing on their childhood media favorites (Star Wars, Muppets, Charlie Brown holiday specials, etc) to their children. We should talk.
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