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.