The Force Runs Strong in My Family
I opened this article championing the “family” of Star Wars fans. It’s a very real thing. One hundred and fifty thousand of us traveled near and far and spent big money for the mutual love of Star Wars. Sith and Jedi, Rebel and Imperial – ultimately we’re all on the same side. Though that sense of family was real, it was also heavily marketed. The concept of fans as family was hammered home by big stage presenters and brandished across the con’s welcome banner, “Join the Worldwide Star Wars Family”.
From up on the convention center’s third floor balcony, we had a perfect view of the show’s social epicenter. Below us, four male Slave Dancer Leias posed for a picture. Several Disney princesses reimagined as Jedi congregated, including, much to our surprise, a fully vulpine Maid Marian. Troopers of every sort scattered the landscape. Some picketed the now ubiquitous Holy Bible Evangelicals with their own home made “Holy Trilogy” signs. My co-host, Doug, mentioned the reoccurring use of “family” to describe the fan population.
“Family,” I asked, channeling Elias’ Koteas indignant, De Niro-esque Casey Jones in 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “You call this … up here … and that … down there … family?”
Doug and I had a good laugh, but it was true. There’s nothing but love and respect in our hearts for the Clockwork Orange Stormtrooper or the flock of Willrow Hood impersonators running amok with their ice cream makers/ memory cores. Earlier that day, we’d been in line with a four-year-old dressed as Luke on Dagobah, sitting on his dad’s shoulders, singing the opening notes of “The Imperial March” on repeat. It wasn’t just adorable — that could’ve been either of us in another place and time.
Does our bond to Star Wars make us a cult? Or a church? The same rhetoric applies and it would seem the Godhead of Disney has no qualms about walking that line. Perhaps the difference is that for most of us, we’re not that desperate to belong – we just do. Star Wars is ours. Ironically, now that it belongs to an impossibly huge megacorp, Star Wars is more ours than ever. Fans run the company, fans act in the films — it’s a passion that surrounds us and unites us.
Of all the presenters to use the family rhetoric, there’s one whose intentions I don’t doubt for a second: Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself. During the Celebration opening ceremony, alongside Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, and Anthony Daniels, he reflected on the fandom and how far our passion has taken us all. “Over the years, my entire adult life, I’ve felt such love from you and … you’re more than just fans, you’re family.”
That sentiment is echoed in his voiceover for the teaser that debuted that day. “The force is strong in my family. My father has it, I have it, my sister has it … now you have it, too.” Luke’s monologue doesn’t just pass the torch to the new cast, but to the entire Star Wars fandom. We’re no longer limited by Lucas’ midi-chlorians. The force is ours and ours to shape.