My first real memory is exiting a movie theater with my father after a screening of "Empire Strikes Back." My Dad turned to me, and asked whether I liked the movie. I don't remember what I said in response, but I do remember the feeling -- of absolute, total joy.
As a kid, I played with my "Star Wars" figures incessantly, rearranging them over and over in my Darth Vader head carrying case. As an adult, I still regularly wear "Star Wars" t-shirts (under my work clothes, of course) and have a giant Kylo Ren, a stormtrooper, and a remote control BB-8 on my desk.
So I was as surprised as you probably are when I realized: I don't want to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Actually, that's not exactly accurate, and it took a fair amount of searching my feelings to figure out what was true. It's not that I don't want to see the movie, exactly. I do want to sit down in that theater with hundreds of other fans. I do want to feel the anticipation as the lights dim and everyone cheers. I want to be transported (and let's be honest, probably burst into tears with overwhelming nostalgia and emotion) as the "Star Wars" logo slams on the screen accompanied by John Williams' classic theme.
What I don't want is to experience the period immediately after.
Right now, right here, at this moment is the most wonderful time to be a "Star Wars" fan... Because everyone is happy. And I don't mean just the fans, I mean the actors, too. New stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are bundles of joy in human form. Adorable droid BB-8 is covering magazines and getting more press than any number of toxic celebs. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are being total goofballs. And be honest: when, in the last few decades, have you ever seen Harrison Ford smile?
Sure, there's some grousing about the amount of "Star Wars" coverage. I'd argue for those of us living in metropolitan areas, specifically New York City, it's worse. There's the TV ads and trailers, of course. And every store in existence has at least one large display of "Star Wars" merchandise. But we also have posters for the "Star Wars" exhibition. Every taxi has a character poster on top. Yoda help you if you can wander through Times Square without get attacked by costumed characters. It's inescapable.
But for me, at least, all of these moments where I catch a glimpse of Rey, Finn, even Kylo Ren on top of a taxi are blips of happiness in the middle of a dark world consumed in gun violence, racism, and the bile the universe spits our way on a now seemingly hourly basis.
That's the key to why I don't want to see the movie, actually... "Star Wars" has always been, for me, more than just the movies. It's the images, it's the quotes; it's the toys and shirts. It's the culture of hope that surrounds George Lucas' vision, that everything from the logo font to the iconic sound of a lightsaber that digs down deep into the primal area of my gut, yanking me right back outside that movie theater with my father.
What I realized is that with everything that's happened in the anticipation, the build-up to the December 17 opening of the movie... I'm good. Honestly, I was probably sated back in July when I was lucky enough to see a surprise John Williams concert at Comic-Con with 6,000 fans waving lightsabers (not to mention the cast of the new movie). I realize not everyone has had an experience like that, but I get that same exact feeling every time I hear a snippet of the music, or rewatch the trailers. I'm happy in this moment.
What I'm not looking forward to is the moment right afterwards, when we start to analyze and break apart the movie. And we will... Even if "Force Awakens" is the most perfect movie ever made, within minutes we'll be inundated with jokes on Twitter. In under 48 hours, parodies will start appearing on YouTube and late night shows. Movie "mistakes" and "honest" trailers will point out perceived flaws. We'll turn our Sauron eye from "Where's Luke?" to spoilers for the next two films in the trilogy.
We'll discuss, analyze, and break apart the movie because we'll have moved from the heart, to the mind. From feeling, to thinking.
And we should! You need both parts, the heart and the mind to properly discuss art. For me, though, "Star Wars" has never been an intellectual pursuit, it's an emotional one. It's not about the jockeying between the Empire and the Rebellion, or the First Order and the Resistance. It's moments. The moment when Luke looks out on the twin suns of Tatooine and hopes for some other life. It's Leia saying, "I love you," and Han saying, "I know." It's the moment when Vader rejects everything the Empire stands for to save his son.
And in real life, it's those moments, too: carrying a fully inflated Darth Maul chair back to my college apartment because it cost $3; bringing Chewbacca around the MTV offices two years ago on "Star Wars" Day, and watching everyone flip out; and yes, that moment with my father, looking up into his face and knowing (without knowing) what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
It's that feeling of joy that's been going across the world for months for now. It doesn't end with the release of the movie, necessarily, but it moves into the next phase -- the one that's more complicated, and less innocently pure than the one we're in now.
That's where I want to keep living, the moment before "Star Wars." But I won't. We won't. Pretty soon, we'll all (myself included, let's be real) sit down in the theater as "Force Awakens" hits screens. And when we do, whatever happens, try to remember that feeling you had, right now. Try to recapture it and let it never go away.
Because the movies come and go, but somewhere out there, a kid and his Mom or Dad will be exiting the theater after "The Force Awakens." They'll look down and ask, "Did you love the movie?" That kid will look up at their parent, and in that moment? They'll know.