In "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," Peter Biskind's 1998 zeitgeist-defining book on American film of the 1960s and '70s, the author notes that "Star Wars" "woke up the studios to the potential of merchandising" and that the film's merchandising efforts "took on a life of their own...and added an incentive to replace complex characters with simple figures that could be turned into toys." (You can't hide, Jar Jar.)
If only toys were the limit. Nearly every character in the 1977 film has a cottage industry of product surrounding them. But we've always been partial to R2D2, the diminutive robotic friend of Luke Skywalker, and the myriad products he's inspired. To wit, a rundown of our faves:
The Soy Sauce: As the Web site, in glorious weird English translation form, states, "This tiny R2D2 can serve you soy sauce by your one-hand little move, leaning the R2 body a little to put appropriate soy sauce on Chinese or Japanese fried rice." Huzzah to the person who saw the little guy's rotating head and thought, "That's it! Soy sauce!"
The Trash Can: While the thought of chucking garbage into R2's head might psychologically disturb the most hardcore of "Star Wars" fans, this is way better than that overpriced piece of plastic you bought at Bed, Bath and Beyond. A good repository for those uneaten Chewy-bacca cookies. (Sorry.)
The Shampoo Bottle: So your living room, kitchen, bedroom and dining room are all filled from floor to ceiling with "Star Wars" memorabilia. Amateur. The true heads take their obsession into the shower and lather up with R2D2, which sounds a lot dirtier than it actually is.
The Fish Tank: The robot gets the aquatic makeover with this 1 3/4-gallon aquarium that's able to hold a family of small fish. You would think the dome's removable feeding door would be the best feature, right? Hardly. R2's eye has a built-in periscope so you can see down directly into the aquarium. Oh what an age we live in.
The Voice-Activated Droid: This 15-inch toy responds to over 40 commands including "Beep," "Move," and, depending on age, "Tell my mother I can live in the basement as long as I want." The toy comes with a mood status indicator, working utility arm and cowering feature if you ask if he remembers Darth Vader. (No. Really.)
The Board Game: We haven't played Trouble since childhood, so we still think the sole goal is to press down on the plastic bubble and then laugh hysterically. Here, the game has been adapted (co-opted?) into the "Trouble With the Clone Wars," where Anakin and C3PO have to save R2 from a force field. We still just want to pop the bubble.
The Projection Clock: This is the droid we've been looking for. Finally, someone puts Artoo's technological light prowess to use with this projection digital clock. "Normal LCD clock... also present." As if we would ever use that when we have this.
The Computer Case: Computers and "Star Wars" products are as natural a fit as you can imagine, so the thought of this computer case doesn't surprise us at all. This makes both the perfect computer accessory when in use and coolest paperweight when not.
The Hoodie: For when the t-shirt just isn't geeky enough. Although, we admit we'd love to see a dozen of these roam the streets in a pack and be the least-threatening gang ever.
The Cookie Jar: Not that it's difficult to convince children to eat cookies, but we'll cosign on this cookie jar with removable head. Also makes a good spot to hide that XXX "Star Wars" DVD you bought last month ("Star Whores"? "Jabba the Slut"?)
The USPS Mailboxes: A few years back, the U.S. Postal Service began installing R2D2 covers around select mailboxes in honor of the original film's 30th anniversary. While it was sadly only a temporary measure, it gave millions of Americans an excuse to write a letter for the first time in years.
The Tissue Box Pillow Container: Amid the mirth and frivolity of the series, we know there are some sad scenes that still get the diehards bawling. Enter this plush tissue box container. Now if only he could emit sympathetic bleeps if you're congested.
The Watch: As adults, we can't say that we would rock this watch at, say, a job interview or funeral, but for everyday use, I guess there are geekier things you could wear around your wrist. Oh. Wait. There's not. But we have to give credit to being able to move around the little R2D2 with the buttons on the watch. That's next level genius right there.