Monday, March 19, 2012

Mortified In The Darkness.

A long time ago, in a movie theater thousands of miles away… a nine-year old boy's heart was broken.

Early June, 1977, Boston, Massachusetts. It was the best of times—mainly because I didn't know any better. There was a mad buzz about this new Star Wars flick. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I bugged my Mom for weeks to take me to see it. She had heard of it and had VERY little interest–but with my persistence (Can we go, huh? Can we? Can we go? Can we go, huh? Can we?), I was able to sway her to the dark side and coerce her to plunk down the $2 ticket price to take me to the flick that everyone was talking about.

Star Wars changed my life! It was big, loud, inventive full of imagination and wonder and showed off some of the best Sci-Fi anyone had ever seen anywhere! EVER! I was a fan for life, hooked from the moment the lights dimmed. 
Oh Snap! They make movies like this?
The Death Star blew me away (ha ha! get it?) and I remember seeing that opening Star Destroyer sequence as it roared by overhead for what, at that time, seemed like weeks! Does this fantastic thing ever stop? It's huge! The audience was gasping and transfixed. Lasers bursting, loud explosions, the sound effects. I was on sensory overload – and I was loving every minute of it!

Then, the most unbelievable realization hit me – one that will haunt me to the end of my days. Some people attending the movie actually had NO IDEA what they were watching when they saw that movie. It completely dumb-founded some movie-goers.

Like, my Mom.

Somewhere between taking off from Mos Eisely and being caught in the Death Star's space-monster-ridden trash compactor, my Mom and her boyfriend both went to sleep. Through Star Wars? Really? How is THAT even possible?

(snoring, shudders awake) "– oh, what?"
"Wake up!"
"Oh, ok…"

"You, quit napping during the movie!"
The concept of someone falling asleep during what was one of the greatest action movies ever made, was impossible for me to comprehend. I was bewildered, astonished! Even to this day. Look, I understand a lot of people didn't (and–gasp! — still don't) enjoy these movies on a level that I do, but to fall asleep? Really?

I have heard accounts of how people back in the early days of silent cinema would go to the movies (then exclusively silent films, sometimes with music–they didn't become "talkies" for decades), and would literally run screaming from theaters because a locomotive was filmed coming down the tracks at the viewers and they thought it was a real train bearing down on them. Or like the infamous War of The Worlds radio broadcast from 1938 where people had actually thought we were living through an alien invasion from Mars.
"People everywhere loved Star Wars–even PEOPLE!"
It has also been said that people in 1977, were largely unprepared for the hi-tech visual and sensory onslaught that became the Star Wars franchise. It’s been further theorized that audiences didn't have a background of special effects exposure, scientific understanding and experiential maturity to fully grasp what Lucas and company presented to them back in '77. 

Some dismissed it as 'foolishness' (a common critique Star Wars enjoys even today) or simply disregarded as an incomprehensible collection of wild, out-of-this-world ideas. When this happens, our brains can feel overloaded and will simply shut down. Or, my Mom simply might not have cared about what she was watching and thought that dark theater was a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep from raising a hyper nine-year old over-stimulated by imagery from campy space movies.

Losing their 'train' of thought...
Whatever overcame them had the exact opposite effect on me. I am a fan boy—a hopeless addict of this stuff for life. What’s more, I have raised a household full of hopelessly addicted sci-fi, gaming and comic book nuts. Yes, even my teenage daughter knows more about the ridiculous details of the Battle of Endor (Ewoks took down the Empire? Really, George?) than most adults.

Maybe my Midi-chlorians are all in an uproar over the thought of my Mom sleeping through Star Wars but I think if you’re a person that dozes off at a Star Wars movie, well my heart is saddened by the loss of the bright-eyed child in you that has long since died.

In the now less-than-prophetic words of Jedi-master Yoda; “Tragic news this is… and unfortunate.”

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