""Where were you?" he wrote.
I was fourteen. The closest theater to show it was a mall multiplex. Was it South Plains Mall in Lubbock? Probably.
Bananas, a pop culture magazine for tweens, described Star Wars as a space opera redux of "The Wizard of Oz". I was (and still am) a science fiction nerd, so this description left me cold. Pick up almost any largish sci-fi anthology and you'll see at least a few examples of refits of L. Frank Baum's classic as well as Lewis Carrol's "Alice" books, every fairy tale ever collected, and the entire canon of myths from every point on the globe. Maybe this proves Solomon's point that there is nothing new under this sun or any other. What could George Lucas possibly reveal about "The Wizard of Oz" that would make me want to sit through some Bug-Eyed Monster's iteration of, "Surrender, Dorothy"? I went because my friends insisted. They had seen pictures of feather-haired cool guy Han Solo and doe-eyed Luke Skywalker and they were in love.
The opening crawl started. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away..." I read on, and then watched on, immersed in the world of Star Wars. This was something different. It was not the passive tick-tock machinery of film making that had become a push-button sequence of manipulative moments: sit, watch, let the soundtrack telegraph what you're supposed to feel, rinse and repeat until the credits roll. This was storytelling that called for engagement. Every scene seemed to end with the unspoken question from the audience, "And then what happened?"
Star Wars appeared at the right time for my generation. We came of age at a time when the movers and shakers of American culture did not even pretend to try to shake off the chill that came when our parents' faith in everything they were supposed to trust crumbled away, leaving a thin, cold sheen of cynicism that was supposed to sustain and protect us. Star Wars allowed us to drop the cool and be gleeful kids who rode in the Millennium Falcon with Han and Chewbacca. When the house lights came up after it was over, we left the theaters wanting to be Leia or Luke or Han.
After goodness knows how many interviews we all get that George Lucas was a fan of Joseph Campbell. What wasn't so evident to our younger selves was how the first movie laid the groundwork for a mythology that was hopeful and empowering. It went beyond the pretty actors and great special effects that got us in the theater in the first place. It was the message that we could be our own heroes.