May the 4th Be With You: What Star Wars Means To Us

Star Wars has been around for over 43 years, and has impacted the lives of so many people. With An Accent decided to share some great memories about Star Wars to celebrate May the 4th. What the franchise means to them, how it impacted them in a positive way and was a force for good in their lives.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Those ten magic words have enchanted audiences for over forty years. Star Wars has grown quite a bit in those forty-three years. Fans have come into it in a number of ways. Be it on the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy. Maybe it was through one of the television shows, or the novels, or video games. However one came into Star Wars, makes you a Star Wars fan.

The fandom has grown, which means more voices, which sometimes leads to conflict. Some fans don’t want to share their space, some fans think only one aspect of Star Wars is true Star Wars. Fandom is a tricky thing, particularly when it comes to Star Wars. Fans have been debating since The Empire Strikes Back (which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year). Every installment since the original has been declared ‘the best’ or ‘the worst.’ Star Wars has been critiqued, analyzed, and fiercely debated. It almost has gotten to the point where it’s no longer fun to talk about. It seems scary to express what you love about Star Wars without someone coming at you on why this part of it you like is actually bad. Star Wars has been pulled into a culture war with a strong sense of toxicity.

Yet despite all the arguing, Star Wars has brought so much joy into people’s lives. The world is a better place because Star Wars exists in it. It has delighted kids for years, who then carry it with them as they get older and are then able to pass down. We become Jedi knights to pass down our teaching to padawans of our own. It reminds us of our friends and family, and even people who are sadly no longer with us. Star Wars reminds us of the magic cinema can bring. To transport us, to entertain us, and to inspire us.

So inspired by May the 4th, we’ve decided to share some of our best memories about Star Wars. How our lives were impacted by the existence of this franchise. How Star Wars has been a force for good.

Valerie: I’m one of those people who quite literally doesn’t remember a life without Star Wars. I was born in ’79, and my parents are both big science fiction fans. It’s always been a part of my life. I even have one of my toddler shoes sitting on the end table next to me, and it’s got the Millennium Falcon on the side, and in the treads at the bottom. Star Wars has just always been there.

But it really became an important part of my life in 2002, when at the recommendation of a friend, I joined the Star Wars Line organized by in support of Starlight Children’s Foundation at what is now the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA. I never meant to do more than visit her there, and maybe see the movie (because of course I was gonna see that movie). Instead, I spent countless hours there hanging with people who would shape my life in ways I never would have imagined. This was before Superheroes and nerds were #1 every week at the box office. When it was still uncool to be a nerd. When you could still show up on the day at SDCC and get your badge no problem. Through Star Wars, and the Line, I found my tribe. Nearly all of my closest friendships can be traced back to the Attack of the Clones line, and my involvement in it, even if some of those friends never set foot in the courtyard of the Chinese. I even met my husband there. 

And nothing will ever compare to the feeling of walking into the Chinese that first time (I had never been inside), with a crowd full of people I knew were like me. There to live in the moment. Nerds, and proud of it. Ready to enjoy (or not) a film about a small group of people trying to change the world a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Ready, for a few hours at least, to escape into a world of fantasy and heroes, all while surrounded by people who were there because of a mutual love for Star Wars.

All these years later, we have different opinions on the films and everything else that goes with them. But many of the friendships and relationships linger. And it’s all thanks to Star Wars.

Angela: Star Wars to me is both imagination, excitement, and adventure, and comfort, family, and home. It’s no surprise that a mythology-loving geek such as myself would fall so deeply for a story set in the stars. George Lucas always made it clear the influence mythologian Joseph Campbell had on Star Wars, so it’s a story that incorporates as many fantastical themes as it does the more forward-reaching new-discovery themes more common in science fiction. That’s part of what’s made it so timeless: it transcends genre and contains motifs that have endured for centuries.

But what really makes Star Wars stand out among my myriad formative stories is how it’s communal. It’s like a shared language for those of us that grew up with it. It’s the shared first language, in many ways, because while we all have countless varied obsessions, Star Wars is the most common, basic one. And it also was the lingua franca nerda among my family. There’s no other one piece of media that everyone in my family all loved at the same level, no other jointly shared “fandom,” as it were. Years ago my mom stopped bothering to see movies in the theater, but to this day her one exception is Star Wars. I’m pretty sure she’s the real reason, not myself nor my brother, that we had a subscription to Star Wars Insider for years in my childhood.
The fact that we can all gather here, 40 years from the release of the second film, shows its enduring power. We might not all agree on all the same points – or on all the films – but nothing can take away the community that Star Wars has given us.

Kathryn: As much as I love to nitpick them, the prequels were the movies that got young me hooked on the franchise. There aren’t many movie experiences from my early childhood days that I remember clearly, but going to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in 2003 is one of them. It was a big deal. To the franchise has been a part of my life for so long, thank you. You mean more to me than you know. Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! May the force be with you. *raises a glass of blue milk*

Andrew: While I understand the original trilogy is superior and I’m also one of the many who agree The Empire Strikes Back is the greatest Star Wars movie ever made, one of my fondest memories involves The Phantom Menace. Before the prequels received the backlash that they arguably deserved, there was a time when we were all equally excited for the release of a new Star Wars movie. I remember The Phantom Menace releasing in May of 1999 and myself in middle school at the time just as excited as anyone else to see the official beginnings what is now dubbed The Skywalker Saga. I remember my older brother picking me up after my last day of school that semester and the two of us walking over to our local movie theater; a theater which has sadly shut down in recent years. Too young to understand everything wrong with the movie, I loved every second of it and saw it another 2 or 3 times in theaters after that. Since then, like many others, I’ve developed some negative criticisms of The Phantom Menace, but I can still watch it today with rose-colored glasses and transport myself to a time where we were all just excited to see Jedi, droids, blasters, and lightsabers on the big screen again. And while it no longer lights up, my red double-sided Darth Maul lightsaber from 1999 is still intact.

Jessica: Star Wars has pretty much been a constant presence in my life—I remember the summer my dad showed me and my brother the original trilogy for the first time when I was maybe seven or eight years old. I was obsessed! We’d make wrapping paper tubes into lightsabers and duel with each other, spend hours playing with action figures. That following Halloween I dressed up as Princess Leia, who became one of the first female characters I looked up to. And I still do. Star Wars is one of my “comfort” fictional worlds—no matter how many times I’ve seen the movies or series, I’ll always watch them again. As I’ve grown up with them, I’ve learned to appreciate different parts of the trilogies and the world Star Wars created, the characters who’ve become familiar, the new ones I’ve already become attached to. All of this, I think, helped to shape me as a storyteller. And that central message of hope still sticks with me.

Miranda: Star Wars music never fails to lift my spirits. John Williams made our favorite movies all the more memorable through his music, and Star Wars is no exception. We hear a few notes and we are immediately transported to a galaxy far, far away, on an epic quest of good versus evil. The power of the music transcends any flaws in the films’ vision.

Williams composed so many iconic pieces for the series and among the most often referenced are the “Main Theme” itself, “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme), “Duel of the Fates,” and “Across the Stars” (Anakin and Padme’s love theme.) But my personal favorite is “Rey’s Theme” from The Force Awakens, because it effectively captures the spirit of wonder and adventure that is at the heart of the Star Wars films. This piece starts off soft and simple, just like the lonely scavenger who lives an ordinary life, and as the piece continues, the music swells beautifully as if drawing this strange, courageous nobody into an adventure beyond her wildest dreams. “Rey’s Theme” is the beginning of an unforgettable journey and I never tire of listening to it because it always fills me with hope for the future and the promise of something extraordinary just beyond the horizon.

TatianaStar Wars was a way to connect to my eldest cousin, who lives and breathes for the galaxy far, far away. He was all too eager to show me the original trilogy – although the films were dubbed in Spanish – and teach me that Leia was a strong, independent woman who didn’t need but also didn’t mind no man. Then, when I returned to the United States, Star Wars became a way for me to connect to Hayden Christensen, who was really cute in Life as a House.

Finally, with the last of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars has become a way for me to witness firsthand how representation can revitalize even a half-century old franchise. Even if it also unfortunately connects me to a darker underbelly of fandom that I must avoid battling at all costs.

Richard: It is easy to go back to a childhood memory of Star Wars, and trust me there are plenty. I even have the stereotypical ‘I saw Star Wars as a kid and wanted to be a filmmaker’ story that every filmmaker has. But Star Wars delighting you as a kid is one thing; Star Wars still being able to bring joy as an adult is another entirely. That seems impossible because the way we consume media is different in those two aspects. As we grow older we become more cynical, more critical, more skeptical. Originally it was just the movies, but now it is so much more. There is hype, expectations, the legacy of the original trilogy, and the prequels to deal with. The corporate politics of making a movie. How can Star Wars make me feel like I did when I was a kid? Could it ever? But the day Star Wars came back, it felt like the return of an old friend I thought I would never get to see again.

I still remember where I was when they announced Disney was buying Lucasfilm and we would get new Star Wars films: the dining hall of ASU, Pitchforks, getting lunch before class. I looked at my phone right as the news broke, so all there was at the time was a headline and the ‘story still developing.’ The world felt like it was shifting, even though nobody around me was reacting at that moment (because nobody knew, this didn’t break on the news over a bunch of televisions, I was just looking at my phone). It was the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, who would be around? So I ended up calling the one person I knew who wouldn’t be busy to tell the news: my grandma.

In 2015 I did two original trilogy marathons. One for memorial day (May 25, 2015) with some family members because there was nothing else to do that day. We had already seen Age of Ultron twice, Mad Max Fury Road, and had no interest in going to see Tomorrowland. So we ended up making some hot dogs and drinking some beer while we watched the original trilogy. Then in December, about two weeks before the Force Awakens opened, with me and a bunch of film school buddies. We ordered some pizza, made some popcorn, and went through two entire twelve packs of soda. Watching the movies was great, I of course love watching them, but the best part was spending it with my friends and family. We weren’t just marathoning the movies; we were making a memory.

Force Awakens was probably one of the most exciting movie events of my adult life. I remember needing to ‘use the bathroom’ during my shift at Starbucks but it was all just an excuse for me to sneak off and to watch the premiere of the trailer and buy my tickets. I got tickets at the AMC Arizona Center, the very same theater my mom took me to see The Phantom Menace for the first time. We eventually made that AMC a tradition, as it would also be where we saw Rogue One and when I came back in town for the holidays where we saw The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.

I ended up taking my grandma (the one I called the day the news broke) with me on opening night, along with my parents and my best friends from college, two of which would be married the next year and would ask me to be the Best Man in the ceremony.  The Last Jedi was the first Star Wars movie I saw opening night without my mom and dad because I had just moved to California. My return trip for the holidays was December 15th, but I couldn’t wait to go see Star Wars. So my roommates and I decided to get tickets for the opening night at the Pacific Theater at the Americana. And despite not being with them I knew somehow we were all connected because we were all still watching it. When I returned home for the holidays we would all be able to talk about it. Much like the force itself, it binds us together.

My friends who were married by this point said they wanted to come to visit us all out in California, and we decided the perfect time would be Memorial Day weekend which so happened to be the opening week of Solo: A Star Wars Story. If they were going to come out to Hollywood to see a Star Wars movie, we didn’t want to take them to just a normal theater in a strip mall. We wanted it to be special. We got tickets for the first showing at the Arclight Dome, a Hollywood staple. The next year my friends told me the big news: they were pregnant, and he would be due shortly after Rise of Skywalker…and then the baby decided to arrive a few days early. He was born on December 19, 2019; the day the movie opened. He was a Star Wars baby. And it hit me so hard. On the day the Skywalker Saga was ending, the legacy would live on in this kid. His parents would show him Star Wars, and he would have more Star Wars than I did when I was a kid. It will look different, but it will be his Star Wars. It will mean something.

Where am I going with this? Did I just recount a bunch of the films releasing? What does that matter? A piece of art needs to be discussed in the context of the culture it was born into and the world in which it was received. These were not just released dates of movies, they are markers for cherished moments in my life. Some of my best holidays as an adult are now so closely associated with Star Wars. Four of the five Disney/Lucasfilm Star Wars films came out the week before Christmas so it became the major topic of discussion during the holiday family gatherings. My grandmother doesn’t go to the movies very much, it is hard for her to walk through the lobby. But every holiday she has come with me to see Star Wars. They’ve become family events and as much part of the tradition as Christmas dinner. Force Awakens was a week before Christmas, things were in full swing but I somehow ended up with Force Awakens ornaments on the tree. The next Christmas when Rogue One came out I remember getting so many Star Wars themed gifts, including a blanket from my grandmother and Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe book that I read through in a week. That holiday season was also when we lost Carrie Fisher, and while it was a great tragedy that sent shockwaves across Star Wars fans and the larger film community, the overwhelming love and support for the Princess of Alderaan was palpable. She would never truly be gone. For Last Jedi, I remember taking my family to go see the film the day after I got back into town, something I would do again for The Rise of Skywalker. The hype for these films, early anticipating the trailers and talking about them with friends over lunch. I became as invested in characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Rose, and Kylo Ren as I did the characters from the original and prequel trilogy. Most of the stuff I buy when I go to Disneyland is Star Wars related, and I could spend all day wandering around Galaxy’s Edge. Even now in quarantine, as I’m separated from my friends and family a small comfort I awarded myself was buying Rise of Skywalker on digital early and just marathoning the sequel trilogy. Because even when I’m alone, the force (and by extension Star Wars and the people who have seen it with me) are always beside me.

Star Wars is something that was a big part of my childhood. I thought this specific feeling would never return because I was told it was done. I always loved it but I had accepted the fact I would never see a new Star Wars movie again. It would be before a younger generation’s time. I was lucky to have experienced it. But now we are getting more and that’s amazing. I get to experience the hype for Star Wars all over again, and I get to watch a younger generation discover it for the first time.

Even now, eight years since Disney announced they would make more Star Wars films, with the sequel trilogy complete, I can still say I’m just as excited as I was that day in the ASU dining hall, or when I was eleven years old watching the DVDs by myself. I cannot truly express the sheer level of excitement I get when I talk about Star Wars. I get to welcome my eleven-year-old self back, and it feels good. Obi-Wan told Luke ‘the force will be with you, always’. Star Wars, be it the films, television shows, comics, books, games or whatever, will be with me; always.

Thank you for reading everyone. Please share your Star Wars memories and experience with us. May the 4th be with you.