“Shine More Light on the Dog”

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My journey began in 1977, at age 5, at the now defunct drive-in watching “A New Hope” (it was just Star Wars at the time- but who cares?!) on a dark scratchy screen, with muffled speakers the size of a shoe box, my Dad cursing the lousy snack bar food and barely understanding a word they were saying.  Yet despite all the crap surroundings, the iconic power of Lucas’s goofy opus reached through and touched me like a crazed evangelist, demanding I feel the power! If Star Wars was a religion than I was its valiant bible thumping warrior ready to smite all infidels while devouring all the action figures (to all of which I still have to this day) my broke family could afford to buy; readying anything with Star Wars on the cover.  I remembered only vaguely “The Holiday Special” and enjoying it wondering why it was never in reruns. I didn’t learn until the mid-90’s why…. As bad as it is, it’s Star Wars and I learned to love it exactly for what it is- a turd; stinky, messy, garish, ridiculous, cheesy 70’s misguided mistake.

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To say I was obsessed was an understatement; if anyone can guess where the title of this blog comes from, you are a bigger fan than I!  A collection of action figures and vehicles, Darth Vader curtains and bed sheets decorated my bedroom; Yoda shampoo bottles and Luke Skywalker Underoos, Soundtracks on vinyl; it was grand.

At the premiere of “Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, during the big reveal , When Vader says the line, I remember hearing audible gasps of disbelief sprinkled around plenty of “WOWs,” “He said what?” and one guy from the back, “Holy s**t!” And one month after seeing Empire Strikes Back, I saw “Flash Gordon,” a movie I love to death, but at the time struck me odd as it wasn’t as cool as SW, but now I know it wasn’t trying to be, it was trying to emulate and ride that giddy wave of unhinged entertainment. It does now, as it’s a favorite as well, but it proved one thing- not everyone could do what Lucas was doing and make it such an impact.

1983 saw the release of “Return of the Jedi”, the final installment as it was advertised and for a while that was true. Often being my favorite installment, the day I saw it was probably the best movie going experience to date out of all the original films. When Luke is forced to walk the plank, and he does his flip…. Grabs his saber and starts the Jedi Fu; audience went nuts!  At 11, the dramatic moments hit me most of all and lingered as Vader sacrifices himself to save his son. The larger themes may have escaped, but the nuances did not, I got it. And when Vader is unmasked there was a wave of sadness that washed over me for I not only felt for Anakin, but for the saga as a whole. I was bidding it goodbye, but only temporarily.  For me, the last of the great movie going experiences, the life defining ones actually, ceased until the prequels were released. It was time to grow up and move on to other things. Although “Star Wars” was never off my radar, it faded away until Zahn’s, “Heir to the Empire” made its appearance in 1991. It satisfied my SW ache, but it didn’t blow me away nor make me want more. It was too plot-centric, not character centric and too heavy with the science fiction- Star Wars is all fantasy, baby. The entire EU was like eating fake crab, sure it tastes good sometimes, but it’s still fake and I’d prefer the real thing and should really stop eating it as it made me sick.

Life; girls, music, cars, college took hold and formed me into an adult. Getting a job, working for a living; life was not as easy as it was in my Star Wars days playing out all the scenarios I could think of recreating Tattooine in a gravel pit; before the dark times, before the neighborhood cats used it as their toilet.

Then the return happened. 1997 saw the release of the originals in special editions with extra footage and new tweaks. It wasn’t until a year or so later, when I, unfortunately began perusing the internet message booards witnessing the nerd cabals forming.  The memes began, the butt-hurt took hold; nerds were upset and weren’t going to tolerate Greedo shooting. I was there opening night and never noticed the scene changed until later on with someone who was upset about it mentioned it. I pointed out how it didn’t matter.  Sure, it wasn’t a necessary change, but it didn’t change anything. Solo is still a bad ass and Greedo is dead. I can understand Lucas’s reasons, but for me, I don’t care. I choose to not let it bother me as it changes nothing.

The same for the controversial changes in “Return of the Jedi” with Jedi Rocks, sure, it’s a goofy moment, but the original is no less goofy; it’s a creature with a long snout with Mick Jagger lips dancing like Joe Cocker. Of course the biggest controversy was adding Hayden Christiansen as ghost Anakin replacing the original version. Again, it never bothered me as it was explained with care and makes tons of sense. Lucas was a big reader and researched all kinds of different religions before writing the original Star Wars and his diligence shows. Anakin was restored to his young visage because that’s the last time he was Anakin, not as the old man in a Sith shell. Sure he redeemed himself as Vader, but his body was crippled and broken, but his spirit was young Anakin. Who wants to spend eternity as a burnt old man? Plus had we never had the prequels, old man Anakin would have been fine, but in order to connect the stories, trilogies together, young Anakin fits.

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Which is always countered with, why weren’t Ben and Yoda done too? Because they never turned to the Dark side and didn’t have anything to redeem is why. Qui-Gon didn’t know how as explained in Clone Wars series.

Honestly, at this point, if that irks anyone, it has got to be sour grapes by now. The narrative is still the same and the action plays out untouched.

I thought with the release of the prequels, a new generation would be just as excited as I was and had been.  I was wrong to an extent.

The year 1999 saw the release of “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” followed by too much hype and scrutiny. The marketing machine nearly swallowed itself as it hyped and pushed the film to near hysterical madness. Depending on who you talk to of course, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times… hey, that’s good, someone should steal that… of course, both were wrong. Episode 1 is not the greatest thing ever made, but by God it’s certainly not the worst of anything. Jar Jar is a bit much to take, but I don’t slam him because it was Lucas showing off his new toy. As the originals were, the prequels broke all kinds of ground in visual effects and Jar Jar rode that wave.  I may have hated him too, but the reaction to him was of such, it turned me the other way. Now, I refuse to dislike him just out of spite because of the infantile responses by some so-called fans.  The best friend and I got there opening day, he leans over to me at the moment Qui- Gon is cutting through the doors and says, “This is great!” It was! We walked out and were stopped by a news reporter who quoted us and put us in the next day’s edition. I have the article around somewhere and like to show it to any doubter I can. For us fans, the movie did not suck one bit.

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Our love affair continued with “Ep 2: Attack of the Clones”- this remains the best movie going experience ever in my life. The crowd was in sync, the nerds got it and they loved it. So much so that when Yoda whips it out, the place went NUTS! Screaming, clapping, cheering- loving it. Not jeering it like some have reported. Not sure what the Debbie Downers were watching, but the friends and I were enjoying Star Wars! Again!

2005, just as the content itself was marred in a depressing vibe, “Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith”, so was I in assuming this was the last one. My emotional state didn’t alter my perception of the film- I loved it, but also going in with trepidation as I feared for the characters I grew to love.  I know that sounds odd, that I feared for fictional characters but it was true. I had traveled with them and knew they weren’t getting a happy ending of any kind. The scene with the youngling, flinching at Anakin’s igniting of his light saber, sent chills down the spine and remains terribly uncomfortable to watch, but a necessary scene. All of it fit into place. Vader was born, the Jedi decimated and the Empire had risen. Lucas had done a great job.

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  Lucas continued to surprise us with wondrous Clone Wars series, (2008-14), an Emmy winning little bugger that defied the odds and showed us the true nature of the Jedi order. Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka, who emerged as one of the most beloved Star Wars characters and Anakin himself was not a bad guy, but later a victim of arrogance, hubris and political   opportunism. Such an outstanding series that cracked open the mythology wider than a playboy spread.  THIS is canon, watch and enjoy!

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Yet the nattering nincompoops of negativity sharpened their knives and forked their tongues once again to slice it all apart. Reaching to a pathetic crescendo, Lucas tapped out, sold it off to Disney and retired in 2012 scrapping plans for his return with Episode 7.

And here we are… back were we started; loving star Wars.  One thing I know is that I will never lower myself the depths of what some of the nerds have said and done over the years by voicing their disappointments. It’s one thing to dislike, but to call Lucas and his children terrible names, start up petitions to have Star Wars taken away from Lucas (this was a serious campaign) to take his movie and edit to their own wants (Phantom Edit) ; ironically making a worse version – to just behave in such a loser style. No thanks. Whatever my feelings are, they will belong to me, I won’t need to make a 7 part video spewing lies and saying in a stupid voice, “_____ sucks!” without any facts to back it up.

Red Letter Media- this be YOU!

As some stiff refuse to accept the mission, let’s keep it positive-  I enjoy Star Wars because I choose to; not out of nostalgia, but because it’s traveled with me in my darkest hours. Dealing with job loss, female fixations and general life suckage, it has been the constant vehicle of escape.  I can watch any one of them at any given time and enjoy it as much as I did the first time I saw them. I have no hang-ups, no more expectations and no ego involved. I accept them for exactly what they are, not for what they should have or could have been and most of all do not succumb to Nerdstolgia, (nostalgia obsessed nerds).

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And now The Force Awakens has landed and settled in as not only a worthy installment, but one of significance and accomplishment.  Celebrating laughing, cheering and crying a little, it was grand and I can’t wait for “Rebels Season 3!”, “Rogue One” and “Episode 8!

A Jedi master once said, “Only what you take with you.” I implore everyone to leave your ego at the door. Old EU is long dead and has nothing to do with this. Enjoy Star Wars for what it is and what you see, not what you imagine and demand….  Don’t impose anything and you will be rewarded.

“There is an Awakening? Have you felt it?”

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Thank you for reading,

Dan “Terrible” Turpin (TGR Writer and Host)

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