My husband and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie a few weeks late (don’t worry, this is a spoiler-free post). We had an argument–almost a fight, really–on the way home, because I loved it, and he didn’t, and most of the conversation on my end consisted of me telling him why he was wrong in disliking it.
Later I listened to my favorite movie review podcast, The Movie Proposal, and realized that all the criticisms they had of the movie (which incidentally mostly mirrored my husband’s complaints) were completely valid. Then later I talked to a friend and fellow writer who hated the movie, and realized that his problems with the movie were also entirely correct.
All of which made me realize two things. First, I needed to apologize to my husband for invalidating him, and be a better listener in the future. But second–I still liked the movie, and I really couldn’t tell you why.
I could tell you a couple things I liked about it, but really the main thing was just “it felt like Star Wars” which isn’t an actual objective statement of quality. I could point to a few other things, but the fact is, even if none of the other good things about the movie existed, I would still have liked it, because “it felt like Star Wars.” And I like Star Wars.
Honestly though, if I’m honest, as a filmmaker and a writer I can’t really tell you why I love Star Wars so much. Yes, there are many good things about them, but they aren’t really the best stories out there. They suffer from chronically cheesy dialogue and general bad acting. They are full of inconsistencies and things that just don’t fit in with good storytelling and filmmaking. But I love them anyway.
And here’s the catch–if I hadn’t grown up with them, hadn’t spend my early teen years running around outside with a plastic lightsaber, didn’t have such fond memories of watching the VHS tapes over and over with my brother–in short, if I hadn’t seen them until I was an adult, I’m not sure that I would love them.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism lately that there are too many movies coming out these days that really mostly exist just to cater to our nostalgia. The reboots of Star Trek and Power Rangers, the Jumanji sequel, even properties like Stranger Things that draw so heavily on memories and love of 80’s pop culture. The argument is that we are spending too much time looking back rather than looking forward, and that film studios are getting lazy because they know that they can make money easily on properties with existing fanbases.
And those things are both often true. Sometimes it is easier to live in the past when life gets hard. Looking back (especially through rose-colored glasses) can be more fun than looking forward. And there’s no doubt that many filmmakers are lazy in this age of prolific sequels and remakes.
We are supposed to grow up, to move on, to leave behind childish things. But does that mean we should never look back?
The adult world is beautiful but it is complicated. Sometimes in necessary, even good ways, but sometimes–there are so many things to figure out and decide and worry about. Taxes, finances, adult relationships, an increasingly hostile and divided culture, politics, diets, and so much more. We need opinions on current events, priorities, and what kind of diapers our babies should be wearing. We have work drama and showers to clean and Facebook comments to peruse and then regret perusing.
Maybe it’s not a bad thing, every now and then, to indulge in a little nostalgia. Maybe it’s okay sometimes to enjoy something merely for the fact that it brings us back to a simpler time, a time when everything was clearer and more structured. Maybe we can even come out of that space refreshed and with a better understanding of which things really matter and which things–really don’t.
Maybe somewhere inside all of us, there’s a lost little kid running around outside with a plastic lightsaber. Sometimes, it’s good to take a little break, and remember.