Darren Franich at EW.com Popwatch has a message for Star Wars fans, especially old ones like him (and me): grow up! Don't get so worked up about the latest pointless changes to the original trilogy in the upcoming Blu-Ray release. And for that matter, don't get so worked up about Star Wars at all.
Believe me, there is a big part of me that wants to join the chorus of betrayed fans. But why? Why am I so angry at the man who was responsible for some of the major formative moments in my existence? Studying various Star Wars encyclopedias was a gateway drug for enjoying actual genuine history books. Watching the films on repeat taught me basic film grammar. Star Wars made me love science-fiction, so I have to thank George Lucas for indirectly pointing me onwards to Philip K. Dick, to Iain M. Banks, to Robert Heinlein and Orson Scott Card and every other great S.F. author. George Lucas can’t ruin my childhood, because my childhood already happened.
And that, I think, is why all the George Lucas hatred is fundamentally misplaced — and, in fact, why my initial gut-reaction (“Screw you, George!”) reflects much worse on me. The reason why our first response is to hate George Lucas is not because Lucas is ruining our childhoods. Far from it. Lucas is, perhaps accidentally, forcing us to admit two things: First, that our childhoods are over; and second, that the things we enjoy when we are children tend to be silly.
Franich's article is entertaining and raises some worthwhile points. But on the whole it misses the mark, I think. One of his refrains is "Kids are stupid" and Star Wars was just one of the stupid things we enjoyed as kids. George Lucas once made a similar comment in a desperate attempt to defend/excuse/minimise the appalling mess he made in 1999, telling his audience to lighten up, it was just a kid's movie.
But kids aren't stupid. Mine aren't, anyway, and I don't think I was, either. And in any case Star Wars was not just a kids' movie. I certainly agree with Franich that Star Wars is not especially thought-provoking, or subtle, or emotionally challenging. It is not the best film ever made, and neither are its two sequels. But there was nevertheless something great about Star Wars, Empire and even Jedi. It's too easy to say, as Franich does, "I think that it is time to put away childish things. Time to admit that Star Wars — like fruit snacks and Nickelodeon — should perhaps be left behind in our adolescence."
At least some of the "fanboys" Franich is attacking are not 40-year-old virgins with hoards of mint-in-box Kenner action figures displayed like trophies in the basement suites of their parents' houses. They are not the Star-Wars-mad little boys described in Alec Guinness’ memoir, A Positively Final Appearance (which Franich predictably quotes). Some of the men (I think they are mostly men) who are upset by Lucas's latest nonsense are well-adjusted, successful, happy people with fond memories of a childhood phenomenon that swept them up, gave them joy, left them alone for a while, then came crashing back into their lives in an explosion of mediocrity and thoughtlessness that refuses to let up.
In my view, there is one fanboy out there who really should grow up--grow up and leave it alone a while: George Lucas.