As anyone reading this blog likely knows, today is a day set aside in light of the touching story of 7 year-old Katie Goldman’s plight as a Star Wars fan to celebrate who we are and what we love. Bullying is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. But as a life-long Star Wars enthusiast and general geek, Katie’s story and subsequent happy ending lands close to home. That said, I’ve got my “Sith Happens” t-shirt in full swing today and will perhaps celebrate this evening by watching Empire. Maybe just some Clone Wars. I haven’t decided yet.
No, I’m not a girl and no, I was never generally picked on as a kid, at least, not for being a nerd. I’m blessed with parents that are also huge nerds in their own ways. My mom collected comics when she was a kid until my Grandfather threw them all away (we’d be rich now, but on the plus side, I can rest assured that all of the crap I have stored at my mom’s house will be forever safe) and my dad is an avid toy car, pin, and stamp collector. In that respect, I never knew another way of life, or even considered the notion that collecting and/or nerdom was anything but normal. I don’t recall thinking any other way than genuine indifference if someone didn’t approve of what I liked, and can honestly say I never went through an experience like Katie, at least that I can remember.
In fact, the first time I recall receiving a negative comment in any regard wasn’t until college. It was 2004/2005ish, Revenge of the Sith was coming out, I had tickets to Celebration III in Indianapolis, and I was pumped. A friend and I were on the big lawn of campus, quite literally choreographing a SWEET lightsaber fight. Yes, we were in our twenties, but so what? It’s fun. Most passerbys found it amusing, or in the very least, ignored us. One small group of guys walked by and asked “Are you guys playing Star Wars?”
“Yeah!” we replied.
“Wow, sick life.” was their only response.
We of course retorted with “You want to play?” but they had moved on. It’s hardly severe bullying, but at an age where you should be entering stage 2 adulthood and accepting people for who they are, these dudes were just plain assholes. By the same coin, I could walk in to their slophouse dorm room and say “Oh, you guys are playing beer pong? Sick life.” But did I? No. I’ve never understood the need in people to just be complete douches, for no good reason other than to up their own stock in themselves. God FORBID someone enjoys themselves.
The point is, it’s mind boggling to see that this sort of bullying exists, considering where it’s stemming from. Star Wars has become a generational phenomenon, now reaching three entire generations of fans. It’s global, possibly more than any other property on the planet. I don’t think it’s absurd to say that if you haven’t seen Star Wars, you are in the minority. It’s also probably not unreasonable to say that if you aren’t a fan, you are still in the minority. I’m not saying die-hard, aruebesh speaking fan, but a casual one. There wouldn’t be six films, cartoons, toys, video games, books, and comics if it were only die-hards.
As a guy who hopes to have a whole nerd litter someday, I am overjoyed at the thought of watching Star Wars with my kids for the first time, watching their faces light up at all the same places that mine used to when I was that age. Cheering at Luke’s success in A New Hope, shock and fear at the realization of Darth Vader’s relationship to the hero, and a deep solemn sadness when that Ewok dies in Jedi. Also, confusion when you realize that Luke made out with his sister. One of my greatest fears is that my kids won’t like Star Wars and instead be dying to watch anime or play football. But guess what? What we enjoy watching/reading/playing is one of the few things that makes us all unique, yet brings us together collectively regardless of race, religion, or social status, and should be embraced as such.
So take the day to celebrate whatever you love most, whatever it may be.
Nerds: embrace your love. There’s no reason to EVER be ashamed of your interests, how much you know about a fictional universe, or how many first appearances you remember. You can head over to Facebook to Support Star Wars and Geek Pride for Katie.