In case you live under a rock, and that rock is in a cave, and that cave is somewhere on another planet, and that planet is in an alternate universe with no Wi-Fi (probably Hoth), then you have seen the brand-new [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) teaser trailer that was unveiled today at Star Wars Celebration.
I watched it, too.
And something rather amazing happened as I did: I got chills.
Those of you Star Wars fans who had been patiently awaiting this teaser might be shrugging your shoulders and thinking, of course. But what you have to understand is that I've never been a Star Wars fan.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I don't hate Star Wars. I liked the original trilogy, and didn't love the prequels, but didn't actively hate them, either. The Star Wars franchise have always been entertaining movies to me, but that's about it. I never had the fervent love for them that so many others do, despite being born right at the tail end of the generation that would be profoundly impacted and influenced by the original Star Wars trilogy for the rest of their lives. I knew that there was a huge, fervent fanbase out there, that the love for Star Wars stretched back for generations, the kind of identity-defining love that gets passed from parent to child. I was just never part of it; I had no real connection with Star Wars.
I suspect it's because I saw the original trilogy a few years too late. I didn't see the movies until I was a teenager, and by that time, I was a bit too old for them to grab hold of my heart and become a part of me, not in the way that stories you're told in your childhood do. So while I appreciated the Star Wars universe on a clinical level, I didn't truly get it.
But I get it today. I get it.
I looked at my Twitter feed, overflowing with people absolutely overjoyed. I looked at the #StarWarsCelebration hashtag and saw tweets in three different languages, four, half a dozen. I heard the crowd go nuts in the livestream. I saw people tweeting that they had tears in their eyes.
Upstairs, I heard my boss, one of the owners of the company, laughing like a schoolboy and the words "Star Wars" and "Darth Vader" amidst excited German.
Our entire office, for two minutes, came to a complete stop as we watched the trailer together, mesmerized.
And that's when it dawned on me: All over the world, there were thousands, maybe millions of people all stopping right where they were for two minutes to watch a story about Jedis and Siths and an endless battle unfold. All over the world, in a hundred different languages, a hundred different shades of skin, in different time zones everywhere, for a few moments, everyone was unified.
Such is the power of Star Wars.
And such is the power of fandom.
With the outrageous hype surrounding the trailer and the Star Wars Celebration panel, the inevitable backlash quickly began. The usual snarky comments about people getting excited for nothing, the remarks from snobs about J.J. Abrams, Star Wars, fanbases being overrated, the passive-aggressive, weirdly proud comments from non-Star Wars fans about how they know nothing of Star Wars and don't care that they don't.
But you know what? None of that mattered. Because while the non-fans were busy flinging mud all over fans' joy, the fans were busy watching the trailer again. And again. And again. Ultimately, when a large portion of the world, or, at least, a vocal majority on social media comes together to celebrate an event, there will inevitably be killjoys that feel the need to dampen their enthusiasm, because they're not a part of the communal celebration and feel excluded. At times when a large fandom, whether it be about a movie, TV show, a novel series, a sports team celebrates, you're the weird one if you don't.
And I've been there. I've been that person making mildly snotty comments because deep-down, I felt like I was missing out on something that gave so many others joy. I've been that person who hid the fact it felt like everyone was speaking a foreign language by declaring, with deliberate casualness, that I'd probably never be into it and was obviously totally cool with that. But I wasn't. It doesn't feel good to be excluded, especially when it's tainted with annoyance at yourself because you know you could be part of it all and share in the happiness if you made an effort to connect with the fans and understand the source material.
But that's the beauty of a passionate fandom. It will, for the most part, welcome a newcomer with open arms, provided that newcomer is genuinely curious. After watching the trailer today and seeing strange names and plot points I knew nothing about flying around, I started reading a bit. And I started asking questions of my coworkers at the Moviepilot office who are bona fide, deeply knowledgeable Star Wars geeks. When my boyfriend sent me an excited wall of text and I laughed as I gently explained I understood virtually not a word of what he sent me, I decided to figure it out. When Catrina, from her perch at Star Wars Celebration, and Julian and Kristin, all people I admire and respect, told me they had tears in their eyes, that they just kept watching again and again, I knew it was probably time to start becoming actively engaged in the Star Wars fandom. It was time to start learning.
Because that's what so many on the outside fail to understand. You can make the choice to become part of a fandom. Really, every time. Try it. It's fun.
Am I a Star Wars fan now? No, that's silly. All I felt was a portion of the excitement that longtime, die-hard fans felt. But I think that I might get it now. All it takes is that little spark, that moment when understanding finally clicks into place for you. That's all it takes to see something with new eyes. And if that moment of realizing that the entire world slowed down for a trailer was what it takes to finally get me into this vast, sprawling mythology known as Star Wars, then I'll be happy for it.
After all, I'm only about 34 years overdue.