Today is the 30th anniversary of the first release of Star Wars in theaters. NPR did a story this morning about the anniversary and the revolutionary aspects of this movie as a marketing force. One cool factoid I learned was that this movie spawned the first registered action dolls, beginning a new era of movie-related toys and souvenirs.
I am using that word, souvenir, purposely. I have been thinking about it a lot lately. And then this Star Wars anniversary came along—it is a great example of a perpetual souvenir. The thing is, ever since 1977, millions of us have been experiencing and re-membering our Star Wars experiences over and over again. The root of the French verb “souvenir” is the verb “venir” which means “to come from” or “to go to.” So in French, souvenir is a verb that connotes a revisit. In English, we borrow the word and make it into a noun. A souvenir to us, then, is a physical thing that helps us remember, helps us to return to the past. Star Wars has spawned loads of things to help us remember our experiences around the film. Action dolls, commemorative plates, posters, replica light sabers, and even *gasp* more films!
It is worth remembering. I have a series of personal memories related to this cultural force. I remember watching the film for the first time in a movie theater in Miami, Florida. We were on a family vacation and escaped the pouring rain in the shelter of the theater. I remember my dad saying “I hear that Star Wars is supposed to be a pretty good movie.” Little did we know…I exited that theater a changed person. Later, in high school, I got hold of Joseph Campbell’s book The Power of Myth. I was fascinated by the rituals of other cultures and had no idea this book would include….Star Wars!? I was enthralled. (I got over it later and recovered my reality in many anthropology courses in college and grad school.) I saw Since then, I have encountered many friends who have strong personal connections to this film and its story, from my friend Charlotte, who is fond of quoting “Help me Obi Wan. You are our only hope.” to Jill’s collection of Star Wars-decorated china plates, to the sound of the light saber I hear from time to time at work when my supervisor turns it on in the lat afternoon to let off some steam and have a laugh. And just last week, walking around Chicago, I saw R2-D2 mailboxes everywhere.
I remember myself to Star wars…..over and over and over again.