“Hey! Do you mind taking a picture with me and my son?” I’m wearing a Stormtrooper costume at a local comic convention: this isn’t an uncommon question.
The man waved me over; both he and his 10-year-old-looking son were both wearing Star Wars t-shirts. Both look equally excited for the photo op. They’re surrounded by a squad of Stormtroopers, who pose around them. After a second, they reclaim their camera and stand back to marvel at what’s before them.
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens storms into theaters on December 18th, a new group of fans will join the Star Wars family, changed for the experience of watching the film on the big screen for the first time. Unlike in 1977, however, some families will be passing down the tradition for the first time.
Families have their media traditions, whether it’s gathering around the television to watch a particular TV show, or to go to the movies every Christmas Day to take in the latest major flick. Whenever I go to a convention, I see parents decked out in Star Wars garb with their children. In the internet age, Star Wars has become a tradition that’s being passed down from parent to child.
This has happened in my own household. I’ve been captivated by the series since my father and I watched the film for the first time in 1997. In the intervening years, I devoured the books, watched the films countless times, and joined the 501st Legion with my own set of Stormtrooper armor. Now with a two-year-old son, we’ve begun introducing the Star Wars universe to him in small ways: with random toys, various children’s books, and the occasional snippet of some of the cartoons.
Whether it was intentional or otherwise, Lucasfilm has introduced Star Wars to distinct generations of moviegoers with each release, and bringing in new fans each time. The 1977 film electrified a generation of youths, and the subsequent sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi only continued that trend.
Those same 10-year-old fans would have been at the right age to begin starting families of their own when Lucasfilm re-released the films as special editions in 1997, setting the stage for the first installment of the prequel trilogy in 1999, The Phantom Menace.
The first new Star Wars film widely disappointed long-time fans, but something interesting happened: a new generation of fans watched for the first time, and they enjoyed the film, as they did for the second and third films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The prequels became ‘their’ films, the ones that they started with. The prequel trilogy, despite its flaws, was enormously popular.
Two generations of family members take part in their enjoyment of the series.
Some just wear t-shirts emblazoned with the Star Wars logo. In the costuming world, I’ve seen father/mother/daughter/son pairings marching around conventions in outfits they’ve put together. Parents pick up Star Wars books and read them alongside their children; movie nights include re-watching the series for the uncounted time.
When asked about the prequels at Vermont Comic Con, Episode 9 director Colin Trevarrow had a curious thing to say about the prequels: while he agreed that there were problems with characters like Jar Jar Binks and the stories at large, it’s not the place of an older generation of fans to dictate to a younger generation what they should and shouldn’t like.
The franchise has continued to grow: more recently, The Clone Wars television series has brought in new groups of fans that hadn’t quite been old enough for the Prequel Trilogy, and the Rebels TV series has continued to add to the story. With the new films coming, parents who saw originally saw the films when they were 10 or 11 are getting ready to go out and see the new films with their own children and their families. This new trilogy and additional films will welcome an entirely new generation into the Star Wars family.
After the picture, father and son step back and look at our armor, and at the booth that we’ve set up, showcasing helmets, patches and pictures. The father signs his name to our sign-up list, saying that building a costume is something that he’s wanted to do since he was a kid, and now, he wanted to do it along with his son.
The torch passes to another generation.