I’ve been working on a movie memoir called “I Blame Lucas.” It’s my life told through the movies I’ve seen starting with Star Wars IV (1977) and ending with Star Wars III (2005). Though that 28 years are so many films that influenced my life and shaped me into the person I am today. In the book I’m covering 50 films, many blockbusters, some indie’s all showed me a speck of wisdom that I still carry with me to this day.
What follows is a excerpt of Chapter 1 – Star Wars IV (1977). Hope you like it.
Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three months old.
Too young to remember the exact details, I believe on that day, in the darkness of the movie house, something magical happened. My psyche was imprinted, showing me movies were like dreams – they could teach me how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
It’s hard to pin-point exactly how I was imprinted at such a young age. Maybe it was the operatic music that filled the theater. Maybe it was the gentle sounds of beeps and whistles from a friendly droid. It could have been the sparkling colors that were most likely blurred to my young eyes. But I think it was the movie projector; the white light scattered over the crowd, illuminating faces deep in thought, dust and smoke dancing in its path, twisting and fluttering bringing unexpected beauty into the darkness. That magical glow lit up the theater and cast its light on my mother’s face as she held me safely in her lap.
I can only imagine how nervous she was. Would I cry? Would she have to take me out of the theater? What she didn’t know is that I was home. The movies would forever be a safe place for me to go and learn about the world around me. Perhaps of all the movies no other movies spoke to me as strongly as the Star Wars series.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I see those blue letters and it’s like seeing an old friend. Seems silly I know, a movie about a group of Rebels who steal the secret plans to fight an evil Galactic Empire, what is so special about that? If you’ve seen Star Wars, you get it. There is a mythic quality to this story – a universal story – one we can all find hope and wisdom in.
To me the story starts when we meet Luke Skywalker, a farm boy raised by his Aunt and Uncle. Luke wants to get away from everything he knows. His dream is to be a pilot and go on adventures, but life and family responsibilities get in the way.
When griping about his home planet, Luke says, “If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” The same could be said for where I grew up. I couldn’t wait until I turned 18 so I could escape the hell of the microscopic town of Rockford, Michigan. I felt there was a whole world happening outside its boundaries, and I was forced to watch from the sidelines. I dreamed of being a part of the action, and for me that action wasn’t happening in Rockford.
The biggest thing Rockford had going for it was the Hush Puppy factory; the epicenter of quality craftsmanship in the world of shoes. But because of the factory’s tanning process, the town reeked like rotting eggs on a hot summer day. To me Rockford stunk literally and figuratively. I didn’t mesh well with the laid back lifestyle. I didn’t understand the people; they might as well have been droids or aliens.
Luke’s future is forever changed when he comes across two droids carrying a message from a princess asking for help from Old Ben Kenobi. Eventually Luke finds the old hermit and learns about his father and this mysterious thing called The Force. Luke desperately wants to go on this journey, a journey to find out who his father was, but his responsibilities to his family keep him from taking Ben up on his offer.
Brilliant mind and expert on all things mythic, Joseph Campbell writes about the hero’s journey and how the hero is given a task when the hero is ready and able. When the Empire destroys Luke’s home, killing his aunt and uncle, Luke loses his attachments. Luke is now ready to meet his destiny, I would have to wait. But though the power of the movies I could travel along with Luke, learn from him and then maybe I’d be more ready when it came time for my own adventure.
In The Power of Myth, Campbell said, Furthermore, we have not even risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.
We found out Old Ben Kenobi is really a Jedi Knight known as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic before the evil Empire took over. Obi-Wan, reminiscent of a shaman or sensei, would not tell Luke what to do, but rather leave it to Luke to find his own path. Most of my life I have searched for my Obi-Wan. Someone who wouldn’t pretend they knew more than me, but rather someone who understood that his/her fate lied on a different path than mine. We could walk together in safety and comfort until the time was right. I think I’ve had many Obi-Wan’s in my life. Some of them fictional characters flickering before me on a movie screen and others were flesh and blood – flawed and wise. I am deeply grateful for all my Obi-Wan’s.
Luke and Obi-Wan find and rescue the Princess. (I’m not giving all that much away, there are six movies worth of story-lines.) The Princess’ name is an interesting one. In the credits it’s listed as Leia but a few times she is called Leah. I only mention this, not to point any sort of continuity error to the filmmakers, but only to illustrate how this simple way of pronouncing the same name tremendously effected a little girl named Leah.
I was born Leah Lyn Lastovich. For what reasons you are reading a book written by Kate Chaplin will be reveled later. For now, you know the truth. My parents named me Leah, not after the Princess in a movie, but after a nice woman who came into my mother’s work one day and my mother remembered the name.
Now, growing up in the late seventies and eighties and having a name similar to an iconic figure such as Princess Leia was…difficult. Constant references to the movie taunted me at recess regularly and even followed me into my dating life.
“Hey, Princess, you wanna see my lightsaber?”
From the cute to the absurd, I’ve heard them all. I’ve been the butt of so many jokes that at one point I insisted George Lucas ruined my life. (After Episode 1: The Phantom Menace I repented, got to love take-sees-back-sees.) Thank the maker that Princess Leia is such a strong character. Even when she’s the one that needs rescuing, she’s never a shrinking violet, never subservient to anyone. She’s strong, she’s sarcastic, she’s rough around the edges, and we don’t know that much about her. She carries a gun just like the boys, and she wears two ridiculous hair braids on the sides of her head. Besides the fashion sense, I learned a lot from rebelliousness of Princess Leia, even if I wanted to separate myself from her as far as possible.