I have a confession to make about something that has felt shameful and embarrassing for most of my life. It’s a rare condition that I hide from the world, afraid to reveal it to even my closest friends. As a result, I often feel alone, disconnected from the rest of society, as if I’m living in another galaxy, far far away…
What’s my problem? I don’t give a shit about Star Wars. I really don’t care about any of it: The high-speed chase that climaxes in Luke blowing up the Death Star, the revelation that Darth Vader is his father, the aphorisms of Yoda, the flirtation between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Whatever. It just bores me. The endless discussions about the next installment coming out this week, the ranking of all six films, the ubiquitous Darth Vader and stormtrooper costumes that reappear like fungus every Halloween, the Talmudic dissection of scenes and characters and hidden meanings that occurs when any random trio of dads gets together in the park or in a bar or at a Super Soccer Stars practice or anywhere.
None of it matters to me.
I’ve always felt this way; it’s just that I’m more aware of it now, as if a slight cough suddenly developed into a full-blown disease. For years, I could easily avoid Star Wars, tuning out during conversations at school or work, skipping the new episodes, ignoring the endless books, graphic novels, comic books, toys, headline references, images, posters, T-shirts, and other signs of cultural dominance. But now that my son is 7, I can’t escape it — the phenomenon surrounds me every day — and I’ve recognized how unique my condition is.
When Star Wars was first released, of course I saw it. Like every other kid in America, I went with some friends to a movie theater in downtown Boston on the day it premiered in May 1977. We were in fourth grade, school was winding down and summer vacation beckoned. We’d all seen the trailer and the full-page ads featuring Luke Skywalker wielding that strange new weapon called a light saber. Even in that analog era, the hype machine was in full effect. And at that age, old enough to appreciate plot twists but still full of childish wonder, we were ready to fall under the spell of a fairy tale that promised to be so much more exciting than anything we’d read in comic books or seen in Saturday morning cartoons. As our parents dropped us off and we walked into the dark theater that day, we clutched huge bags of popcorn and savored the joy of anticipation.
But unlike every other kid in America, I wasn’t spellbound. I didn’t swoon. I didn’t go back to see it again the next day or the day after that or ever again. I didn’t buy a single Star Wars doll or toy or comic book. I may have seen Empire Strikes Back when it came out two years later, but I’m not even sure. Neither do I remember seeing Return of the Jedi. I know that at some point, I watched both of those movies — one of them includes the “Luke, I am your father” scene and the other one has Jabba the Hutt, right? But it might have been on TV or on video, for all I know. That’s how much of an impression they made on me.
I don’t know how to explain my indifference. It’s not that I’m a cultural snob — I loved stupid comedies like the Bad News Bears and Police Academy, as well as blockbuster action adventures like Jaws and Indiana Jones. It’s not that I hate science fiction — I’m a lackluster fan but I’ve been genuinely moved by some of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov’s finest stories.
Star Wars just never did it for me. I can only speculate on the reasons why — that maybe the fight scenes didn’t seem that exciting or the chases were hard to visualize or the acting was so wooden or the whole damn thing seemed kind of hokey. But I really don’t know. Later, I could convince myself that the movies didn’t leave any room for a child’s imagination, that it was too obvious in its desire to satisfy every craving of its audience. But that wasn’t it for me, either. Looking back at some of the few negative reviews at the time, I can understand what Pauline Kael meant when she snarked that “it’s an epic without a dream” and a film “that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience.” But my disinterest was never that intellectual. It was more visceral — it just didn’t excite me or enervate me or intrigue me in any way.
And so I walked out of the theater that warm evening feeling kind of meh, probably mimicking some of my friends’ enthusiasm so I wouldn’t feel left out. And over the years, I’d join my friends when they talked about key scenes and I’d joke with coworkers about going to our office at the “Death Star.” But it was all a little forced — the truth is I didn’t give a shit. Like an atheist trying to get by in Puritan New England in the 17th century, you’ve got to talk the Gospel and walk the Gospel or you might get burned at the stake. Or even worse, teased by your friends at school. And then decades later, I’d be puzzled over by adult buddies, who’d gaze at me in curiosity, trying to figure out whether I was being sarcastic or just plain strange. Most of the time, they wouldn’t even indulge me or ask me to explain my indifference. They’d just awkwardly turn away and find someone normal to talk to. Because it is strange not to like Star Wars — it’s one of those rare cultural phenomena that unites everyone — jocks and geeks, hipsters and frat boys, white-collar executives and blue-collar factory workers, women and men, gays and straights, blacks and whites, native-born and immigrant. Even my chai-sipping yoga teacher wife.
Except for my son. To my astonishment and relief, he is equally nonplussed about Star Wars. He has no interest in seeing the movies, has none of the toys, none of the books or comic books, and he gets bored when his friends talk about it. The one gift that remains unopened two months after his birthday is a massive Star Wars Lego set. Don’t blame me. I swear that I’ve never sought to influence him or tell him about my lack of interest. In fact, I’ve asked him a few times whether he wants to watch the first one and he always sighs in response and shakes his head. It must be in the genes.
So on December 18, when lines form around the block at every theater in the country to see The Force Awakens, my son and I won’t be there. The force is not strong with us.
A version of this essay appeared on Marcus Baram’s Medium account.