How 'Force Awakens' Made Me A Star Wars Fan

by Rachel Simon

I have a confession to make: despite being a movies editor and priding myself on my extensive knowledge of film, there are a few major classics I still have to see: Gone With the Wind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, All About Eve — the list goes on. But the worst offense of all might be that until this past summer, I had never seen the original Star Wars movies (or the prequels, but maybe that was a smart decision). I know, I know — I'm embarrassed, too. And I'm even more ashamed to admit that even after I finally watched the three films, I didn't understand the hype. All this excitement over silly dialogue, lackluster acting, and a bunch of old guys fighting in space? To me, it just didn't make any sense, and I became confident that Star Wars just wasn't all that good.

I hesitated before expressing this opinion to others, of course; I knew how much the series meant to so many people, and that my feelings on the franchise wouldn't be accepted with ease (or at all). Still, once people knew I had seen the movies, they wanted to know what I thought of them — and my mumbles of "uh, they weren't the best..." quickly delved into shouts of "I just didn't like them, OK?!" when prodded. I didn't want to be that person, the only one out there who didn't get why Star Wars was so beloved, but inevitably, I was; nearly everyone I spoke to, whether they were superfans or casual viewers, was shocked that I didn't like the series. And, as happens, their disbelief made me even more defensive of my opinions, and I became adamant that my dislike for Star Wars was not something that was ever going to go away, nor should it.

So when, a few months back, my job as a general movies editor began to morph into Prep-For-The-Force-Awakens editor, needless to say, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of writing and editing posts about Star Wars for the rest of the year. Hearing people talk non-stop about the films was already annoying enough; was I really going to have to think non-stop about them now, too? By the time mid-November rolled around, the answer was a clear yes — the next several weeks of my life were going to be devoted to Star Wars, whether I liked it or not. I fully expected that by the time The Force Awakens was actually released, I would hate this franchise with the passion of the Force itself.

But here's the thing I never saw coming: constantly having to write, edit posts, and think about Star Wars didn't turn me against it even more than I already was. Instead, it made me appreciate the franchise in a way I never had. Covering the news that The Force Awakens passed the Bechdel test? Pretty awesome, and a reminder of how male-dominated the sci-fi world can be. Hearing stories from people who'd grown up watching the films with their parents, and were now going to watch them with their own kids? Super sweet, and it helped me see just how important these movies are to generation after generation. Compiling stories from female fans about their favorite, nerdiest Star Wars memories? Very, very cool, and a good way of making me aware of the sexism that exists in the fandom universe.

By the time it hit mid-December, I didn't think I could exactly call myself a Star Wars fan — but I could, more than ever before, understand why the franchise was so beloved. I may still have believed that the plots were too silly and the acting too ridiculous (come on, baby Mark Hamill), but I also realized that the reasons for loving Star Wars are vast and important, things that have bonded together millions of people over the decades. Every fan has their own Star Wars story, whether it's going to midnight premieres with their dads or dressing their babies up as Wookies or seeing the movies so many times in theaters they lost track. To so many people, Star Wars meant the world — and while it may not have been nearly that important to me, I no longer questioned why it was to everyone else.

And then came Force Awakens. I had always known that I would see the movie when it was released, regardless of how I felt about the franchise. For one thing, it was important to my job to know what happened, but I also love J.J. Abrams and hate to miss out on culturally-bonding events like TFA was obviously going to be. Still, I was worried that, as with the others, I wouldn't like it — I may have appreciated Star Wars fandom much more now, but that didn't mean I was suddenly convinced it was a great quality series. I certainly hoped I'd like the movie, but judging from my past experiences, that was far from a guarantee.

So I went into my screening fairly hesitant, especially when I discovered that pretty much everyone else in my theater was a hardcore, lightsaber-holding superfan. Would I be the only one who didn't like this movie, too? Would I just never fully get the Star Wars love, and be destined to live in infamy for the rest of my life? Yet when those famous opening credits started rolling, I realized that my fears were unfounded. I was excited about this movie. I wanted to know what happened. I loved that everyone in the theater was clapping and woo-ing along, clearly ecstatic that a new Star Wars movie had finally arrived. I got chills when that classic score started playing. I realized that whether I had meant to be or not, I was already a Star Wars fan.

Soon, I was hooked. Over the next two hours, it became clear to me that Abrams made a truly great movie that, while certainly not perfect, did a fantastic job of satisfying fans of the originals and introducing a new saga. Like everyone else, I was (spoiler!) thrilled about how feminist the movie was (Rey, guys. Rey.), obsessed with BB-8, and heartbroken over the death of the beloved Han Solo. I may not have had quite the reaction to the film that major fans did due to my newness with the franchise, but I 100 percent got on board with loving Star Wars, something that, if you'd asked me just a few months back, I never would've thought possible.

It wasn't just the quality of the film that did it, though. While the greatness of The Force Awakens certainly confirmed that I was finally on the Light Side when it came to Star Wars appreciation, it was everything leading up to it that truly did the trick. It was reading so many posts from fans overjoyed about the prospect of a new movie; hearing my friends' excitement about getting to geek out over something they loved so much; sitting in a theater alongside dozens of people who'd literally waited years to be there. Seeing such passion made me feel passionate, too — when everyone around you is being moved to tears by the exact same thing, it's hard not to be convinced that it's worthwhile. By the time I saw The Force Awakens, I was already pretty solidly into my fandom. Watching the movie just made it official.

I know I'll never be as huge a Star Wars fan as most people, and that's OK; I truly don't love the original movies, and that's not going to change even if I like all the ones going forward. I still haven't watched the prequels, and while I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, I don't plan on seeing it more than once or twice in theaters. Being able to know my Jedis from my Stormtroopers and my BB-8s from my C-3POs is all I can do right now, but that's fine — I get to be a fan, excited and scared and passionate alongside everyone else. And for this newbie Star Wars devotee, that's all I could ever want.

Join us for the first episode of The Chat Room, where we discuss what it's like to be a woman with an opinion on the internet and, of course, Star Wars:

Images: Walt Disney; Giphy