It was high time for another My Star Wars Moment, no? Fans sharing their experiences and memories is not only fun but could also remind others just how fun and encouraging the Star Wars fandom still is. Today I’ve got a MSWM from Adi, who I met on Tumblr as Always Star Wars where she posts about the Original Films, the Prequel Films, The Force Awakens and everything in between. This Moment is about The Phantom Menace, but also about a fan discovering Star Wars for herself.
The Summer of 1999I became a Star Wars fan over 20 years ago, in the early 1990s. It was a fallow time in the Star Wars fandom – ten years had passed since Return of the Jedi, the prequels weren’t on the horizon yet, and the internet was in its infancy. Even still, I flung myself wholeheartedly into Star Wars, reading books and comics, buying what merchandise there was, and constantly rewatching the Original Trilogy on VHS. In reading and learning about Star Wars, I was impressed by the impact the original 1977 release of Star Wars had on fans. They talked about it with reverence – how that one trip to the movie theater changed their lives, how nothing was the same after May 25, 1977. As part of the second wave of fans, born post-RotJ, I envied them that experience. Star Wars in the early 90s wasn’t the cultural force it was in the late 70s and I felt like I was missing out.But slowly, things started to change. In 1997, the Special Editions were released and I got to see the OT in theaters for the first time. The internet became more prevalent and I could connect to other fans online. And with the growth of the internet, rumors and reports began to spread about the prequels. Excitement and hype began to build, and Star Wars returned to its place at the forefront of pop culture. By the time The Phantom Menace was released in May 1999, Star Wars was inescapable and I loved every second of it. I managed to see TPM early at a special preview for Hasbro employees, and ended up seeing it in theaters twelve times. I attended the midnight release of the TPM toys and searched for months before finally finding the Darth Maul action figure I so badly wanted. I bought all the magazines, debated which of the four covers of the novelization to get, and poured over the Visual Dictionary. I spent the summer drinking endless Pepsi products until I had all 24 of the Star Wars cans (though I never did find one of the golden Yodas, sadly). I went to KFC and Taco Bell far too often for the kids meal toys, saved bags of Lays potato chips with Obi-Wan on the front, and ate tubes of yogurt that looked like lightsabers. I wore a Queen Amidala shirt constantly and used my Darth Maul towel at the beach (both of which I still have and love). For my birthday that summer, I had Qui-Gon and Darth Maul fighting on my cake.
For a young teenager who had always felt she’d missed the height of Star Wars fandom, it was glorious. The excitement, the media coverage, just the pure amount of Star Wars merchandise available were heaven to me. I was thankfully young enough to not be jaded by TPM and I embraced the resurgence it brought to Star Wars. I was the perfect age in the perfect situation to enjoy that summer of Star Wars.In the years since, though I’ve always remained a Star Wars fan, my level on involvement has waxed and waned based on school, college, jobs and other real-life situations. And while there certainly have been other highs during my time in the Star Wars fandom, nothing has every matched that unbridled excitement and joy I felt during the summer of 1999. And as we approach the release of The Force Awakens, one of the things that most excites me is not seeing my own reaction to the movie, but seeing the birth of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. It’s knowing that somewhere out there, there’s a 13 year old girl just ready to go on that same journey. Who’s going to go into that theater and see something that blows her mind and inspires and excites her. Who’s going to wake up on Christmas morning to a Rey doll in her stocking and a Kylo Ren lightsaber under her tree. Who’s going to have that same magical, wonderful experience that original Star Wars fans had in 1977 and I had in 1999. For whom the release of TFA will always remain a touchstone of her childhood, like TPM and the summer of 1999 have for me.