For the first time in years Star Wars toys are taking the public by storm, again, but is that a good thing?
Have you felt it? I’m sure you have – in fact I commend you if you managed to come out of this week unsullied by the media blitz of Star Wars news. Although, it hasn’t really been news at all, but rather a carefully planned and extravagantly executed campaign that officially marks the beginning of the Force Awakens hype train – and that’s hype train with a trademark. It’s stirred up a frenzy of mixed emotions- ranging from those gleefully engaging in the string of Youtube sponsored un-boxings unfolding live across various countries, or even setting up camp on the eve of “Force Friday” to secure their physical stake in the franchise. And others who’ve called out the midichlorians in the water for what they were, seeing this push as nothing more than the darkest side of Star Wars finally rearing it’s multi-media head.
Then there are some, like myself, falling somewhere in between on the galactic spectrum.
So what’s the big deal? Well, “Force Friday” marks the first time fans are being given the chance to “pre-buy” their Force Awakens experience. Some view it as immediate access to the new characters whose introductions still feel fresh and exciting, as they’re our building blocks for this new trilogy. There are even those who are looking to pass down the fandom torch onto their offspring, inducting a new generation of fans. Some just want to double down on their outspoken commitment, hoarding merchandise as if it’s in limited supply. But it’s not unreasonable to feel like the message is being drowned out by the fanfare, especially when the standards are no higher than a bottle of shampoo with a new logo. And plenty have risen to the occasion to question the call of duty so many 30-something year olds have jubilantly answered with their wallets.
So is it wrong to engage in the excitement? Is the message muddled to the public?
Here’s where I display my ignorance – No.
And here cometh the context: my only exposure to the original trilogy as a kid was through a beat up VHS (yeesh, how fucking young are you?) of A New Hope. I’m not sure I even knew The Empire Strikes Back existed for the longest time (although I did know about Jedi because we lived only minutes from the Redwood Forest aka Endor) , concerning myself more with Indiana Jones and that rugged VHS collection. But from an early age I did have plenty of Star Wars action figures – the classic 3.75 inch incarnations of the characters. Neither of my parents were big fans, my Dad only ever briefly recalling his excitement for the original screening as a sci-fi loving teen in France. But beyond a limited knowledge of the films, the pantheon of merchandise did have it’s draws. These characters were the key to a rich universe whose stories still had room to grow. They championed humble beginnings and bizarre biology – something my brother and I really latched onto. I remember hunting for the (faux) gold plated C3P0 for weeks, concerning myself more with his unique, shiny appearance than the character himself. Blasphemy, no doubt.
This eventually continued with Legos (ahem -the appropriate step up in the toy world), and by that time the Phantom Menace had appeared on the scene. That was probably the height of my interest in the Star Wars franchise, at least outwardly so. I remember standing at the checkout counter of a store and guffawing over a tiny lego set featuring Qui-Gon Jin – a character I’d never heard of – and then subsequently begging my Mom for it.
After Phantom Menace my relationship with Star Wars was one of diminishing returns, although the seeds still lay under the surface. Years passed and the action figures were shelved – although my brother and I still remarked over how rad his Kit Fisto was from time to time. But what brought Star Wars back to the forefront for us were the video-games. Acting as the natural evolution of the playground we’d celebrated as children, we experienced a whole new realm of interactivity now through the lens of other fans. Star Wars is one of those franchises that occasionally celebrates the hive mind by letting them generate new content – ie. all the amazing game spin-offs. Over the next several years I developed fond memories, some even rivaling those involving the films. All because I had a new sense of purpose within this universe, one driven by my own action and interest. It felt less like I was falling prey to nostalgia, but rather that Star Wars was actually aging with me. Which is the ultimate reward for brand loyalty, even casually.
Fear Not the Force, But Rather the Intention Behind It
So the point of that stroll down memory lane wasn’t to justify the insanity surrounding events like “Force Friday” but rather to plead the case that merchandise isn’t always the selling of one’s soul, even in absurd quantities. It can actually be the gateway to a fruitful relationship. In fact I still have my floppy jointed C3P0 and dinged up R2D2 on my shelf, the last physical bastion of my childhood, now gathering dust.
For some the movies will always reign supreme, for others no corner of the merch-verse can be left untouched. Ultimately you decide your level of commitment as we all worship at the altars of different passions. We’re right to question the extremes but often times there’s a story behind every purchase.
No matter what side you fall on one thing is undeniable: this is the beginning of a new era and with it brings a string of yearly merchandise roll-outs. So brace for impact.
For me, my only Star Wars related purchase this year will be my ticket. And maybe a copy of Star Wars Battlefront. Or if I can get my hands on one of those cool BB-8s.
There’s the rabbit hole. Bail. Bail. Bail.
As always we’d love to hear from you guys in the comments. Let us know what you think of the hysteria and feel free to share any Star Wars related stories below.