by guest blogger Michael O’Connor
A little over a year ago, I started a company with some friends of mine. We were feeling dispirited, frustrated, and annoyed. The Star Wars that we loved was being thrown under the landspeeder. And the man who had created that saga, George Lucas, had been tied to that landspeeder and was being dragged through the mud.
The common consensus was that Star Wars was better without Lucas, that he was a creator hated by his own fans. Except… we didn’t feel that way. We felt like something crucial had been lost, and we were confused why so many fans apparently hated the man who had created this exciting and rewarding saga in the first place.
So we decided to test our loyalty and commitment to the Star Wars of our childhoods and its creator. We started an apparel company and we called it George Shot First.
Our mission was simple: we wanted to offer a positive counterpoint to the “George Lucas is Satan” consensus and see if we couldn’t find some other people out there who might agree with us. We imbued our designs with the same sense of sly humor that we always appreciated in his films, whether it was the Star Wars saga or American Graffiti, Indiana Jones or even Radioland Murders. And we aimed the reticles of our satire at elements of the fandom whose hypocrisy and arrogance had sullied the reputation of our community.
In other words, we wanted to make a statement, and we were crossing our fingers that somebody would listen to it.
We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response. Fans from all over the world picked up the gauntlet that we threw down and proudly proclaimed their admiration and respect for Mr. Lucas. They were as relieved as we were to discover they weren’t alone, that there were others out there who also felt as they did. We may have started this company to make a statement, but in the process, we’d actually managed to build a community.
Not everyone who joined our merry band had come to their fandom the same as us–some of us were fans of the films, others gravitated to the books, the video games or the graphic novels–but we all realized that without George Lucas, this wonderful galaxy full of stories wouldn’t exist and that both our childhoods and adulthoods would have been all the poorer for it.
For me personally, the works of George Lucas have been vital touchstones in my life. His films have been some of my most reliable guides in helping to understand the world and my place in it. And as it has evolved, so have I; its growth and expansion mirrored my own.
I first discovered Star Wars as a kid in middle school, and I immediately gravitated towards Luke Skywalker. I recognized in him all my yearnings for adventure and purpose, for an escape from the normal and mundane. Luke’s integrity and honesty, his humility and stubborn incorruptibility were traits I aspired to attain. The promise of The Force spoke to me in a way real-world religion never had; the idea of everything being connected as if by invisible strings and we merely needed to reconfigure our brains, to “unlearn” what we had learned, to reach out and pluck those strings. We could play reality like a musical instrument.
In high school and college, I saw the prequels, and in them I recognized Anakin as a new side of my personality emerging during those teenage years. I, like Anakin, felt disrespected, inferior, and frustrated at my own shortcomings and others’ expectations of me. I also saw in Anakin my darker, baser emotions, and realized the danger in giving into them. Anakin’s struggles were my own as I sought connections with others and understanding of a world that was becoming more complicated and frightening. Watching Anakin fail, I saw where I must succeed, where I needed to avoid his pitfalls to overcome my own limitations.
At various times in my life, the Star Wars films have been my most reliable resources for getting through trying times and inspiring me to move forward rather than take the easy way out and remain in one place. And at times, George Lucas’ other films have also spoken to these needs.
In THX-1138 I see my own struggles played out onscreen. Individualism or conformity? Fitting in at the expense of one’s own desires or coping with the dangers, loneliness and isolation inherent in being separate? There are arguments for and against both approaches, and that film has helped me understand where and how I need to find balance.
And then there’s American Graffiti, which always reminds me of the importance of change, risk and ambition. It’s easy to stay in one place, to be complacent and comfortable. But it’s far more rewarding to challenge yourself and strike out for parts unknown. Maybe you’ll fail, but you’ll also learn along the way. Without American Graffiti to inspire me, I’m not sure I would have made some of the risks I’ve made in my life, risks that in hindsight were so integral and so important for my development.
So while I’d like to thank George Lucas on behalf of everyone at George Shot First, I also need to thank him on behalf of myself. His films have both inspired and challenged me; they have excited my senses, stoked my imagination, and yet also forced me to look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I could become a better version of me. His films have sustained me more than any mere entertainment could ever accomplish; his characters, his philosophies, and his ideas have enriched my life in ways too many to even conceive. Without his artistic influence in my life, I honestly shudder to think of the kind of person I might have become.
And finally, I’d like to thank YOU as well. If you’re here reading this, it’s probably because you are also a fan and you might have experienced similar sensations upon being exposed to George Lucas’ work. Without you, we would be alone in the wilderness, yelling to an audience that would not and could not hear us.
It’s so important to continue showing our respect and admiration for the individual whose artistic contributions have made such a difference in so many lives. And if we’re all loud enough, who knows? Maybe he’ll even hear us.
Michael O’Connor is a member of George Shot First, an apparel company dedicated to championing respect and admiration for George Lucas. Please join us by visiting our website (www.georgeshotfirst.com), liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/georgeshotfirst) and following us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/georgeshot1st). You can support our cause by purchasing any t-shirt or hat from our website. Be sure to take advantage of our special May the 4th Sale all day Thursday, May 4th and Friday, May 5th!