Archive for the Challenges Category

Why I Love Star Wars

Posted in Challenges with tags , , on 31 July 2014 by Megan

This question has bothered me for a long time, almost since I started watching it in the first place.

See, I really struggle with living in a society that somehow is convinced that a science fiction adaptation of The Seven Samurai is a children’s movie. I saw it for the first time at the age of 12, but for some reason every adult that I knew apart from my parents thought it was a movie for six year old boys, and so I’ve been hit with, “Why do you like Star Wars so much anyway?” ever since I first dared tell someone I liked it. It’s always been awkward having this movie in common with my friends’ toddler younger brothers — not because I thought there was anything wrong with me liking it, but that these kids were way too young to even know what it was. And they are. But that’s a different rant.

Call it a kids' movie one more time, I dare you . . .

Call it a kids’ movie one more time, I dare you . . .

All I’m complaining about here is that most people seemed to criticize me for being too old to care about something I’d only just seen for the first time — something which I personally think should’ve been rated PG-13 from the beginning even though PG-13 didn’t yet exist.

All this is preface to the first time I got distressed by answering why I love Star Wars. On May 14, 1999, a homeschool co-op parent asked me on the way to class why I liked Star Wars. Being your average articulate 14-year-old, this was what I wrote: “Mrs. L asked me that today and I’m trying to think WHY I love SW. I think its the charicters, and the stories. I’m not sure. All I know is: I LOVE STAR WARS, AND I LIKE LOVING IT!! To tell the truth: I’m OBSESSED with it. AND I like THAT, TOO. I don’t know why. It just hit something in my imagination that I just like the way it feels when I watch or read about it. But WHY does it make me feel that way? In fact, why does ANYONE like ANYTHING?”

That was too much philosophy for me and I left off the diary entry at that point. And yet it’s a question that’s haunted me all these years, one I’ve struggled to find some way to answer or express.

I just like it. Don't give me that look.

I just like it. Don’t give me that look.

This week I was listening to The Princess Bride audiobook, which was on every possible level random because I rarely do the audiobook thing. It was a Christmas gift from probably eight or nine years ago and I recently found it in my storage unit while looking for CDs.

At the very beginning of this cleverly done book — as tongue-in-cheek and satirically funny as the film itself — the narrator attempts to explain what it was about his “barely-literate father” reading S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure to him. And — paraphrasing here, because I don’t have access to the book — it grabbed him because it made him care about what happened in the story.

Star Wars made me care about what happened. All these years, I’ve read Campbell and treatises on mythology and even took a class on the subject, trying to determine just what it is about Star Wars it is that gets me ticking, and you can say whatever you like about archetype and cosmology and myth and cliche, but the simple fact of it is . . . Star Wars made me care about the characters, on a level I had never previously cared about them before.

Their triumph, my triumph

Their triumph, my triumph

Their battles were my battles, their triumphs were my triumphs, their fears, my fears. Their universe was not truly inherently different from mine, and really, with as much as I loved Han from day one, I must have always seen myself as Luke, because at the age of 12 when I first saw him, I was just embarking on my own path — the road to personhood — as he was embarking on his path to knighthood and heroism. And maybe somehow if I watched him suffer and overcome enough times, I, too, could suffer and overcome. And maybe have a robot. Robots are cool.

I guess that’s what it comes down to. I love Star Wars with a kind of fervency that is not obsession, that lives somewhere beyond obsession (cf. this post), because it was the first time I ever cared on a personal level about the people in the story I was experiencing. Always before Star Wars, all I cared about was the story itself. I was a plot person, as it were. Stick figures or faceless silhouettes could have been the ones saving the world, rescuing the princess, ending tyranny for all time for all I cared; the heroes as well as the villains were interchangeable blanks who did not matter to me whatsoever.

After Star Wars, the story became second. Suddenly it didn’t quite matter to me if the heroes were on a quest to end all evil forever or just heading down to the corner for a pizza: as long as there were characters involved, that was the important part. Ever since the end of Return of the Jedi, when I first noticed Luke’s shoulders crumple as he wept over the man voted Most Likely To Never be Wept Over (before he killed the ones who voted it), all I have cared about is the character. I’d watch a feature-length film that contained nothing apart from Luke Skywalker Reads Novel In Comfy Chair because Luke Skywalker is the interesting part — not the lightsabers and spaceships and war.

I told you, I love him!!

I told you, I love him!!

And that, Mrs. L., is why I love Star Wars, because Star Wars made me love characters (“charicters” in my 14-year-old misspellings), and characters are my favorite thing in the universe.

Best Memory

Posted in Challenges with tags , , on 24 July 2014 by Megan

It’s weird to think here’s this movie that means so much in your life that you not only have a memory concerning it, you have such a number of them that you could be easily expected to choose your “personal best Star Wars memory.” I mean, I have a couple of The Avengers memories, like this one time I sat down and watched The Avengers with Rifftrax, or this other time I told somebody about the time I watched The Avengers with the Rifftrax, but it’s not like any of that stuff is memoir material.

Star Wars is different. Why? How? I don’t know. I’ll probably explore those concepts next week, the last day of the challenge in fact, when I’m supposed to talk about why I love Star Wars. How inexplicable and strange it is that here’s this 70s scifi flick that has made enough of a difference in my life that I, quite literally, have a scrapbook of memories related to it. I mean it, it’s a black suede photo album entitled Star Wars: A Love Story. It’s unfinished because I started it the summer before grad school and I always thought I’d have a home with a work station in it after grad school which would enable me to finish it. Two years on, that hasn’t happened, but I digress.

There’s the memory of the first time I ever saw A New Hope, with pepperoni pizza and snow on the ground. There’s the memory of watching Oprah Star Wars interviews before even seeing ESB and discovering via clips that Han got frozen in carbonite. There’s the memory of how Mom sneakily rented ESB and ROTJ at the same time but didn’t tell me. The memory of washing Dad’s car six or seven times to earn the money to pay for the Special Edition Trilogy on VHS. The memory of turning broom handles into lightsabers and dueling with my niece. The memory of borrowing novelizations from a friend at electricity class — the related memory of the first time I found out there were books. The memory of sitting on the floor in my room on a rainy day sorting my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit cards by the number in the lower right corner. The memory of carrying my Episode I Visual Dictionary around everywhere I went for six months. The memory of building my first fan site. Seeing ROTJ in the theater — seeing the prequels in the theater. First soundtrack. First action figure.

About 5 years' worth of papers

About 5 years’ worth of papers

You know, one of the very first things I ever, ever did was — I had this spiral-bound wide-rule notebook. I wrote STAR WARS on the cover in Sharpie. (It’s the green notebook in the middle of that picture.) And then, during the 20 minutes allotted Internet time I got each day, I would log onto the graphics-intensive StarWars.com and methodically start copying out the databank articles into this notebook. I also printed out a few pictures and quotations and made profile pages. The cover eventually came clean off because I carried it around recording every smidgeon of Star Wars information I could find in it. (This is why I’m not kidding when I say I’ve spent more than a decade and a half researching Star Wars.)

Oh, here’s another fun one. Before I got Star Wars Trivial Pursuit for Christmas the one year my parents went ahead and gave me Star Wars stuff for Christmas, I created my own Star Wars board game. The only board games I really knew of at the time were Monopoly and Parcheesi, so I’m vaguely surprised at the similarities it has with Trivial Pursuit.

The original Star Wars board game...?

The original Star Wars board game…?

It’s called Star Wars and it lives in a Reebok box. I colored it with those scented Mr. Markers. There were three types of cards: ?, !, and |o| (TIE fighters). It’s hard to explain the difference between ! and ? in my 12-year-old brain, but ! was more positive than ?, sort of. Actually, most of these “surprises” consisted of losing turns. The TIE questions almost all involved asking about Luke’s relatives (“True or false, Han Solo is Luke’s cousin”), which is why Kristine — the only other person to have played this game — and I tend to refer to it as “Luke’s Relatives,” as in, “Hey, wanna play Luke’s Relatives?” Look, I was 12! Anyway. I have no idea how you were supposed to win — oh, questions were rated by difficulty and assigned Imperial designations so when you answered correctly, you “destroyed” your target. TIEs were easy, Star Destroyers hard — there was a Super Star Destroyer and a Death Star question but I forget what I considered of that degree of extreme difficulty. “Darth Vader’s real name” might’ve been a Super Star Destroyer. I guess the general idea was you racked up points and the first one to reach a certain number of points won. And the non !, ?, or |o| tiles were planets. Ah, well.

All of that being said to say that I really think my favorite Star Wars memory, my favorite thing I’ve ever done, favorite thing to remember doing . . . would be the Star Wars concert of 2009. 2009 was a fantastic year, closing off a decade that was better than I give it credit for. The 2010s suck, man, we need out of this horrible decade . . . Sidebar. 2009 was the year I kicked off by seeing Topol in February and concluded by seeing Anthony Daniels in December. It doesn’t get better than that.

Anthony Daniels! In the blurry cell phone pic flesh.

Anthony Daniels! In the blurry cell phone pic flesh.

You can read all about my Star Wars concert experience here and here, though. It seems redundant to cover all that again. Suffice it to say — yeah, the Star Wars concert is my absolute favorite.

Favorite Darth Vader Quotation

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , on 17 July 2014 by Megan

Well, this is awkward. My favorite Darth Vader quotation coincides with my favorite Episode V quotation.  Now what am I supposed to do?

No, I guess that’s okay. I have another Vader line that I like very much that I can use!

The original Anakin vs. Obi-Wan

The original Anakin vs. Obi-Wan

The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner — now I am the master.

And then in the style of the ancient webcomic Surf Rat and Spencer, I have to quip, “What circle?” “You and me, we make a circle.” “No, we don’t! Two points make a line, not a circle!” “Ugh, let’s just fight!” “Fine! You were always a terrible student!” Man, I miss Surf Rat. . . .

Not actually visually stunning

Not actually visually stunning

Anyway, while this is the least visually stimulating duel in the entire saga, there’s a lot of emotion that goes on with it. Vader’s “Your powers are weak, old man” is another great line. More than the emotional culmination of the encounter that has been brewing for 20 years, this duel always sparked off in my imagination as I used to watch it and wonder about their last encounter, the duel over a lava pit where Vader was so horribly damaged in the first place. Episode III fulfilling my mind’s vision hasn’t reduced the drama of this moment.

Favorite Yoda Quotation

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , , , on 10 July 2014 by Megan

I don’t think I can do this. Yoda is not my favorite zombified toad — he taints everything he comes in contact with. Sort of like Thomas Jefferson, he’s a hypocritical old bat with a few highly quotable catchphrases. People get caught up on the Yoda train without thinking about it: he’s cast as the wise mentor, Obi-Wan bounces out a recommendation his way, and our minds (trained by generations of fairytales) accept him in spite of the fact that he never demonstrates the wisdom that we supposedly admire him for.

An entire generation misled

An entire generation misled

In the prequels, Yoda is like the worst boss ever. It’s not noticeable in Episode I because he doesn’t do much at all, but in Episode II, he twice goads Obi-Wan into speaking before promptly rebuking him saying anything! He would have done well to take his own advice about the trap of arrogance, because in Episode III, after encouraging Anakin not to care when others die, he insists on keeping the more glorious mission to himself. Even though Obi-Wan is better matched against Palpatine and Yoda could kill Anakin in a heartbeat — Anakin, whom Obi-Wan is incapable of killing — Yoda insists on going against the Emperor himself. When he fails, he arrogantly decides that killing the Emperor is impossible, dusts the fate of the galaxy off his hands, and hops on the speed train to exile. This in spite of the fact that there is no conceivable reason why Obi-Wan couldn’t make another attempt himself, thus preventing Palpatine from saving Anakin in the first place!

(Also — not really against Yoda, but it drives me nuts at the end of E2 when he mutters, “Begun the Clone War has.” How can he possibly know the name of the war? This is like English Prime Minister Lloyd George reading about Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination and saying, “I guess that’s the start of World War I!”)

In the trilogy, Yoda is at his most tolerable in Empire as he amusingly harasses Luke. However, everything he does in that movie is pointless and dumb. I know, I thought it was mystical and cool, too, until I really thought about it. He wastes Luke’s time for about a week, berating him for not being able to use the Force to lift an X-wing fighter out of the swamp after a mere couple days’ training, and continually throwing his faults and failures back at him. I know I learn best when constantly being rubbed with, “Hey, remember how you didn’t do that right? Remember how you did it WRONG?” He even tries to recreate Vader by telling Luke he should sacrifice the lives of his friends for the sake of his training.

No, shut up, or shut up!

No, shut up, or shut up!

The famous

Do or do not. There is no try

is probably the most-quoted line from Star Wars, and probably what the majority of people answer this question with. But this line has troubled me since day one.

First of all, I know this looks good on a bumper sticker, but there’s a reason we say “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Repeated efforts increase the chance of success. If Yoda had simply answered “Okay” to Luke’s “I’ll give it a try,” Luke would have continued working at lifting the ship until he did it. But because Yoda said you can only succeed or fail, Luke couldn’t do it on the first try and opted for failure. Yoda then berates him and shows him up, resulting in obvious discouragement and huge setbacks in his training. Imagine if this is how your parents taught you to tie your shoes! This is a terrible way to teach anybody to do anything. (Honestly I think Yoda was less trying to produce a new line of Jedi and more trying to set Luke up for ultimate failure in order to prove that if he couldn’t defeat Palpatine, nobody could.)

Secondly, I proved in my high school logic class that this statement is itself a logical fallacy. I actually took this quote and used it as the basis of my final paper. I don’t have the paper anymore, or I’d quote it. Suffice it to say, it’s a fallacy.

I’m sorry, I tried to think of any line from him that could qualify as a favorite, but he just made me so mad, I can’t do it. See also: A Character Everybody Else Loves That You Hate.

Favorite Obi-Wan Quotation

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , on 3 July 2014 by Megan

Two of my all-time favorite quotations come from Obi-Wan (seen here), so I’m really working to avoid redundancy. I really love both of those lines.

I'd much rather dream about Ewan

I’d much rather dream about Ewan

Well, that’s a nice face for inspiration. When I first saw this question in the challenge, I had a brief but dim hope I might find an OT quot of his I like. But after realizing just how much I dislike old Ben, I knew that was never going to happen. Since I gave him a quot from E2 and E3 already, fairness should have me pick one from E1 — but surprisingly, one line did pop into my head here and keeps going around.

The sober Jedi master

The sober Jedi master

Dreams pass in time.

There’s something vaguely annoying about this line. Like the serenity is forced. Or it’s a brush off. But at the same time, I’ve always been drawn to this line.

Ewan said in an interview that George Lucas told him he was very Alec Guinness with that line. And there is a certain depth to it, where Obi-Wan is trying to offer his Padawan something, but Anakin’s problem is so far beyond the league of anything Obi-Wan has ever had to deal with that he can only offer this bit of Jedi insight. Anakin prefers to change the subject. And really, that’s the best his master can give him? The tautology that eventually he won’t have the dream because he’ll stop having the dream?

But there’s more to this fraction of a haiku than initially meets the ear. Ignoring the fact that these guys are tuned into an energy field connecting all life in the galaxy into a single organism, which means they should have trotted out to Tatooine as soon as Anakin started having extremely detailed visions about his mother’s death. Skipping that mumbo jumbo entirely and focusing on the truth of it — it’s one of those statements like This too shall pass, a statement that can’t be wrong.

One more for good measure

One more for good measure

You could also start thinking of dreams in their metaphorical sense, not the merely literal — Anakin told Qui-Gon he dreamed of being a Jedi who came back to free all the slaves. We all have aspirations of one sort or another, toward greatness of one definition or another. (Even the humblest life’s dream can be great to the one dreaming it.)

I know the kneejerk response when someone says “you’ll stop wanting it eventually” is to be defensive or depressed. After all, the only acceptable way to stop wanting something is to get it, so you don’t need to want it anymore. But this is myopic.

A New Hope focuses a lot on dreams, I came to notice as I listened to the radio drama. “You can’t begrudge him his dreams!” Aunt Beru flares at Owen. Luke’s dream was to go to the Imperial Academy and become a pilot — that dream was replaced by the dream to see his father avenged by killing Darth Vader, and that dream also passed when he began to dream of seeing his father, Vader, redeemed. At the end of the trilogy looking back, do you think even the slightest part of Luke wishes he hadn’t given up becoming an Academy-certified pilot? Of course not.

My own dreams have been on a roller coaster for the better part of a decade. And for awhile there, I was getting fairly apathetic about wanting anything, about dreaming anything at all because the more I wanted something, the more likely I was not to get it. First I wanted to be a novelist; then I wanted to be an English professor; then I wanted to go to school in Scotland; then I wanted to not be alive anymore; then I wanted to be a library director. Now I’m a cataloger. I’m dreaming of going to Washington DC now; although I feel I have only a slim chance, my sister observed to me that it’s not a one shot deal. If I don’t get it this time, I try again. Dreams pass in time, but they don’t leave a void behind them. They’re like hermit crab shells — as you grow, you get new dreams that better accommodate your maturing self.

Except if your dream is that your mother is getting tortured to death by a savage tribe on a remote desert planet — maybe don’t wait for that dream to pass. Maybe go ahead and call her right now and make sure she’s all right.

Favorite EU Book

Posted in Challenges with tags , , , , , on 26 June 2014 by Megan

Honestly, I didn’t plan for all my challenges to prompt me to talk about Star Wars books in the same two month period, I really didn’t. But since it asked, well, I’m bound to answer! I don’t want to do an official review for a challenge, though — my recent enthusiasm for I, Jedi might lead you to conclude that that was my favorite, but no. Don’t confuse something that I think “is the greatest” with something I know “is my favorite.” And without any further ado, allow me to introduce to you my absolute favorite Star Wars book of the expanded universe (pending a proper review):

K.W. Jeter is an highly acclaimed author who is credited with coining the term steampunk, everyone’s favorite cogs-and-gears bespangled new fashion statement. These books, however, take a beating in the ratings department — which is part of why I’m so keen to do a series of reviews that gives them justice — and so I shall frame this post as a defense of The Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy as my very favorite in the EU. The three books, The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise take place on a split timeline and follow the most popular of all peripheral characters from the films: the bounty hunters.

The gang's all here!

The gang’s all here!

The books start “Now,” or during the events of Return of the Jedi, but move back and forth to “Then,” just before A New Hope, which is when the titular bounty hunter war takes place. Now, the first time I read book 1, I actually listened to it on tape and was 14 years old, and had absolutely no difficulty tracking the shifts in time throughout the narrative. K.W. Jeter has a clean, dry, acerbic storytelling style that I think meshes well with the character of his, well, characters.

Dengar — the fellow with the bandaged head there — is a Corellian who is in to survival. Having met a woman who has changed his life, taking him off the path of vengeance against the man who scarred his features (Han Solo), he’s just looking for enough of a break to get the money to settle down with her and retire forever. Where can money be had on Tatooine? Well, Jabba’s sail barge has recently exploded in the Dune Sea, and that’s where our story begins, with Dengar scanning the wastes for anything  he can make some cash on.

What he finds should properly shock any genuine Star Warrior: the soft, armor-free body of a human man, Boba Fett, stripped and shelled and vulnerable. “Sarlaac swallowed me. I blew it up,” he tells his rescuer before lapsing into silence. Dengar takes him to his hideout in the rocks, not sure what to do with him — but a young dancer from Jabba’s Palace, Neelah, she is sure what to do with him. She was mind wiped and Boba Fett holds the answers to who she once was. And she wants those answers in a bad way.

The question of Neelah’s identity isn’t the only mystery going on. Kuat of Kuat, one of my favorite characters of all time, has intercepted a message pod with some chilling evidence about who was really behind the destruction of the Lars’ homestead. And Prince Xizor of Black Sun reappears, just following Shadows of the Empire, with all his machinations and Falleen foibles. And you’ve got Bossk — the scaly fellow — out on a vendetta against Fett. It’s a largely peripheral book, with our main characters serving little more than cameos, which is something I always enjoy.

The events of “Then” are all about how Boba Fett was hired by a strange creature called The Assembler to start a war among the bounty hunters, with the eventual aim of breaking up the Bounty Hunters’ Guild. And it’s his involvement there that explains why Bossk is gunning for him so fiercely. The first book ends on such a cliffhanger, I will absolutely never forget the sensation of my panic between the books . . .

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

This is one of those rare trilogies that I was aware of as it came out. In fact, I remember clearly one day going into the local bookstore with Mom and making a beeline for the one shelf of “scifi/fantasy” near the front door (prime for sun damage) while Mom did whatever boring Mom stuff she was doing — and I saw Slave Ship on the rack and snatched it up in my unsteady fingers to belt down the first chapter before we had to go. Just to find out . . . did Slave I really explode on the final page of the previous book?! Well?!

I hear a lot of criticism about Jeter’s storytelling style, that the mystery is not well-developed and there’s a lot of telling without showing, but these are not objections I share. First of all, I dislike mysteries and the words “it really wasn’t a mystery at all!” will always be a compliment from me. And, as I said already, I feel that his narrative style exactly suits his subject matter. Jeter has remained one of my favorite Star Wars authors, and the warm feelings I have for this trilogy have even made me think I might, maybe, sometime go read his non-Star Wars stuff. (High honor, from me.)

Character crush alert!

Character crush alert!

And if nothing else, this book has given me Kuat of Kuat — head of House Kuat and ruler of the planet Kuat, and isn’t Kuat awesome to say? — one of my enduring EU crushes. Hmm, I have an abrupt memory of listening to this trilogy while playing Deer Hunter on our Windows 98. Wow! There’s an old chestnut. I do love these books; I moved them to Indiana with me, and even the other day when I was packing stuff in my storage unit, I had to take them out just to pet and smell them and say hi.

I feel like this post is a little more disjointed than most and a little rambly, but I’ve had a stressful week and am going to do a proper book-by-book writeup of this trilogy sometime in the future, so I think that makes up for it. The question was for my favorite EU book, and I have answered it, Sir!

Dislikeable Character

Posted in Challenges with tags , , on 19 June 2014 by Megan

We all know dislike is my stock and trade. At least we should know, after my explanations about hating Yoda, Mace Windu, and Padmé. Disliking a character isn’t really the same as hating one, though. I’d like to focus on the OT for this one, because I don’t want to make it sound like I direct an inordinate amount of dislike the PT’s way, so let me think about this.

There are three characters in the Original Trilogy whom I rather dislike. And I’m not talking about characters you’re not supposed to like, like random Imperials or Darth Vader, and I’m not talking about spit minor people, either, like the woman who coughs in the Hoth sequence of Empire Strikes Back. (Actually I know her name and life story but that’s not the present issue.)

I have never particularly liked Artoo. My earliest feelings toward him were of bemused toleration, sort of how Threepio acts most of the time. I liked Threepio from the get-go and related to him well, since he was constantly suffering with the knowledge that nobody ever wanted to listen to him talk. (Poor Threepio. Get a blog, it helps!) And he seemed to have some valid criticisms about Artoo. After I became aware of the sweeping, nearly universal fan adoration for him, well, my disinterest leveled up to dislike. What do people see in him? He’s rude. He squeaks, he beeps, he manipulates everybody to get his own way. I guess he’s a determined little creature, but, still, nothing about that droid recommends him to me. I just am never going to love that astro droid.

Princess Leia is another one I just really don’t like, which you probably should’ve gathered from my least favorite romance. I explain there pretty thoroughly why I don’t like Leia: she’s bullheaded at the expense of reason, proud, hotheaded, contrary, and ungrateful. She shrieks. And then, to complete the package, she is exactly average — neither plain nor beautiful, neither brilliant nor bimbo. She’s not regal or challenging. The reason she gets pegged as such an awesome character all the time is that she’s no “damsel in distress,” but “not helpless” is not a great recommended of females in my book. I’d rather have an intelligent and logical female who can treat the men around her respectfully as equals even if she does panic and need rescuing when the going gets tough. Leia treats Han horribly. Her consuming passion for politics and the black and white of wrong and right cause more harm than good. A little less ranting and a little more discretion on her part might have gotten the Death Star plans into rebel hands without losing Alderaan — or at least little common sense on her part might have gotten them to the rebellion without risking Yavin. She’s just so . . . ugh.

Old Ben Kenobi

Old Ben Kenobi

But really, the person who is so much more annoying than either of them is the not-so-subtly named “Old Ben Kenobi.” (An aside — in early days, I used to wonder if Obi-Wan had been a clone of the Clone Wars because his name was so similar to the droids’ designations — OB1.)

Part of the reason I wasn’t really that in to Star Wars on the first watching was there was nothing terribly compelling about it. A squawky kid runs around with an old hermit and blows up a space station. Fun, but not fascinating. And it took all three prequels before I could actually enjoy ANH and not just look at it as something to get through to get to the “good ones.”

The chiefest reason ANH isn’t compelling? This irritating geezer! Sorry. But I’m serious. It took Ewan McGregor for me to take Obi-Wan off my list of least favorite characters, and nevertheless, I can’t help being all “boy did not age well! What a crank.”

Because seriously, what does he do? If you take the story in context, he hides out on Tatooine for twenty years while the Empire stockpiles its tools of war and entrenches itself throughout the galaxy. It’s all well and good for Joseph Campbell to write about the hero’s journey and the mentor, etc. etc., but what kind of warrior goes into hiding for two decades waiting for a “last hope” to age appropriately? And even if a guardian of peace and justice might take that route, why would he leave Luke with unbelieving relatives and only attempt to introduce him to the Force when he was, by Yoda’s observation, too old to ever learn it properly? What was stopping Obi-Wan from raising Luke himself? His phobia of diaper changing? It’s not like Luke or Leia had any legal status whatsoever — Padmé’s children were considered dead in her womb. Obi-Wan’s claim on the kid was just as good as Owen and Beru’s.

Obi-Wan does literally zilch on Tatooine for almost a quarter of a century, and when events finally conspire to bring him out of self-imposed exile, he loads Luke up with lies, half truths, and skewed views of the Force. He says using the lightsaber in the cantina was a last resort, but it was also his first response, so what’s Luke supposed to make of it? He warns that abuse of the Force leads to the dark side, but then proceeds to mind-manipulate Stormtroopers and even one old nonhuman buying speeders. No wonder Luke cries in frustration, “How am I to know the good side from the bad?” (and get a frustrating non-answer from Yode the toad). I’m just coming off reading I, Jedi, it’s true, but Corran Horn hits it with a hydrospanner when he observes that Obi-Wan and Yoda were poor teachers — and I’d add that they did Luke more harm than good.

Blue screen of ghost

Blue screen of ghost

Let’s talk about Obi-Wan and Yoda. Far more annoying than even old Obi-Wan there’s . . . Ghost Obi-Wan. Ugh. It’s possible Luke has had visions of Obi-Wan in the last three years, but then, maybe not, since he becomes convinced it was his delirium that sent him to Dagobah and not a vision in the Force.

If Obi-Wan in life is a dicey teacher and friend, ghost Obi-Wan is downright annoying. If regular Obi-Wan delivers whatever truth however he wants, ghost Obi-Wan is a study in vague abstractions and bad timing. He never offers an explanation for why he can’t interfere with Luke’s confronting Vader when he can show up any other time. In fact, the times he shows up are peculiar at best, and I have a serious suspicion that ghost Obi-Wan is in fact just a Force illusion cast by Yoda in an attempt to further manipulate the poor guy.