Anybody who’s anybody is excited to see The Force Awakens this week. That is, everyone except those who have never seen the Star Wars movies and have no idea what all the fuss is about. As a terminal Star Wars fan, I implored my coworkers to try and find a Star Wars newbie in the wild (or at least the friendly confines of our office). Turns out one of Inverse’s own, Hannah Margaret Allen, has never seen these movies. She clambered out from under the rock where she’s been living and spoke with me about our polar opposite approaches to Star Wars.
Before that, I should explain I’ve loved Star Wars ever since I was a kid. My dad took me to see the Special Editions when they were released in 1997, and I’ve owned some iteration of the movies from the VHS tapes straight on through to Blu-rays ever since. This is a series of movies that’s in my bones. I don’t necessarily show my affection for Star Wars on an outward level save for an occasional T-shirt or an action figure, and I’m not one to cosplay, but these movies have become like living myths for me. So it was strange asking Hannah Margaret about Star Wars without that level of deep mutual appreciation. But maybe that was just it. The problem probably ain’t with her.
She’s does watch TV — Downton Abbey to Kroll Show — and is a fan of Harry Potter, Netflix, HBO Go, and doing real things out in the real world. As for Star Wars, she told me, “It wasn’t something I felt like I needed to see.”
OK, yes, true, no one really needs to see these movies. But, on the other hand, c’mon.
But like all those who haven’t seen the movies, the Star Wars mythos isn’t anything foreign to her. She added: “I feel like I know some things, like Yoda. He does the reverse syntax, and if someone does that in real life, I’ll be like ‘OK, Yoda,’ but I don’t really know what I’m talking about.” But she admitted that the whole thing, to the uninitiated and even without the added pressure of a massive fan base, is a bit daunting.
“It overwhelms me to the point where I quickly shut off, like I don’t need it,” she explained. “It’s not a casual dip in, it’s an endeavor to catch up on.” But she was also at least somewhat aware of a truth that every good fan knows: “There’s the three new ones that are bad and three old ones that are good, right?” she asked.
I got the sense that the deep level of appreciation can only happen because of exposure at the right moment, namely experiencing it as a child. It’s the nostalgia factor.
“I just wasn’t around a lot of people that were into Star Wars growing up, so that’s why I think I didn’t see it,” she said. While willing to go back and watch the 1977 original, she said it might be too late because the charm would be gone. “Maybe I lost my chance because if I go back and watch the old ones they might not be as convincing,” she said. “I saw The Wizard of Oz recently — I don’t know why — but I remember watching it as a kid and being terrified. The flying monkeys were scary as shit, but when I watched it recently I wasn’t fazed.”
She’s into seeing The Force Awakens based on a casual curiosity, but admitted another thing about the trailers that may dissuade her, something that may have been lost on Star Wars fans. “The first trailer is just a bunch of stuff flying by. It’s not compelling when I look at it.” I hadn’t thought of it till she said so, but Star Wars is definitely set up for fans at this point. Granted, this is Episode VII, but there is an obvious assumption of passive familiarity to these movies coasting by on the idea that you already know what Star Wars is and don’t have to be introduced to it.
It’s something that would stop newcomers like Hannah Margaret from making the leap. “It’s not like I’m aggressively avoiding it,” she said. “And it sounds very spoon-feedy, but I think if I did it I would want somebody who knows what they’re talking about with me to tell me what’s going on.” Star Wars has become like a runaway train, with a whole lot of people already on the car and a bunch of people running to jump on. But there’s still the people who don’t really care about traveling altogether, and they’re fine with that. Despite what the fans would have you think, Star Wars isn’t the be-all-end-all of culture. That goes for this or any other galaxy.