Happy Corporate Commodification of Love Valentine’s Day everyone!!! Hopefully, through all the cultural ridiculousness today, you find some time to think about those you love and reflect on what a wonderful gift sharing love is. In that spirit, Jenmarie, of Anakin and His Angel, has dedicated this month’s ComLINKS to, “This year I thought writing about who we love to share Star Wars with would be a very uplifting topic. So, who do you love to watch the films/cartoons with or talk about the latest books/comics with? Is it your parents? Maybe they introduced you to the franchise? Your loved one or friends you met at Star Wars Celebration? How do you share Star Wars with this person/people? Do you have any fun traditions?” Aww, I love it (no pun intended). Without further ado, let’s tell some stories!
When I first saw this prompt, I was excited to write about introducing Kalie to Star Wars. However, when I told her of my plans she said, “Honey, I always love when you write about us. But if you’re writing about who you love to share Star Wars with, you really need to write about you and Hannah. And if you don’t talk about Jeff, I think the world will crack in half.” As I considered what she said, a new post was born. Instead of telling one long story (as per usual), I’d do three vignettes! It’s three different stories about three different ways I share my love of Star Wars with three different people! Brilliant idea Kalie.
The Jeff Story
Jeff and I met in college. Our first class together was Macroeconomics. He was a freshman and I was a junior. I spent the bulk of the class pointing out the sinful nature of capitalism and outlining (much to the business majors discomfort) how much better life would be if we just shared everything instead of playing an unfair game where the rich profit at the expense of the weak (something I still champion today). The professor, to his credit, always let me go. We didn’t talk in that class but we’d become friends through the Religious Studies Department as we were both majors. Jeff and I took all kinds of classes together – to name a few, Buddhism, Religious Modernity and Postmodernity, Postmodern Literature, that Macroeconomics one, and Geopolitics (where he was responsible for destroying the world in nuclear war during our in-class nation state exercise (a story for another time)). We lived at Borders, spending more time among the books there than most of the employees and probably more time in the Religion section than anyone else ever. We saw V for Vendetta and Inception multiple times, losing ourselves in the films and then endless discussion and deconstruction of each.
An epic bromance for the ages was born. A bromance to end all bromances, if you will. We’re so bromantic and so in sync on more than one occasion people have presumed we’re dating. So yeah, that’s how tight a bromance we have. BOOM – mic drop. Point, us. Everyone else, total losers. When I gave my best man toast at his wedding a year and a half ago (I know, you can pause to saw “awwwww” if you’d like) I made the point that, as we grow up, we realize family isn’t just about blood. Rather, family is the people we are bonded to in and through love. In that light, Jeff is as much my brother as David, my literal blood brother is. We’re not just best friends, we’re family. I couldn’t imagine life without him and it’s hard to remember what it was like before we were friends.
Of alllllllll the adventures we’ve shared and alllllllll the conversations we’ve had, nothing bonds us and binds us more tightly than Star Wars. I grew up loving Star Wars. I am also the type of person who has to analyze everything. I will talk about something again and again and again and again and again as it rolls around in my head. I found my match in Jeff. WE TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING. THEN WE TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN. AND SIX MONTHS LATER WE’RE STILL PARSING THE FINER POINTS. It would be easier to outline the parts of Star Wars we don’t discuss than to try and cover everything we do. So here it is – nothing. There’s no part of Star Wars we haven’t discussed (to death) over the years. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Feel free to ask Kalie. Many a night she’s come over and sat on the couch – waiting to watch a movie or do whatever we had planned – while Jeff and I have covered one facet or another of the galaxy far, far away. Granted she only hears my side of the conversation (unless we’re hanging out in person, then she gets to hear it all!) but she does a loving rendition from the couch. I hear her say, “Blah blah blah, Princess Leia, blah blah blah, Story Group, blah blah blah, Kashyyyk, blah blah blah The Force Awakens, blah blah blah, continuity issue, blah blah blah” and so on :).
She’s said what surprises her is we talk about Star Wars with a passion as though it was the first time we’ve ever discussed it, no matter how many times we’ve had the same old conversation. Though I loved Star Wars for years and years before I ever met Jeff, it’s hard to remember a time when Jeff was not a part of my Star Wars experience. He is synonymous with Star Wars in my head. He loves this stuff deeply and he knows more than anyone else about this world. You could challenge him but you’ll just be embarrassing yourself. There, I said it! My Star Wars bestie knows more than your Star Wars bestie. Deal with it.
If you’d like the fun of reflecting on Star Wars with Jeff too, here’s a link to his Star Wars blog The Imperial Talker. It’s brilliant, informed, passionate and it’s required reading for my students in the Star Wars class!
The Hannah Story
Hannah and I went to college together, graduated together, and were even in the very same theatre for the same midnight screening of Revenge Of The Sith on opening night back on May 19, 2005…but we never actually met until she came to work at Mercyhurst as our Campus Minister and a fellow theology teacher four years ago. Can you believe that?? Looking back now, it’s weird to think that I’ve only worked with Hannah for four years. She’s the type of friend where our connection is such that it feels like we’ve always known each other. Mercyhurst without her seems like a foggy memory or a half-forgotten dream, even though I worked there for three years before she showed up! But now, from hot pretzel runs to work day shenanigans and hijinks (the time we did “hardcore parkour” through an unsuspecting classroom, occasional lightsaber duels, etc.) to planning courses together, she’s a part of everything I do. We’ve turned the Catholic Tradition course into a well-oiled machine, built a “utopian classroom” in our elective, and have helped chaperone two trips that involved seeing Pope Francis (on two different continents!) without losing one kid :). Diabetically-speaking she likes to say she’s kept me alive “all across the world” which, I guess, is technically true.
On that note, I know she’s always got my diabetes covered because she’s always carrying low blood sugar supplies for me should I run out of mine. I couldn’t imagine life without Hannah either. While I never had any sisters growing up, I couldn’t love one more or be closer with one than I am with Hannah. She’s like a female version of myself (or I’m like a male version of her, however you want to slice it) and she’s one of the many blessings I’ve found at Mercyhurst that truly make it home. It was the fateful discovery of our mutual passion for Star Wars that helped ignite our transformation from “work friends” into the picture perfect model of epic friendship goals we are now.
Our first “Star Wars tradition” was Force Friday. We’ve hit every one together; The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, meticulously mapping our course through the mall and surrounding book and toy stores ahead of time to ensure we hit as many as we can during out prep mod (while allowing for an Auntie Anne’s run of course). We don’t waste a moment either, literally running back into the building at a full-out sprint the first year to make it back before the bell rang for our next class :). And then we begin to speculate about all the new toys, books, and characters we saw! Whenever a new trailer drops, we wait to watch it together. Whether it’s for a film that fills us with excitement (The Force Awakens), cautious optimism tinged with ever-increasing enthusiasm (Rogue One and The Last Jedi), or even one that nauseates us with the pointless and sacrilegious cash-grab nature of it all (Solo), we’ll watch it and then begin the obsessive re-watching (and watching and watching and watching and watching) and analyzing (and analyzing and analyzing and analyzing and analyzing) that comes with it. Last year, when we were chaperoning our department trip to Italy, the first trailer for The Last Jedi dropped. As soon as my iPad connected to the wifi in the hotel and I saw the notification that the trailer was up. I raced up several flights of stairs to her room so we could begin the first of many, many viewings together.
I can’t tell you the number of hours we’ve spent talking, speculating, lamenting, or celebrating Star Wars either. As Hannah has said, we’re “Star Wars soul mates and EU babies.” On that note, we’ve recently begun the quest to read every single book in the Expanded Universe, finishing the journey we began as kids. Our mutual nerd-dom has given birth to our team-taught Star Wars and Contemporary Myth course too. That’s right! We get to teach a class on Star Wars together. It’s a dream come true! We’ve also courted ever-allusive Internet Nerd Fame by appearing on Hyperspace PodBlast and the Skytalkers Podcast to talk about our class, interviewing movie-goers on the opening day of The Last Jedi and recording an episode with our former students. Aww, it’s so rewarding to watch our “nerd babies” grow up!
If you’d like the fun of reflecting on Star Wars with Hannah too, here’s a link to her first ever blog post – “The EU isn’t gone…it just had a nose job…” – where she explores how the Disney Canon has been blatantly stealing pulling (overtly and subtly) from the Expanded Universe to give shape to their “original stories.”
The Kalie Story
I love the story of how Kalie and I met. I’m just going to say it, when it comes to “meet-cutes” we win. I’m sorry but it’s true. The story’s adorable. I was grading papers at Coffee Culture, my favorite local coffee shop and/or workspace. I looked up and saw this cute girl sitting at the table directly across from me reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (my all-time favorite book (which, incidentally, happens to be (in part) about reading signs the universe gives you)). This was problematic. You see, I love Coffee Culture so I never flirted with anyone there. I didn’t want to lose the place in a bad breakup! But this seemed like a pretty big, flashing talk to this cute girl! sign. So, after about forty-five minutes I’d come up with the plan of taking the plate my dinner was on, past her table, up to the garbage and then casually noticing what she was reading as I walked back to my table. I know, I’m smoooooth. I struck up a conversation and we talked about how much we loved the book. Kalie was teaching it in a college course at the time and I told her how I taught it with my seniors too. We chatted and I gave her my number and email (under the yet again super smoooooth guise of Hey, if you want to talk lesson plans or whatever sometime, call me) and…then I waited. I was so nervous! Why didn’t I get her number?? I abandoned all control! But Kalie emailed me! The rest, as they say, is history :).
Now we’re over three years in and have come to share a lot of passions. I wouldn’t be blogging now, if not for Kalie’s encouragement and she makes me a better writer and a stronger academic. Our conversations always challenge me, in wonderful and beautiful ways, to grow. Another great passion we share is going to the movies. Kalie was only loosely aware of Star Wars when we started dating, having seen a movie or two. She wasn’t a fan nor was she into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her passion was horror…something I avoided at all costs. I’d seen exactly one horror movie before we started dating, The Woman In Black. And I only saw it because I wanted to see Harry Potter in his first non-Harry Potter movie!
One night, a few weeks into out dating, we were chatting at Coffee Culture when Kalie suggested we go see the new horror movie, Annabelle, coming out that weekend. I took a hard pass. Then Kalie said something that should have made me realize how outmatched I was going to be in this relationship. She looked at me sweetly, eyes shining, and she said, “I’m not saying I won’t go to the new Avengers movie with you next year…but if I was on the fence about it at all, your going to this horror movie would certainly make me more inclined to see it with you.” She then suggested we trade horror movies for sci-fi/superhero movies. In retrospect, she totally conned me. On my side, there were (at the time) ten Marvel movies, six Star Wars movies, and a few others (The Matrix for example) that I dug. On Kalie’s side, there were LITERALLY THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF HORROR MOVIES. I was in waaaaaaay over my head and I had no idea! Oh Kalie, you clever, clever girl. I kept track of the horror and superhero/sci-fi movies we watched together…and I saw the horror lead grow from two-to-one to six-to-one to ten-to-one at it’s height. But she was super cute and I like-liked her so I wiped away the tears (literally…horror movies made me cry) and dealt with the horrible nightmares that now plagued me nightly.
Then something magical happened. We were going to watch A New Hope! It was finally happening! Kalie was less than excited but I talked it up at dinner and we jumped in…and she loved it! Legitimately! She couldn’t wait to watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi! We were watching the movies I loved back-to-back as her choice! We discussed them and deconstructed them and Kalie loved it all. Then we did the Prequels and Kalie loved them too, diving wholeheartedly into the rich emotional complexity of their narratives. She was by my side when the Disney Era dawned and we’ve watched and discussed each new Star Wars film as it’s been released. Her enthusiasm is authentic and she explores the films with the same passion and academic drive I approach them with. Also it’s worth mentioning I’m dating a girl who loves watching Star Wars and loves to academically and thematically analyze it with me. Life is good! Also she’s really patient when I seem to go on and on and on (and on and on and on (and on and on and on (and on))) about Star Wars too :).
If you’d like the fun of reflecting on Star Wars with Kalie too, well you are in luck. Kalie’s written this brilliant piece – “Contemplating Kylo Ren” – where she considers the monstrous in Star Wars through the lens of Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. You should totally check it out! It’s forming the basis of a paper she’s going to present at a conference too!
To close, here’s a picture of Hannah, Kalie, David, and I on opening night for Rogue One. We were sad because Jeff couldn’t come up to see it with us so we took this picture for him, showing we’d saved him a place in spirit and in our hearts even if he couldn’t be there in person. Now I’m sharing it with you! Feel free to imagine yourself in this picture with us and then we can all share some Star Wars love together. Yay! May the Force be with you too.