Having reminisced fondly with a friend about this just the other day, I figured I’d write it down for posterity and all.
I like to give bad news first, so let’s start with the worst movie screening of my life.
I was in high school and Star Wars: Episode II was opening. On a dull Friday night, three friends and I trooped down to our favorite cineplex a few miles away to take in the utter travesty that is Attack of the Clones. We had entrusted the ticket buying to a friend, who we’ll call Jennie, for argument’s sake, who dutifully bought the last four tickets in a particular showing. “Wow!” said one friend, “That’s packed!”
“Well, it’s a Star Wars movie,” said another, shrugging his shoulders.
Jennie had virtually no idea of what the hell all this was about: She had never even seen Star Wars. At all.
The last thing I remember clearly before the adrenaline pumping into my heart full-force from sheer and utter terror was walking into the line they had set up for the theater and realizing that someone, somewhere had made a massive mistake.
We were the only folks not dressed up.
I’ve gone to many a movie showing – Rocky Horror, various Harry Potter films, and other Star Wars screenings where anywhere from 15 to 75% of the audience was in costume. But we were the only people that did not look like this:
The gaggle of men in front of us were dressed up as Jedis, so I vaguely remember someone striking up a conversation with them and finding out that we had managed to get the last four tickets to what was the Official Star Wars Convention showing for the Star Wars convention that had rolled into town.
No big deal, right?
Except I start seeing these guys in ILM shirts walking past the line and just cutting into the theater! NOT FAIR! I remember there being discussion amongst us about who those jokers were and how they got to pick the best seats first until something happened that I can only describe as a mass StarWargasm. Peter Mayhew walked by, followed by the dude who was in the R2D2 costume during the first three movies. And the little kid that played Jango Fett in the new movies. (Hell if I know, I’m not terrifically fond of Star Wars in the first place.)
It was like a throng of geeks exploded into furious rapture, oohing and ahhing at the sight of a seven foot man who could pass for Death himself followed by a gentle looking little person and then collectively swooning into each other’s arms as Jango Fett kid passed by, climaxing in a glorious typhoon of united geekery and nerdom.
It was, essentially, the most odd thing I had ever seen.
After the StarWargasm had passed, the geeks began to outgeek each other. Now, look: I’m the first to profess my geekery at any stage of the game. I’m a girl who would much rather watch Predator for the 8,000th time than any Julia Roberts movie. I’m a girl who when she found out they were auctioning off the velociraptors used in the Jurassic Park movie prayed to God that $60+ K would fall in her lap so she could buy a velociraptor, put it on wheels and take it every where with her. But this….this was something new, strange, and completely unparalleled in my world-view.
People began opening crates (yes, crates) of toys collected over decades, carefully mounted to fold out into a complete special display that would fold inwards when closed into a protective egg-crate foam inside. I saw people dressed up as Twileks, Jedis, Stormtroopers, you name it: they were there.
We got a lot of weird looks.
Eventually they started letting us into the theater and our small group of friends glanced nervously at one another. A small group of guys who looked like they were accountants by day, Jedis by night, shuffled into the row in front of us. They struck up quiet conversation amongst each other but quickly butted into ours, joking endlessly about Yoda for some reason. I kept my head down until:
“Weren’t you at the Babylon Five convention?”
One, lone Accountant cum Jedi Extraordinaire had turned around, his finger pointed, accusing me of something. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“You were AT the Babylon Five convention.”
“I … don’t think so. I don’t even know what Babylon Five is.”
After five minutes of arguing, said Jedi reseated himself comfortably, mumbling discontentedly to himself about how I totally was at that convention and he had totally given me his phone number and I had never called him.
Terrified now, I slunk into my seat, only to be horror-stricken at Jennie’s outburst.
Jennie, for the record, is a funny lady. I haven’t seen or heard from her in years but I remember vaguely the two guys we were with and myself giving her patently clear instructions: If you don’t know about something, ask us after the movie. If you don’t understand, want clarification, or generally are ignorant of Star Wars in general, ask us later. The feeding frenzy I could imagine at Jennie naively asking a Stormtrooper what they were dressed up as could not serve anyone well.
It was one of those horrifying moments where everything seems to slow down, time stands still and you turn red at the mere memory of it. I can still hear her question echoing through that theater: “What’s a Jedi?”
It was like chumming for sharks; quickly, the nerdiest of the nerds encircled her, rapturously prosletyzing about The Force and the Skywalkers and the Empire versus the Rebellion; the great love story of Han Solo and Princess Leia and the triumph of GOOD OVER EVIL, and oh by the way…would Jennie like to come to their convention?
Then their shifty focus turned to us, imploring us, pleading with us, telling us we needed to come to their convention: it was a bargain price of only $100+ dollars and we’d be happily welcomed as new recruits to the fold.
If I hadn’t been primarily sure that they would’ve dragged me, kicking, screaming and crying back into the theater, I would’ve run screaming from the theater. I’ve had better luck kicking Jehovah’s Witnesses off my lawn.
I don’t remember much of the movie. I do remember a lot of zealous screaming and fist-pumping. I do remember Mr. Babylon Five voicing his displeasure at me not having called him on my way out of the theater. And I distinctly do remember pulling the covers over my head in bed that night, afraid that bearded, glasses-wearing Jedis were going to come popping out from under my bed, handing me religious tracts on the powers of the Force and how I could use it for good.
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