By Dave Pezza
Brian Crandall, field reporter for Southern New England’s News Channel 10, saunters over toward my direction with his oversized wireless microphone. I cringe visibly, turning my back to check my iPhone for nothing at all, the universal sign for, “please leave me alone.” I briefly thought of chucking my middle finger, but it wouldn’t be keeping with the joyous atmosphere that surrounds the Toys R Us parking lot in Warwick, R.I. at 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. Crandall ditched his ‘80s-cut black suit jacket and gaudy necktie, donning instead a laid back open collar and rolled-up shirtsleeves for the midnight event. “Force Friday,” as Disney and Lucasfilm have marketed it, brought all manner of “Star Wars” fans from their parent’s basements, apartment buildings, and domiciles.
Crandell starts at the front of the line, grabbing the brags of those who have been in line since 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., sitting in their collapsible aluminum chairs. While Crandall makes his way down the line, I notice a police officer at the front of the line near the toy store’s entrance.
“Really,” I say to my brother, pointing to the cop.
My brother is thirty-something, a chiropractor, and has a kid on the way. I can’t help but think he came so I wouldn’t be featured on the news by myself in a herd of "Star Wars" nerds. Then again, he’s probably using me as an excuse to catch a glimpse at the first wave of toys and games from the upcoming “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.”
“Of course, just in case any of these rowdy ‘Star Wars’ fans try to rush Geoffrey the Giraffe with a lightsaber,” he responds.
It’s growing closer to midnight, and Crandall continues to make his way down the line.
For those of you who have not been on planet earth for the last year or so, “Star Wars” is back. Big time. Disney purchased the rights from George Lucas for billions of dollars and hasn’t stopped throwing money at the franchise since. New television shows, at least six new movies (seriously, six), and endless games, toys, and merchandise. And it worked. In fact it has worked so well that the geniuses at Hasbro and Disney have set aside an entire day dedicated to releasing new Star Wars merchandise, and the movie hasn’t even been released yet. Really the whole thing is a perpetual hype machine. Force Friday, the November release of high profile video game “Star Wars: Battlefront,” all building to Dec. 18 when Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, finally, impossibly reprise their iconic roles as Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker.
If you’re a normal person, this is all very typical Disney. Hell, two years ago you couldn’t go out in public without “Frozen” advertisements and merchandise kicking you in the balls. But if you are a “Star Wars” fan, specifically one born after 1983 when the last original Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi,” premiered, this is the second coming. You’ve waited for these movies, movies not directed by George Lucas and starring the original cast, since the end credits of “Jedi.” I’ve been watching “Star Wars,” playing “Star Wars,” buying “Star Wars,” quoting “Star Wars,” and talking “Star Wars” for so long it’s hard wired into my first memories. My brother must have been the first person to introduce me to it with his action figures and worn out VHS copy of “The Empire Strikes Back.” And here I am now, staring at my phone, hoping midnight comes before our mugs appear on the morning local news show with an embarrassing tagline like, “Local adult nerds wait all night for toys intended for ten-year-olds.”
In case you haven’t read anything I’ve ever posted on Writer’s Bone, which is entirely possible, I’m not the most accepting of trends and fads. However, I’ve caught the “Star Wars” virus. More accurately, I never lost it, like chickenpox as a child and shingles as an adult. And beneath the haze and allure of marketing, consumerism, and deep-rooted issues of escaping reality lies something that I hadn’t realized until that night, standing in a Toys R Us parking lot. Every close friend I’ve ever had was a fellow “Star Wars” fan. And it’s not as if we all met at Comic Con or anything like that. We all just ended up really liking “Star Wars.” And we’re all really, really, shamefully excited for the new movie. Which means one of two things: either this franchise, with its great characters, intricate imagine universe, and timeless story, is so pervasive that the vast majority of men enjoy it, or “Star Wars” happens to be the cultural aspect that has defined and affected my particular life in such a significant way that it has helped me form every real male friendship I’ve ever had. Not to mention it helped an eight-year-old boy bond and share experiences with his fifteen-year-old brother, a common interest that, obviously, thrives to this day.
The doors to the Toys R Us finally open, and Crandall rushes himself and his cameraman into the store to get shots of the bleary eyed crowd of grown men bustling to purchase overpriced dolls (they're called action figures!). As we approach a “Star Wars”-themed archway set up in the store entrance, Crandall is just beyond, ready to seal our nerd fate. We move closer to the arch, and my brother says to no one and everyone,
“You don’t need to see our identification. We’re just a couple of normies over here. Move along. Move along.”
For more essays, check out our full archive.