Star Wars Virgins
Two Slate writers who wouldn’t know a Jedi from a nerf herder go see The Force Awakens.
Slate sent two staffers who’ve never seen a Star Wars movie to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Note: Spoilers galore below, insofar as our intrepid viewers understood the movie correctly. For a more informed, less spoilery take, read Dana Stevens’ review of The Force Awakens.
Jessica Winter: So, Katy, we have somehow spent decades on Earth without immersing ourselves in the Star Wars universe—but that changed today, forever. How have you managed to elude the Force all this time?
Katy Waldman: It wasn’t easy! I would say I consumed a one-quarter portion (get it?) of the Star Wars mythos just through cultural osmosis. But it turns out a lot of the Facts I thought were Facts were incorrect. For instance, I’d assumed that Luke Skywalker and Princess (General?) Leia were an item, but it turns out they are siblings. Shocking. But what about you?
JW: Yes, there’s probably no such thing as a pure Star Wars newbie—the series is so all-pervasive that I got some of those nutrients simply by consuming other forms of culture. I attempted to become a Star Wars fan at age 6, when my older brother took me to The Return of the Jedi, which my friend Ishaan confirms is the one with the bears. But if I remember correctly, I got scared early on and we had to leave. By the time the second round of films kicked in, in 1999, I think my lack of Star Wars scholarship had hardened into a ideological stance—I resisted the idea that I was pop-culturally duty-bound to confirm my membership in this cult.
KW: Yes! That sounds so familiar. My accidental neglect recast itself as imperviousness to this big dumb galaxy that supplied 80 percent of the kids in my neighborhood with Halloween costumes every year. But I can now admit how wrong I was. I loved The Force Awakens! Star Wars is the culture’s best-kept secret! Did you feel like your novicehood was a problem today?
JW: I did not, and that is all to the movie’s credit. I got the sense that J.J. Abrams split the film’s attentions with perfect mathematical precision, embracing ignoramuses like us while performing plenty of fan service along the way. A few times in the theater where I saw it, the audience laughed or gasped for reasons unknown to me, but I didn’t feel left out—just curious. What did you love about it, Katy?
KW: Well, the two leads—Rey and Finn—are just so courageous and funny and game. And I liked that someone had come up with a metaphysics for the universe, with a Force and two sides, and I liked all the samurai mystical stuff and the cheesy fight scenes and the pilots who had each other’s backs. It just seemed like such a good-natured movie! Also, that little robot awakened all kinds of maternal instincts I didn’t realize I had.
Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.