Turn away from the dork side

The tension is palpable. You can feel it. You can taste it. You can hear it. People are nervous, checking their watches, avoiding eye contact. The whole country, no, the whole world is abuzz with anticipation. It’s as if a million little voices, all suffering from the nasal sound of a collected deviated septum are whispering, “‘Star Wars,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Star Wars.'”

The third segment of George Lucas’ science fiction opus opens this week, and throughout the world grown men are moping around in their parents’ basements wondering what they’re going to write about in their blog now that almost 30 years of speculation is about to come to a close.

It’s been literally a lifetime since the first release of a “Star Wars” movie, and each episode of the tedious saga has been met with the eager anticipation of the socially inept. And not just the gamers and trench-coats, but all levels of culture have been affected.

For those of us that came of age during the ’80s, “Star Wars” is as ubiquitous as the Bible. It’s the great nerd equalizer. Be you a Dungeon Master, blogger, crate digger, or HO-gauge engineer, you will find common ground among storm troopers and ewoks. And after Thursday, it’s over – and not a moment too soon.

I am dumbfounded by the level of celebration the upcoming episode has received. It’s as if the world’s entire cultural community woke up one morning wearing bifocals. From performances by the London Philharmonic, to celebrations in every major market, to Cannes, “Star Wars Episode III” is turning the world into one giant comic convention, complete with middle-aged fat men in skin-tight jumpsuits and light-up swords.

It’s not a celebration of the movies. It can’t be. The films, even the celebrated original three, are abysmal. The Star Wars films are hack pieces, complete with melodramatic dialogue, recycled plot lines, thinly masked racial stereotypes and soap opera-quality direction. It’s not the films but the culture surrounding “Star Wars” that’s being commemorated by the world’s edified elite.

What’s wrong with these people? They’re celebrating a culture of people who live with their moms. A culture of people willing to forego life’s obligation for weeks in order to camp outside a movie theatre to see a movie about space ships and teddy bears. It’s a celebration of grown men buying action figures and happy meals. It’s a celebration of salt-and-pepper beards combined with pod racer backpacks and Big Gulp cups. It’s not just about a series of movies but an inadvertent validation of social mediocrity. It’s the equivalent of Gilbert Gottfried winning Kennedy Center Honors.

Every shameful nerd tendency I’ve circumvented in my life, as well as every one I’ve shamefully indulged in, is suddenly high culture. Years spent forcing myself to love films by John Cassavetes and Lars von Trier when I could have been playing with dolls. My time spent suffering through Derrida and Chomsky could’ve been spent arguing the merits of x-ray vision vs. super-speed. A lifetime understanding the gender politics of bell hooks could’ve been spent ogling women in capes and spandex. A life wasted!

My only hope is that this sudden salutation is some sort of elaborate prank. Perhaps Cannes director Nikita Mikhalkov is going to invite George Lucas onstage only to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on him. Otherwise I have no reason to keep trying. I’ll just pack up my car, buy a dozen Krispy Kremes, move back to the suburbs and open a comic book shop. I think my parents still have a room open.

Dylan Tanner can be reached at [email protected]