The Force is upon you 

When "Star Wars" came out in 1977 I went to see it 11 times and made my mother take me to get Darth Vader's autograph, even though she said, "It's not really him, it's just some guy in a suit." It had everything a 12-year-old could want: It didn't take place on earth like junior-high school, it was spiritual but without requiring a visit to church, and you got to see Harrison Ford in that Storm Trooper outfit (a costume we now refer to as "The Nut Cup." You know what I'm talking about). By the time the Jedi returned I was too busy smoking pot and dying my hair to care. I was a teen-ager. My own theatrics overshadowed the Empire.

So it was with trepidation that we went to the theater to see how the old movie would be received. After all, "Star Wars" has 20 years and a million video copies behind it. How many diehards could possibly care?

The answer was, "Enough to line up half way around the building, and it's a big building." We had forgotten that there was a Force more relentless than time and more steadfast than earth: the sci-fi fan.

In the past two decades we've all gotten used to the idea of Trekkies but we never imagined there was a "Star Wars" underground just waiting to emerge for its own personal Second Coming. Some were dressed up like Jedi Knights or carried makeshift light sabers to show their fandom. It's scary because you might approach them saying, "I couldn't help noting your costume," and they might respond, "What costume?" But everyone we spoke to was composed and pleasant and when we asked how many times they had already seen the movie, just shook their heads, let their eyes float around like diluted ice in a watery Coke and said, "Too many to count. A million." Still, they stood there waiting, some for hours, just for seating. Their tickets had been bought weeks in advance. One fan came all the way from Gainesville, because "there isn't a theater (there) that has a THX sound system."

Quality control

God love 'em. Get past the get-ups and it becomes clear that sci-fi fans may be the only bastion we can point to that has all the qualities that can save us from ruin. Let's look at their roster of merits:

Loyalty. Sci-fi fans can watch a 20-year-old movie that they've seen a million times with the same rapt appreciation that they did when they first set eyes on it. If everyone had an attention span like this, there would be no divorce and a zero drop-out rate. In fact, sci-fi fans may be so engrossed in rewinding tapes that when their time comes they will forget to die.

Virtue. Unlike fans of metal, rap and degenerate college book learning', sci-fi fans never do crimes against society. Most are too shy to commit assault. They carry only play guns. They're too interested in their cause to screw around with hazing. And you can't commit date rape if you don't date.

Brains. I don't have any statistics, but I'm sure that everyone in your high school class who liked sci-fi was also in the gifted program. They liked particle accelerators, microprocessors and global positioning satellites because they were going to get jobs where they were going to make those things. You made fun of those kids and went on to a job where all you made were Burrito Supremes, and you couldn't get those right half the time. Look at George Lucas. That nerd is so rich he can go back and polish his past by adding new scenes. Who's laughing now?

Reel life

Granted, I can look at "Star Wars" and think, my God, it's the only thing I've fallen in love with in 20 years that I'm not completely embarrassed about now. Indeed, the sci-fi crowd seems perfectly happy with itself, and how many of us can say that? So the answer might not be in sneering at the nerds, but in emulating them. Why should they be the only ones who get to completely shut out real life?

Rather than getting obsessed over drinking, money and sex, we should all find some movie we like and go over the top with it, avoiding Scores and Traction, of course. Suppose, for example, it became acceptable to develop a Trekking obsession with:

"Sense and Sensibility." Imagine how transformed this place would be if people started striving for either one.

The Shakespeare craze. If kids went crazy on this, their English would only improve. "Like, brevity is the soul of wit, so, Whatever."

"Remains of the Day." Fans would emulate their favorite flick by getting together and withholding their feelings. Ditto "The Prince of Tides." Picture how much better parties would be if people never, ever drank enough to tell you their uncomfortable stories about their pasts.

And what a pleasant experience it would be if, just for a week or two, people would emulate a Chaplin flick. Not the makeup and funny walk. Just the silence. It would be the best hobby you could wish on someone.

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