It all started with my wife, really. I used to be a perfectly ordinary internet person before I met my wife. I visited my echo chambers, packed to the gills with “right thinking” individuals. Together, we railed against the slights perpetrated against us by the powerful few, secure in the knowledge that we were always on the side of angels. Dissenters were roundly and thoroughly mocked, cowed and ultimately silenced.
It was fun. It was safe. We even had little in-jokes that could be made with impunity, secure in the knowledge that nobody worth listening to could disagree.
Then, one day, my wife decided she wanted to watch all of the Star Wars movies, in order, and everything fell apart.
I am not the biggest fan Star Wars ever, but I am by my nature something of a purist. When I heard Lucas altered the original masters of the original trilogy to make his Enhanced Edition pet project, I was enraged. I refused to see the remasters, and refused to watch the prequels on general principle. Star Wars was as dead to me as Greedo.
I stewed in my rage for decades, chuckling at the Han Shot First tee shirts on ThinkGeek.com, and holding on to my original, un-remastered VHS tapes of the original trilogy well past the day that I owned a television that could work with my VCR. I complained bitterly about the modifications Lucas had made to the movies that I had grown up with, and even more so complained about the ways that the prequels changed the understanding of the universe.
All while never having seen any of them. It was an article of faith that the prequels and the modifications were bad. Anyone who suggested otherwise wasn't worth hearing, let alone listening to. Fans of the new stuff were clearly dangerous lunatics, and, speaking as a dangerous lunatic, I objected to being tainted by association.
However no prejudice can last forever. As I mentioned, my wife wanted to see all of the Star Wars movies. I searched and searched for a DVD copy of the original trilogy that was unmolested by Lucas’ clumsy hands. I could endure the video quality of retouched laserdisc pan-n-scans if it meant seeing the movies as they were originally received. If my wife was to see A New Hope, then by Jenga she would see the proper version.
It was for naught. No original copies of the movie could be had for any price I was willing to pay. I relented, buying a Blu-Ray/DVD box set of the remastered editions. I consoled myself with knowing that, at least, I would finally know what I had been hating all these years.
What had changed? A few space ships looked prettier. Some alien creatures were added to the backgrounds, and there was a new scene using unused footage of Harrison Ford talking to a digital Jabba the Hutt. I spent more than a decade stewing in my own juices about this?
Surely the infamous Greedo scene would justify me. I had clung to that as evidence of Lucas’ malfeasance for so long that it must bear me out, mustn't it?
That was it? A split-second of blaster fire that I wouldn't even have known wasn't in the original if I didn't already know it wasn't in the original? This was the cross I bore for two decades? This is why I and everyone else were so angry? This?
The most infuriating part is not that I spent over a decade being infuriated by something so trivial, it's that I should have known better. Star Wars wasn't the first time I had worked myself into a righteous internet-based hatred over something I'd never seen. You might recall I confessed a fandom of Twilight in a previous article. I went through the same arc with Twilight as I did with the Lucas remasters. I spent years nodding along with the disdainful “sparkly vampires” jokes with the rest of you. Then one day my wife decided she wanted to see for herself, and we both got hooked on it. Suddenly I found myself not only eating crow, but ostracised from the echo chambers I’d found such comfort in.
It's an odd feeling for me. Not the ostracism – as anyone reading my articles long enough will attest, I'm not exactly Mr. Conventional Wisdom – no, the odd feeling is one of having belonged and then not belonging anymore. The echo chamber cannot abide discord, so I have to either bite my tongue or leave. I can't explain why the jokes are misinformed. Nobody wants to hear that. They want to continue to feel superior to lesser Star Wars fans or Twi-hards. By listening to myself, and developing my own voice, I've put myself into the position of being an enemy. I'm one of the stupid people that I used to so shamefully mock, secure in the knowledge that I'd never meet one.
But 2017 is a new year yet, so let's start fresh. I'd like to offer my sincere apologies to both George Lucas and Stephanie Meyer. I was wrong to mock you, and your work. I outsourced my opinion of the Remasters, and of Twilight, to their loudest critics. I treated dissenting opinions on the subject as beneath contempt.
I will not do that again. There are too many good things in the world that I would miss out on if I nayed with the sayers, rather than yayed with the makers.
I'll still make prejudgements about what ideas and media to consume (nobody can consume everything, after all), but the opinion will stop at “I don't want to see that.”
And if someone really wants me to see it, maybe I'll give it a go. Who knows? It might just be the next Twilight.