When Amy Sturgis was a little girl, just a smidge taller than the shrubs by her house, she dressed up like Princess Leia for Halloween.
That’s what happens when your parents take you to see Star Wars six times even though you’re only five years old and can barely see over the theater seats in front of you.
Of course you do see, somehow, because everything about Star Wars – the orchestral music bursting into your head, the dizzying special effects, the timeless story of good vs. evil, everything – is all served up with popcorn in the darkness of a movie theater in the summer of 1977. And in your imagination.
The imagination of a five-year-old is wonderfully pliable. Star Wars stretches it this way and that way, shaping it in a fashion not fully understood until you are much older and have earned a Ph.D.
What you understand at five, though, is come Halloween you will for sure dress up like Princess Leia, the fiery, strong-willed Star Wars spitfire who knows her way around a blaster. You will deal with what it all means later in life. Right now, it’s just cool.
Dan Hendricks gets it. He’s a self-proclaimed sci-fi dork. Has been one for a very long time.
For Halloween 1979, Dan dresses up like R2-D2, the plucky little droid from Star Wars. Dan uses a roll of chicken wire, some cloth and aluminum foil, white pants and empty Kleenex boxes for shoes, as well as a really good kid imagination, to create a convincing look.
“I remember being hot and uncomfortable,” he says. “But I thought the costume was too cool to take off.”
He probably would have kept it on forever but even R2-D2 has to sleep, and no matter how cool you think you are, you can’t sleep in chicken wire.
But you can sleep in Star Wars pajamas and bed sheets, hanging out with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia and all your galactic buddies as you drift off to sleep with visions of light saber battles dancing in your head. Such is the wonder of Star Wars merchandising.
During the Halloweens to come you will play your part in an epic story told by George Lucas, a story handed down to him from the folks who told it first, when the stars themselves were learning to shine.
Little Amy Sturgis is now Dr. Amy Sturgis with a Ph.D. in Intellectual History. She teaches a university course called “The Force of Star Wars.”
Star Wars is “more than entertainment,” Sturgis argues. The film is rooted in the ancient art of storytelling. Storytelling is “how we explore our own histories, how we cultivate morality, and how we ask important questions about who we are and what we should be.”
That is the way it has always been. That is the power of story.
So maybe, if the stars align, we remain courageous princesses and fearless Jedi knights, brave enough to fight the forces of evil. And lucky enough to dream on Star Wars pillowcases.
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