I’m a lucky guy. I have a group of friends I spend time with weekly that I have had the joy and privilege of knowing since middle school. We make it a point to carve out time every weekend for friend dates that give us something to look forward to throughout our separate busy work weeks. This group of guys and gals have all been bonded through our almost twenty years of friendship. That’s right. The people I recently sat next to for The Super Mario Bros. Movie were those I sat next to in 2005 when The Revenge of The Sith came out. And that’s where it started.
I was taught the values of loyalty, camaraderie, and the love one can have for somebody else over the years because I have been loyal to the same group my entire life. Losing that would mean losing the best thing I’ve ever known. This is a lesson I learned back in 2005 watching that aforementioned Star Wars film.
Witnessing the turn of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) during the events of the third film in the prequel trilogy was devastating. Not because I knew of the sheer devastation and destruction the character was capable of as Darth Vader in the originals but because we got to see his downfall through the eyes of Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), the folks that loved him the most. That’s when I realized something: movies are supposed to move you. And since then, nothing has moved me the way Star Wars has.
Before 2005, I vaguely remember seeing the final few scenes of Return of the Jedi on the big screen. When I was a kid, my mom was big on taking me to the movies and then sneaking into other theaters after our movie ended. A bad habit, to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s how I got to see the heroes of the Rebellion earning their medals after defeating the dreaded Empire for the first time. From then, I have memories of pestering my mom for the smaller-than-normal-toys Star Wars action figures and desperately penning lists to Santa for VHS copies of the original trilogy and then snacking on Bugles and Capri Suns while wearing said VHS copies out on my bedroom TV with a built-in VCR (the height of luxury for a child). I was entranced in this galaxy and the heroes and villains within it.
Luke Skywalker was my hero. Han Solo was the funniest man alive. Leia awoke things in me that until then lay dormant. The spectacle of these films built in me a foundational love for the movies that have motivated my life and career choices to this day. I needed to be involved in this world somehow, someway. I started trying out for plays in school and researching how movies were made by checking out books at the library and finding crumbs of making-of documentaries and interviews by George Lucas. Today, I work for a Broadway theatre and a concert venue, bringing a different kind of entertainment to the masses while moonlighting as a film journalist and critic. Without my love of Star Wars, I could have easily followed a very different career path.
I was so obsessed with movies that came out long before I was born that when I became aware of impending prequels, life as I knew it was about to become even better than I could have ever imagined. The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith are pretty controversial films, with everybody and their mother holding an opinion of them. However, regardless of your individual bias towards them, they were my Star Wars. The first time I felt a part of what would become known as a fandom. A community of like-minded nerds standing in line to see the newest film. I often used my allowance or birthday money to watch the movies multiple times in theaters (with my aforementioned friend group I still embrace today). Then I waited anxiously for my mom to come home with the DVD. I witnessed the progression of technology alongside this franchise. Nothing compared to seeing lightsabers, pod racing, and clones and droids on the big screen. Nothing.
Everything made me feel something. Every single little thing mattered. The rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker not only made me appreciate the process of filmmaking as a whole but also forced me to look at the world and garner an appreciation for its inhabitants. Obi-Wan told Anakin, “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” This 100% opened my eyes to the idea that family can be chosen. This began a new life filled with intentionally referring to my best friends as my brothers and sisters and telling them that I love them as often as possible. No matter what. These silly space operas taught me the many shapes and sizes that love can come in.
Fast forward to 2015. I was in college. I was freshly dumped. I was lonely, lost, and miserable. Pathetic, even. But then. I saw a trailer for The Force Awakens. By this time in my life, I was somewhat lost. Heartbroken and war-torn by the chaos of love found and love lost, I ventured to the movie theaters alone for the very first time (the start of a beautiful experience that continues to this day. Go to the movies alone. It’s the best. Like, for real.) to see what the new Star Wars would teach me. Wow. A Black stormtrooper, a female protagonist, and a father-son dynamic that the agony of life’s terrors has ruined.
This was magic.
Let’s go back a bit. I’m Christian Hubbard (he/him). I am a Biracial Star Wars nerd raised by a single Black mother. Daddy issues are the norm for me. So yeah, Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) tortured soul and unknowing journey toward redemption helped repair my wounded heart. Finn’s struggle to escape the toxic environment around him motivated me to set my own goals and pick and choose how to achieve them. Rey’s desperation-turned-earnest-drive to find her place in the universe gave me the confidence to find mine.
These stories shaped me into the human being that I am today during a pretty formative season in my life. I found a career in the arts. I helped create my own film and TV blog. I spend hours and hours on social media talking about cinema and cultivating a community of folks who care whether I live or die. I have made so many friends-turned-family through my love for the movies (many on the team right here at Screen Speck) that I cannot imagine my life without them. And don’t even get me started on The Last Jedi, which is my personal pick for the best Star Wars film of all time. Was The Rise of Skywalker messy? Sure. But I feel an ownership over the sequels because of how they made me feel and helped me grow.
Star Wars Rebels is my comfort show. An insane amount of Star Wars novels are scattered throughout my home right now in case I get a few minutes to pick them up and dive in. I wear the symbol of the Rebellion on my ring finger and around my neck as if it were the cross on which Jesus died. Star Wars is so engrained in who I am as a person due to how it raised me. I firmly believe there is nothing better than when the media you consume means something to you. Good or bad, Star Wars means something to me, and I am grateful for its existence.