Well, 2016 is here and with it a new theme for Verity! Podcast* and new topics to match that theme for us to talk about. Our theme this year is “firsts”, and it’s one I’m rather excited about because there is so much room to wander around. We have episodes to pick apart and experiences to discuss with each other. I hope to take away a new appreciation of some things my cohosts enjoy because that’s part of the fun of sharing a love for a TV show. Of course, Verity! Is about Doctor Who, and as someone who is so proudly multi-fandom, it’s hard to dim that fangirl shine to just one fandom. I figured my own blog was a great place to talk about my first fandom; even before Queer as Folk graced my television set, posters for a certain big-name prequel graced my walls. I’m also talking about it because I’m really tired of hearing people heap complaints on it with The Force Awakens taking the world by storm.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was my first fandom, even though I didn’t really associate with other fans either online or in real life. I had a kindred spirit to talk to about it, and we dreamed up elaborate starships and new characters based or set on first the movie and then the Jedi Apprentice book series. It was just her and I though, and when I wasn’t spending time with her I had the movie, the novelization, the tie-in books, and the multitude of extras and merchandise that Lucasfilms put EVERYWHERE. I spent so much money on Lays chips, trying to get a bag with a certain character card in it. I threw myself into the Star Wars universe and let imagining I was a Jedi soothe my troubles away.
It was the first movie I could quote all the lines in, the first movie I defended when I heard someone in school making fun of it, and it brought my first crush on an actor. That movie, regardless of whether you like it or not, helped me get through a rough time. A lot of that is because it happened to occur during a perfect storm of factors in my life.
I was 12 years old in May of 1999, and I had found out a month before the movie was released that (after being an only child all my life) I would soon have a baby brother or sister joining the family. I was excited to be a big sister, but I was also terrified what this change would bring. I don’t handle change well, that’s why I do improv. My mother and I had moved a couple years earlier to a small town where I didn’t know anyone, and instead of trying to make friends, I read by myself and did extra school work. I had a couple friends, but I really only saw them at school.
I kept what was bothering me about my family from my friends at school and kept what was bothering me about my social life from my family at home. Compartmentalization seems like a way better word in theory than in practice.
Perfect storm for falling head over heels for a fictional universe:
- BIG inevitable change over the horizon that you can’t change or make go away.
- (Perceived) Lack of people to talk to about said, giant change.
- Everything around you is boring, and you lack a good solid friendship.
- Friends at school are excited about a new thing (because they’ve seen the original trilogy, you haven’t).
- Attractive actor you see in one trailer.
With those factors in mind, The Phantom Menace didn’t have to have the brilliant qualities of the original trilogy or the amazing things that make it so great like The Force Awakens because it was there at the perfect time. I needed to lose myself in a rich, full world, and that’s exactly what I did.
Phantom Menace, when I first saw it, spoke to me on another level. I read so much into it that sometimes I forget what the movie is really about. The movie was about more than trade disputes, battle droids, and “no one is buying what you’re selling Palpatine” storylines. I still saw the lame characters and poorly written dialogue, but I didn’t care. You had an established Jedi “family” of Jedi Master and his apprentice whose world is turned upside down because of exciting events they live through and change that they barely blink an eye at. They then meet an annoying, bratty kid (little sibling on the way) who joins their family much to the annoyance of Obi-Wan. Anakin represents a big change; he’s supposed to bring balance to the force.
This is unlike my little brother, who did not bring balance to the force. He does have the same number of letters in his name as Anakin, however.
I took away from the first screening I saw of Phantom Menace (I saw it six times, I think, in theatres) that even when the worst happened, life went on. Obi-Wan does the unthinkable when, despite the Jedi Council not agreeing with him, he goes and takes on Anakin as his apprentice after Qui-Gon dies. If you read anything about Obi-Wan before that point, this is very not like him. He would have NEVER disobeyed the Council before. Qui-Gon was the maverick; he questioned authority and made things up as he went along. Some of the books hypothesize that it was one of the main reasons Qui-Gon was never on the Jedi Council.
To 12-year-old me, knowing Obi-Wan could get through such a big change made me feel a bit better about the change I would have to face. I got a little bolder because of that movie, taking bits and pieces of character traits and assuring myself it was okay to be a little bit wiser, to break the rules now and then, and I started talking when I would have normally stayed silent. That kindred spirit and I were just starting our friendship, and it strengthened after we went to see the movie together. We stayed up all night talking about it. That shared love for a show that becomes a deep friendship is what I have now with Doctor Who and the other fandoms I romp around in. I can only hope The Force Awakens will appear during a perfect storm for someone else and help them through a big event.
Oh, and that attractive actor in the trailer that drew me in, and that I developed a HUGE crush on?
I had posters of him everywhere in my room and was so embarrassed when I realized I had been pronouncing his first name wrong for months. (This is when access to interviews or YouTube would have been great.) I was looking for the movie Trainspotting (which he is in) on Showcase when I found that first episode of Queer as Folk.
We know how that turned out.
*Thanks to Erika for editing this. Without her there would be no commas.