In a recent episode of the podcast, we went ahead and dove into some of the lessons we’ve learned from Star Wars. During the conversation I had mentioned one of the reasons why I enjoy Star Wars to the extent that I do is because I went headlong into the fandom when my mother went through a health scare. I’d like to go into that a little bit further, as well as underlining the importance of pop culture as a teaching tool, a coping mechanism, as well as some of the complications that can arise from fanatical fandom (Of which I count myself a member).
I moved with my family from Idaho to California about 7 years ago. Almost immediately upon arrival, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. In less clinical terms, she had a brain tumor. She’s fine now and cancer free so far. But at the time it was a terrifying experience. I have never had a life threatening experience (and by the ‘Whill’ of the Force hope I never do), so I can’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. That being said, the prospect of losing a family member was difficult to deal with. In addition I had a hard time letting out my own emotions about it through this desire (perhaps misguided) to be tough for the rest of my family. On a whim one day, out of frustration, a need to get my mind off of things, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up the “complete” (No TFA at the time) Star Wars Saga. I remembered loving the movies as a kid, and wanted to revisit that nostalgia hazed area of my life in an attempt to struggle through the situation.
And you know what? It worked. Not just as quick fix of positive emotional reinforcement, but something that actually stuck. Being reminded of the lessons of Star Wars, ones that I was taught as a kid, rekindled that childlike optimism in me that allowed me to actually be strong and positive for my family, instead of just pretending to out of sheer toxic-masculinity laden stubbornness.
What are these lessons that Star Wars helped me remember? Here are just a few: The little guy has a chance against the greater evil, emotional control can help you see things with a clear head, supporting the people around you makes you stronger, anger doesn’t help anyone achieve their goals, and most importantly, there is always hope.
That last one is the real kicker. Hope springs eternal, the old saying goes. It’s something that is taught to us in almost every part of popular culture. Which makes sense, considering all it is is an evolved form of the myths of old, who’s entire existence served to teach lessons to humanity through the power of the imagination. And as I’ve mentioned before, in my opinion, Star Wars is the quintessential modern myth.
Pop culture has a power to remind us of the ideal moral code we could live by. It can also warn us of what happens when we turn our backs on that. These stories can be exaggerated ideals or mirrors to the reality of a grey-area life, a gambit I feel Star Wars runs well.
That’s why I am deep into the fandom now. I have seen how it, as well as other fandoms out there, can help people cope with their issues. Doing this podcast helps me with my struggles with depression and anxiety. I know it helps some of our listeners with similar issues. In addition, talking about this media phenomenon that we share with the world acts as a common ground that can be built upon, leading to discussions, cultural exchange, and friendships.
This of course comes with a danger. We must remember that these stories, however beloved, are stories. I am 100% guilty of putting too much of my identity into my nerd culture, sometimes at the expense of other important areas of my life. It is that which makes me (arguably) overly sensitive about certain aspects of the fandom, an issue that I know many others have and which leads to situations of toxic fandom that we’ve seen. But I won’t beat that drum any more than I already have. (Who am I kidding, I’m sure it’ll keep coming up.)
At the end of the day, I am a Star Wars fan because Star Wars reminded me that there is always hope in dark times. I hope it can be the same for you, should you ever need it. Whatever your fandom, I hope it will always be there for you, and be what you need it to be. May the Force be with you.
What have you learned from your fandoms? Has pop culture helped you through any dark times? Let us know. I’d love to hear about your experiences.