Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Come to the Dark Side of the Sidewalk-May 23, 2005

Making fun of Star Wars geeks is a lot of fun. It’s like playing “Doom” in invincible mode in that it’s just a matter of walking into the room, unloading all the devastating ammo you’ve got and watching the victims whimper helplessly in your destructive wake. Really, anybody over the age of nine who carries a lightsaber had better be either (a.) at Toys R Us buying a gift for a child or (b.) named Mark Hamill and on a movie set. If you’re neither of those, you really need to put the plastic toy down and accept the fact that lightsaber technology does not exist. Plus, if it did, you would still have been the last one picked for the lightsaber fighting team back in school.

Unfortunately, with the new Star Wars movie out, there’s a lot of geek-bashing going on, which means that it’s probably getting a little tiresome. I knew a bully once in elementary school who would pick on a kid for some particular thing (for example, because he wore the same checkered pants every few days or could read) and then keep it up until it wasn’t fun anymore. We might have reached that point with Star Wars fans.

On the other hand, some people can’t just tape themselves into a cardboard Stormtrooper costume and go down to the first night midnight screening at their local multiplex with the rest of their junior college friends. (I was wrong. It’s still fun.) Some people insist on looking unexplainably bone-headed in addition to being socially hopeless. It’s a special combination. But it’s one that a hardy band of losers in Hollywood have achieved. Before you get the idea that I’m talking metaphorically about “the Hollywood elite” or something poetic like that, you should know that I mean it literally. There’s a group of people in Hollywood, actually on a sidewalk in Hollywood, and they’ve been there for almost two months, waiting to see the new movie.

Some are dressed are Darth Vader, others as Wookiies, and Jedis and some as the guy who walked through the background in the scene where Luke Skywalker was gassing up his landspeeder and buying an ICEE in Episode Five. They’ve been waiting with psychotic patience to be the first ones in line to see the very first showing of Star Wars Episode III last week at the famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

Unfortunately, Mann’s Chinese isn’t showing Star Wars.

Hanging around for two months to see any movie is tragically demented. Mann’s Chinese could have actual newly-discovered footage of Elvis supervising alien spaceships building Stonehenge, and I’d still wait for the DVD rather than leave the comfort of a roof and plumbing and head out to Hollywood Boulevard to see it. Still, at least there’s a logic to waiting two months outside a movie theatre if you’re actually going to see the movie. Sure, it’s the kind of logic that leads a person to put combination locks on his dry goods or to try to decode the secret message that Nanny 911 is sending him by the way the show alternates Nanny Stella and Nanny Yvonne on dates ending in 3, but at least there’s a logic.

What kind of special crazy potion does it take for someone to sleep on the street outside a theatre where the movie’s not showing? In premieres past, Star Wars has launched at Mann’s Chinese, but for some reason, this time it’s going to the Arclight, a few blocks down the street. The group knew all this, but claimed they didn’t like the Arclight and would therefore wait at Mann’s Chinese. They thought George Lucas would intervene on their behalf, like the Great Pumpkin rewarding Linus for having the Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch. After all, these guys (definitely guys) really prefer Mann’s Chinese to the Arclight…why should they have to travel a few blocks just to be in a place where the movie was actually showing?

Which leads me to the key difference between the original line-standers of the Star Wars movies of the 70s and 80s and these phonies. People stood in line for those old movies because the theatres were packed, and if you didn’t stand in line for a few hours, you weren’t going to get to see the movie. Eventually, somebody thought ahead and brought some jerky or popcorn, possibly even a beer or two, and yes, a lightsaber (toy). The time passed a little bit faster and some of the Hollywood Boulevard transients probably thought alien construction crews had landed and stayed clear. There’s an upside to that My family drove 40 miles to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, because our 3-screen little town probably had “For the Love of Benji” on two screens and “Walking Tall” held over for the 13th week in a row. I don’t know. I was 8 years old and had never considered the possibility that I could use the Force in any way up to that point, so it seemed worth the drive.

For these guys, though, it’s not about getting in to see the movie. It opens simultaneously on about 200,000 screens across the country. Your last name doesn’t exactly have to be “Skywalker” to get a seat. I walked up on the first weekend and went right in, but then, that’s the point, isn’t it? Star Wars isn’t just a movie they want to see; it’s who they are. The fact that they’re at the wrong theatre just makes them more like Luke Skywalker going through his training on the swamp world of Degobah. If you don’t suffer, the rewards just aren’t as great.

Or do it my way and if you see any line at all, just buy a ticket to “Monster-In-Law” playing in the same theatre. You can pretend Jane Fonda is Anakin Skywalker slowly turning to the Dark Side and becoming a hideous fiend bent on destroying the forces of good.

It won’t be that hard.


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