Attack of the apathy: How making my friend watch Star Wars backfired

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Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor

Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor

I love Star Wars.

And after hearing that the Martlet was putting out a Star Wars-themed issue, I was excited.

From being enchanted by the colourful worlds of the prequel trilogy at seven years old (my introduction to the franchise), to watching the original trilogy and realizing just how bad the prequels were, I have invested more time in Star Wars than any other film franchise. I’m not the only one who likes Star Wars, obviously, and some people take it further than I do. But a Star Wars-themed issue meant I had the chance to write about it, and that is as close to perfect as it gets.

After receiving a text from my editor confirming the themed issue, I headed to my next class full of joy. Eager to share, I told my good friend Riley van der Linden, a second-year History student, about the good news.

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t really like Star Wars.”

My jaw dropped.

I have been friends with Riley since our first year at UVic, so you can imagine my shock and disappointment that not only was I unaware she didn’t like Star Wars, but that I had been friends with her for two whole years without knowing about this damning character trait.

After the initial disbelief and following some immediate pressing, I discovered that Riley’s history with Star Wars was a tragic one. She had never watched the original trilogy as a child, and her first experience with the franchise was being forced to watch The Phantom Menace against her will at her own birthday party.

Riley had sworn off Star Wars since the (understandably) traumatic experience, with apathy slowly growing into an active dislike as years went on. But while Riley seemed content in her hatred of the films, I knew, deep down, that this hate could only lead to suffering.

So, as the caring friend that I am, I decided there was only one way to turn the tide of Riley’s thinking and make her love Star Wars for the cinematic and cultural masterpiece that it is: bribe her with pizza to sit down and watch A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in one sitting.

Despite her skepticism that the movies “deserved their hype,” Riley agreed to sit down and subject herself to a new and wonderous cultural learning. I hit play with the new hope of making her eat her words.

“I don’t know how I can get through another two.”

As the first hour and a half of glorious nostalgia wrapped with the final credits of A New Hope, I turned to Riley. What did she think of the first Star Wars film, one of the greatest stories ever told, and the first chapter in one of the most successful and beloved movie franchises of all time?

“I don’t know how I can get through another two.”

That’s impossible, I thought.

Riley liked R2-D2 — “He doesn’t say too much” — and disliked Luke — “He needs a haircut” — but she worried that the remaining movies would be “a bit tedious to sit through.”

So not a great start, admittedly, but as we hit play on The Empire Strikes Back, I was sure that what is widely considered to be the best Star Wars film (and what is this writer’s favourite movie ever) would convert Riley into a true Star Wars fanatic.

Riley was even less impressed. She claimed the movie “dragged,” with “less intense action” (“But Hoth…” I cried), and although she didn’t have a single favourite character, Riley did at least appreciate Han Solo’s “I know” reply to Leia’s “I love you.”

“He’s a dick,” Riley said, “[but] it’s my favourite line.”

At this point, I was taking things kind of personally. I’m not afraid to say that I’m a proud man — I once got in trouble at an under 8’s soccer game because the parents of the kids on the other team complained to my coach that I was yelling at my own teammates for playing poorly — and I was getting a bit annoyed that Riley wasn’t appreciating the films as much as I believed she would. How could she not? Star Wars is critically and commercially acclaimed, with layers upon layers of story writing genius and thematic excellence. As it stood, Riley was more interested in Snapchatting my reactions to my favourite bits.

When we decided to take a break due to Riley getting sick — and no, it wasn’t an allergic reaction to Star Wars — I left fuming. Things weren’t going well.

We returned two days later to finish off the trilogy. After my period of self-doubt I was certain that this final movie would do the trick. I knew that Return of the Jedi was a good enough movie to completely change Riley’s mind. This had to be the movie to make her love Star Wars. Sure, it was a one-in-a-million shot, but you should never tell me the odds . . .

My hopefulness was to no avail: Riley didn’t share my optimistic appraisal of the movie. Yeah, she liked Han and the Ewoks (“I mean he’s a dick, but he’s supposed to be a dick”), still disliked Luke (“He’s a bit whiny”), and she enjoyed the fact that it was funnier, but she still just wasn’t that enamored with the whole thing.

I’ve been building this negative opinion of it for so many years that it can’t really be changed.

So, with that, my experiment failed, but I was still perplexed. How could forcing my friend to sit down in the middle of the exam season, to watch almost six hours of movies she had no interest in seeing, have possibly gone wrong?

“I didn’t like Star Wars going into it,” said Riley, “which is why you had to sit me down and force me to watch it, and I can’t say that I like it coming out of it.

“I think I’m just coming into it too late and I’ve been building this negative opinion of it for so many years that it can’t really be changed . . . it just festers in your mind for years.

“I’ve realized that there is potential in it, but I still can’t say that I like it.”

So now Riley and I are at an impasse. She doesn’t like the movies, but she respects them. I don’t like her (wrong) opinion, but I can (kind of) respect it.

And while the result to my experiment may not have been the one I had desired, I would still recommend it to anybody. If you have a friend who hasn’t seen your favourite movie, bribe them to watch it with you.

For one, they’ll make you like the movies less. And that’s a good thing. When Riley sat down to watch the movies that I love more than any other, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious and notice all the bad things about them. And there are a heck of a lot more than I remember. Every once in awhile there’s a scene with comically bad acting. There’s horrific CGI in another scene. And, yeah, I guess Luke’s hairstyle did suck.

I love Star Wars and probably always will. But I’m glad I can acknowledge that it’s not a perfect series, because nothing is.

I love Star Wars and probably always will. But I’m glad I can acknowledge that it’s not a perfect series, because nothing is. If you can love something while still acknowledging its faults, then I think that means you love it even more. It’s obviously easier to do that with some movies than others — I’m looking at you, The Phantom Menace— but watching the films with an outsider like Riley gave me some much-needed perspective.

And there are even more benefits to forcing your friend into watching your favourite movie. Not only will your friend finally understand the weird jokes you make — this one is big for me and Riley — but you’ll learn what kind of movies they do like. And, hey, maybe you can return the favour and watch a movie they like. (Note: Riley, this does not mean we’re sitting down and watching The Jane Austen Book Club.)

And although Riley probably will never watch the movies again on her own volition, I’d like to think that if Darth Vader could turn from the dark side after many years to save his son, then it might not be too late for Riley to love Star Wars.

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