Geek Grief

Hey, long time no write. Life’s been…well, kind of crappy lately. House broken into and burgled, house maintenance issues, car maintenance issues, December 2015 has decided to not just go out with a bang but a kick to the stones of me and several people dear to me. Beyond that I got a new job back in September that has been keeping me very, very busy. Anyway, enough about me.

Before we begin with the topic at hand, let me first warn you that this post is going to contain some pretty explicit spoilers of the recently released Star Wars film. I’m trying to pad the front of this post as much as I can before getting into the topic so that you can bail out now if you want to, but, please keep in mind, if you continue on from here on out you’ve been properly warned and any complaints about spoiled scenes can be kindly sent to nofucksgiven@yourownfault.com.

With that out of the way, on with the show.

Growing up I didn’t have a lot of friends that I went to school with. Most of my early school friendships went away when I changed schools in the second grade and I didn’t bond with any of the kids at the public school I went to for two years. When I moved into the private school I went to for the remainder of my grade and middle schooling I did manage to make a few friends, but the experience of going to school was a lonely, and sometimes abusive, one for me. That’s not to say that I was friendless, because I wasn’t; like I said, I did have some people who I’m still friends with today from that time, it’s just that most of them went to a totally different school, so I mostly saw them on special weekend occasions or during the summer when we were all on the same swim team together. Things got better in high school, but, whether from normal teenage angst or reality, I still felt lonely.

As I’m sure it is for many people who are or were in the same sort of state I was, books became my refuge. They were my escape, I could put myself into a book and read during recess periods and ignore when kids were being shitty to me. Through books I got to experience so much more than the life I was having at the moment. Books were and are important to me, the stories and characters meaning something to me. And it’s from that importance springs something that any fan will know: geek grief.

Geek grief stems from that importance, the weight we put on the characters who become meaningful to us. Through books we experience them as people; we see inside their heads and know their thoughts, through the prose we feel their emotions. We celebrate their success and mourn with them their losses and, when they sometimes do, we grieve when they die. I know more than a few people who mourned Tara’s murder in BtVS, especially as she was one of the first openly homosexual characters for kids my age at the time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen the movie but Spock slowly dying in the reactor chamber, his final words, fucking get to me every single time. Hell, when my brother read about Jon Snow’s death at the end of Dance with Dragons he threw his book across the room.

And don’t even get me talking about Atreyu and Artax from The Neverending Story. Holy shit. The scene in the Swamp of Sadness scarred a generation of children and if you didn’t watch that scene and feel anything the first time you saw it then I’m pretty sure you’re either a sociopath or a robot.

It’s that sadness we feel as fans when the characters we love leave us, whether they die or sail off into the West, and so it is today for me because, and I’m going to just say it, they killed Han.

Han Solo, scoundrel, smuggler, scruffy-looking nerf-herder. He was one of the first lovable bastards I ever experienced, the sort of person you didn’t know if you wanted to laugh at or punch in the mouth (and often wanting to do both at the same time). This is the type of guy who, when told for the first time by the women he loves that she loves him, responds with, “I know.” I’m pretty sure if she hadn’t been worried sick about what was going to come next for Han Leia would’ve screamed and thrown something at him.

I read a LOT of the extended Star Wars universe, following up on so many of the novels and comics that came after the original trilogy. About his difficult relationships with the people he loved, his two kids who we’ll never see on screen. He had so many adventures, so many crazy things he and Chewie did, like the time he gave a planet full of rancor and Force witches to Leia as an engagement present, and I got to be a part of that. I always enjoyed reading about him because of his sense of humor, his confidence, and because even though he was often obstinate, difficult, and distant, he really did love the people in his life an incredible amount, he just couldn’t say it. He was a character who became important to me, someone who, in a way only fans understand, was a friend.

And today he died.

I’m still processing the movie. Overall I liked it and I’ll do a better review later, but I don’t know if I’m completely satisfied with the lead up to his death. I think the writers did a good job of showing us who he’d become, that he was still very much Han but it was noticeable he wasn’t as quick as he used to be, that the years and experience weighed on him. His dialog was pure Han and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer’s reunion scene was well done; I could feel the weight of the passed time between them, the things they hadn’t said and wouldn’t ever say. And that final scene, just after they wheel Finn away, when it’s just Rey and Leia looking at each other from across the distance, where they don’t say a word, they just meet and embrace and mourn a man who’d been important to them both? Where we get the long shot of them on one side with their grief, even as the other half of the screen is celebrating their victory?

Like getting punched right in my nerdy little heart.

I don’t know how the next SW film will go without Han. During the opening text the movie said Leia had sent her “best pilot” to find the piece of the map to Luke’s location, a pilot Michelle and I thought would be Han but turned out to be Poe Dameron, a new character who is also a brash, exceptional pilot. I don’t know if they intend Poe to be the new Han, or if he’ll settle into his own space, but for me there will never be anyone who could fill Han’s boots and no matter how good the future movies might be, I’ll go to them and feel that absence.

As I said on Facebook as I walked out of the theater, goodbye, old friend.

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