immersion therapy

The Confused Notes of a Star Wars Newbie Who Felt Compelled to See The Force Awakens

Destroyer of planets, and schoolgirl crushes. Photo: Lucasfilm

I grew up under the impression that the whole thing about nerds and geeks was that we’re all supposed to be weird in our own different and unique ways. Then, in recent weeks, I made the mistake of telling people that The Force Awakens would be the first Star Wars movie I’ve seen. “How did you …?” they would begin. “How have you never …?” they would say. “Not even the first one?” Stammers, blank stares, judging. My theory about the inclusiveness of nerds and geeks was quickly disproved. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, I’ve come to learn, you should probably go into space and die, like I’m sure someone in one of the movies has.

Even as a member of the uninitiated minority, I did know some basic stuff about Star Wars, because how could I not? My birthday is May 4, so there’s that. I knew Darth Vader is bad and has the voice of Mufasa. I knew Han Solo is a person (though I thought it was Hans Solo). I could definitely pick Chewbacca out of a lineup. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher (whom I primarily associate with hating that wagon-wheel table in When Harry Met Sally). She has those Cinnabon hair swirls and at some point wore a gold bikini (info gleaned from Friends). Lightsabers are kind of like fancy swords. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.

But being familiar with some of the most enduring pieces of film trivia is one thing. The point — and, in the minds of many, problem — was that I’d never experienced a Star Wars movie. I may never have, either, if Disney hadn’t bought the rights and decided to release a new Star Wars movie every two months. It was clear Star Wars isn’t going away, so I figured it was time.

I was nervous as I walked into the theater last Friday, feeling like I was sneaking into a secret club and people were going to notice. Even worse, I had a notebook. Way to seem like a regular fan. But no one was saying anything about my basic, non–Star Wars T-shirt, and then the lights were going down. I was in! And I was very excited to finally see Darth Vader.

What follows are my confused thoughts and questions as I watched The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars movie I’ve seen. Spoilers (of questionable accuracy) to follow:

It says “Lucas Films.” People are screaming and clapping. Should have seen this coming. I’m kind of liking the energy in here.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Right. Okay, that answers some major questions.

I know these scrolling credits!

Oh! They tell you the plot in these scrolling credits. I think? They’re setting it up at least. Not sure if this is information people already knew, or they’re learning it now, like me. Except, I’m not really learning anything because none of this makes sense to me. Can’t understand a word of it.

Oscar Isaac is in this movie. I know you! Great actor. Such a chameleon. Here he’s like a chameleon in a pilot’s outfit.

Stormtroopers have arrived. I know they are soldiers … wait, Stormtroopers are bad guys? I think they’re bad! I was sure they were good guys. I’ve seen them walking around Disneyland.

And now one of the Stormtroopers is bleeding real red blood. I thought they were robots!

Okay, that’s definitely BB-8. I know him from all the ads for the toy version. I’ve also seen him at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Has he been in a movie before, or was everyone just amped about him being in this one? He’s very cute. I wonder how it’s possible to make a robot look cute to a human like me. Good job, guys.

In this universe, do humans make robots or are the robots just, like, another species?

They’re already having some kind of star war and it’s not even 5 minutes in. Not sure what everyone is fighting about. Things were fine like a second ago.

This guy looks a lot like Darth Vader. But he’s not Darth Vader. His name is Kylo Ren. Do all bad guys look like Darth Vader? The Stormtroopers work for him. Got it.

It seems like everyone is either a human or a robot. Got it.

Oscar Isaac is pretty funny! He just said to a bad guy, “Do I talk first, do you talk first?” It was very Larry David. There are good jokes in this movie. Wasn’t expecting jokes.

Some old guy in a robe just spoke in a British accent. No idea who he is, and no idea why some of these people are British. Except this actor, Something Boyega, I thought he was actually British in real life, and he’s not British in this movie? Why are they doing this? Feels like intentional misdirection.

How do people on other planets get British?

Now there’s a lady involved, and it’s very sandy and a little bit steampunk. She’s British too. I’m guessing she’s British in real life because she kind of looks like Keira Knightley. Same British mouth movements.

This movie is not just humans and robots like I thought before. Keira Knightley girl just arrived at a junkyard market place. Looks like the farmer’s market of the star wars. There are dinosaur-dog things and guys with huge squishy monster faces. It’s very cool-looking. I guess I always knew about Chewbacca and Yoda, so of course there are more things that aren’t robots or humans. I just never thought about it.

People and robots and puppet things speak different languages. Some can understand other languages, and some can’t. Not sure why. Schooling?

I heard this movie is going to pass the Bechdel test. Let’s see! So far there’s only one woman, I think. But I’m not sure how to tell if some of these dinosaur things are male or female.

It’s so dusty out here. Put on goggles! Unless these alien dinosaurs have thicker, moister eyeballs and don’t need them. Is that canon?

Keira Knightley is kind of like a slave, I think? Or no. She just has to do a lot of work to get some bread that rises really fast. My people could have really used that, if you know what I’m sayin’! It’s all good, though. I like matzo.

Oh my god, Domhnall Gleeson is in this??? He’s my biggest crush. Are they going to make an About Time joke? Like will one of the Stormtroopers say, “It’s about time you showed up”? Hope so.

I think Domhnall Gleeson plays Space Hitler. He has a Hitler Youth hairdo and wears a trench coat. Ugh. Way to ruin a Jewish girl’s crush.

The woman’s name is Rey, I think. Everything sounds alike in space. She just told a mean squishy-faced boss man that “this droid is not for sale.” Ohhhhh is Star Wars the one where someone says, “These are not the droids you’re looking for?” Is this new line going to be just as famous?

Man, BB-8 is like the star of this movie. I can see why. He’s truly adorable.

Oscar Isaac and Boyega just stole a ship and then crashed it. Boyega thinks Oscar Isaac is dead. I don’t buy it. He’s too big right now. Already amped for his return.

Okay, Boyega just found BB-8. It was the droid he was looking for. Haha. #FanJokes

Boyega’s character, Finn, keeps trying to hold Rey’s hand to pull her away from danger, and she keeps saying she can do it by herself. They’re leaning a little hard on the “movie with a strong female lead” thing. Feels a smidgen condescending. I’ll get over it.

Everyone’s talking about Luke Skywalker now. Apparently he disappeared and no one can find him. How does everyone know him? It seems like he’s famous inside of the movie. Like he’s a hero of the star wars or something.

Okay, I recognize this ship because I had a toy of it when I was little. It’s the one that looks like a retainer. I got the toy for getting enough “cooperation stars” in fourth grade. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I liked it. I guess not much has changed.

Kylo Ren found out his Stormtroopers couldn’t capture Finn and Rey. Kylo is like a giant angry baby. He’s throwing everything around his room and just lightsabered his computer! Why’s he so angry? What is “the dark side”? I sort of get it, but not really. It’s just like good and evil? And he’s decided he wants to be evil?

Harrison Ford and Chewy are here! I know those guys. So does the audience. And so does Rey! She just said, “You’re the Han Solo that fought with the rebellion!” He’s famous, too, inside the star wars, just like Luke, I guess.

Ford says this is the Millennium Falcon. Oh! I’ve heard that name. I think I thought it was someone’s pet bird.

Everyone wants to find Luke, but I have no idea why, or why Luke is missing. It seems more like he doesn’t want to be found.

So far I know there’s something called “the rebellion” and something called “the dark side” and something called “the resistance” also “the republic.” No idea what’s going on with those things, even though I have an idea of the basic plot of this.

They’re on a ship, and now random gangs of people are breaking in. Why didn’t they lock their ship doors? These people are Irish. Once again, not sure how they got Irish in space.

Kylo Ren is talking to a guy with an enormous head, I think some important plot information is going to come out here. Oh my god! He just called Han Solo his dad!!! Is everyone someone’s dad??? This is huge.

What’s a Jedi?

Han took everyone to some kind of alien town. I really like it. It looks like Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

Kylo Ren is now having a deep conversation with someone. Can’t see who. Okay, they turned the camera around. Oh god, it’s a melted Darth Vader mask! And he just called it “grandpa”! Darth Vader is dead??? Darth Vader is Kylo Ren’s grandpa??? But Darth isn’t Han’s dad. Is he?

It might take me a minute to get over the death of Darth. I know he’s bad but I really wanted to see him!

Ohhhh!!!! Darth was Leia’s dad, which means Leia and Luke were brother and sister. Which means Leia and Han had a baby that was Kylo Ren. Got it. They should pass out a family tree beforehand instead of 3-D glasses.

In the alien town, there’s a very tiny woman with big goggles, and I like her a lot. She called Chewbacca her boyfriend! I think she’s just lustin’. I get it, girl. Go after that tall dog!

Rey just heard crying, and then ran to find the crying, but all she found was a box. She opened the box. Everyone’s applauding. It’s like a metal piece or something. Something important I guess.

Goggles lady is talking about “the force.” What’s “the force”? I’ve taken the idea for granted. I thought it was just a salutation, but apparently it’s a thing you can have or not have. Like a super-power. I thought “May the force be with you” was just like “good luck!” Wrong.

Oh, the metal thing is Luke’s lightsaber. Dur.

Back to the space Nazis! It’s about time. Ha-ha. Domhnall is giving an evil speech in front of a huge red-and-black flag. The Stormtroopers just gave him a Nazi salute. Kind of confused. What’s the relationship between Kylo Ren and Space Hitler Domhnall Gleeson? Are there Nazis in all of these movies or is this a new thing?

Finn has a blue good-guy lightsaber! Is this better than a gun? The guns seem better and easier to use.

The good guys are on their ship and Chewbacca is making jokes left and right. It’s hilarious. Who plays Chewbacca? Is it one very tall guy, or a kid on another kid’s shoulders?

C3PO and Princess Leia just arrived in another ship! I recognize C3PO. He’s kind of dumb. Is that his thing? I guess a British guy programmed C3PO, because he’s also British. Seems pretty arbitrary who’s British and who talks in “beep boops” or grunts.

C3PO knows BB-8 by name. They’re already friends. How do they know each other? Just from being robots?

Han just told Leia, “You changed your hair.” I get it!

Han and Leia just saw their son, Kylo Ren, for the first time since I have no idea when. I’m invested in the family drama.

Everyone keeps talking about jackets. Han is wearing the same jacket as always, I guess? Finn is wearing Oscar Isaac’s jacket.

Is Leia still a Princess? They’re not using the word “princess” anymore. It’s another word. Organa? What was she the princess of? A whole planet? What’s an organa?

Han and Leia are having a real moment. This is pretty dark. It’s kind of like they had a son who died and it split them up, only instead of actually dying, he went to the dark side. This isn’t unlike Showtime’s The Affair.


Rey has stronger mind-reading skills than Adam Driver. I feel like I’m having an epiphany. Is this “the force”?

“The force” is like mind-control or something? The power of persuasion?

Rey just escaped from Kylo Ren’s powers using her own powers! What did Leia and Han do to get such a shitty kid? Kylo Ren is like an angry teenager. He’s having another temper tantrum about how Rey left.

Greg Grunberg? He plays a resistance pilot? I know this is a J.J. Abrams movie but like, what?? This feels out of place. Maybe just because I’m a huge Felicity fan, but I don’t think so.

“Hey, I’m in Star Wars, too!” — my impression of Greg Grunberg.

Everyone’s clapping because a guy with a fish head just showed up. I don’t mean he’s holding a fish head, but like his head is a fish’s head.

I have no sense of place. Are they on different planets? One planet? Different ships? How many ships?

Chewy just gave Han a jacket. So many jackets.

I wish I had a topographical map. How far away are things from each other?

Adam Driver is pretending to love his dad, but I can see this one from a mile away. Yup, he just murdered Han Solo. This is maybe a much bigger moment for people who have seen all the movies. But I’m still sad to see Harrison Ford die. He seemed very funny and genuine.

Adam Driver kind of has an Alan Rickman in Harry Potter thing going on with his hair. Though, I’ve also never seen Harry Potter. Another article for another time?

Okay, now Kylo Ren and Rey are having a lightsaber fight in the snow. Still wondering why people would use these instead of guns, which seem to be plentiful in space.

A whole planet just exploded. No clue what it was, they showed it from too far away. At least, I think it was a planet. This probably isn’t a spoiler, because I have no idea what happened.

Princess(?) Leia Organa and Rey just hugged for a long time. It was nice, but I don’t know if it counts as passing the Bechdel test. They didn’t hug with a man between them, to be fair. And Rey did talk to that tiny puppet lady with big goggles about stuff that wasn’t men. I’ll count that.

R2D2 has been sleeping for years, and now just woke up! And he has the rest of the map they’ve been looking for! He seems great. Definitely helpful, but not as cute as BB-8. Is that blasphemy?

The good guys have all the pieces of the map to find Luke now, but why do they need him? And again, where has he been? Did he go away voluntarily? But he left a map? “Don’t come after me, but in case you decide to …”

Rey is climbing a lot of stairs to find Luke. Good workout. I guess this is Luke? I only see his back.

He’s turning around and it’s definitely Mark Hamill. Mark Hamill is Luke. Luke is Leia’s brother. Leia is Han’s ex. Han and Leia are Kylo’s parents. Darth is Kylo’s grandpa, Luke and Leia’s father, and dead. I got it!

Love all these dystopian chic ensembles. This is kind of how my mom dresses.

Oh, god! Where’s Luke’s hand?! I guess that is information from another “episode.”

Is Rey Luke’s daughter? She seems to have “the force.” One question: Who’s the mom?

Rey is giving Luke back his old lightsaber, but they’re just standing there in total silence, and he hasn’t taken it yet. Will he? Does Hamill have any lines? The movie’s over. No lines. Just a robot hand that may or may not accept his old lightsaber in the next “episode.”

That’s it! So I didn’t see Darth Vader (my white whale!), but I did at one point see Adam Driver talk to Darth’s melted mask, and maybe that’s good enough. You must be wondering, did I like this movie enough to find out how Darth Vader melted in the first place? I think I may go back and watch the original film, but that might be it for me. Until then, may the force be with you! (Not in the real way they intend it, but in the way I thought of it before I saw this movie. Like, “see ya!”)

A Star Wars Newbie’s Thoughts on Force Awakens