Well, I’m back from Celebration Orlando. A grand time was had by all. Or at least by most. Probably by all. It wasn’t without its hiccups, but what large gathering of 60,000 people isn’t? The short version of my experience is this: It was great to see some friends again after 2 years, and great to meet some new friends for the first time, including my Comics With Kenobi co-host, the illustrious Mr. Matt Moore. There were a few nice surprises, which I’m sure you’ve read about already: Harrison Ford and George Lucas onstage for the 40th Anniversary Panel, John Williams playing Princess Leia’s theme as part of a tribute to Carrie Fisher, and the reveal of the teaser for The Last Jedi, to name just a few. There was one moment that was simultaneously somewhat surprising and not shocking in the least. Read on to find out what it was!
It was announced fairly late in the game that Mr. Hayden Christensen would be making his first Celebration appearance to sign autographs and take photos with fans. Given the harsh comments some critics (and fans) have made about his performances in the prequels, it isn’t at all shocking that he might have some trepidation about presenting himself to a crowd of people who haven’t always appreciated his work, but I suppose maybe time really DOES heal wounds, and 2017 proved to be the year the ice was broken.
Hayden was brought onstage alongside Ian McDiarmid to discuss their work together on Episodes II and III. When he appeared, the response from the audience was deafeningly positive. Massive applause greeted Mr. Christensen, along with cheers and lots of smiles. His time onstage with the Man Who Would Be Palpatine was as warm as the reception he received. They shared stories from the set, and both men recalled their time working together warmly and with much respect for the work the other performed. When their time was up, and Hayden said goodbye, he again received an ecstatic and appreciative round of applause, again complete with cheers and many lit lightsabers raised in his honor. It seemed as if, in that moment, a lot of animosity was forgotten, along with a good amount of tension and disrespect. Regardless of what anyone feels about the prequels, or about the work that Christensen did as Anakin/Vader, it is undeniable that he was accepted as a part of the Star Wars family, and his place in that family has been graciously accepted by both actor and fan.
On the surface, this turn of events seemed somewhat surprising given the level of vitriol and ill will that has been directed at Episodes I, II, and III, and especially at the way Anakin was presented, both in writing and performance. However, those of us who grew up with the Original Trilogy forget that there is an entire generation of Star Wars fans who came of age during the Prequel era. For those folks, the prequels are THEIR Star Wars, and Christensen is their Anakin/Vader. Regardless of what those who came before (and possibly even after) may think, those films hold the same place in their hearts as Episodes IV,V, and VI do in mine. Fans of my “vintage” also forget that it has been almost 2 decades since The Phantom Menace. The fans who were kids when it premiered are now adults with disposable income and access to the same social media outlets as older fans, and they are starting to vote with their dollars as well as their tweets, blogs, and podcasts. These are the people who will carry Star Wars on for the next 10-20 years, until The Clone Wars Generation takes over, then gives way to The Disney Era generation. The exciting thing about that is that everyone has been able to mix and mingle without the awkward difference of opinion regarding the prequels causing problems. The Prequel Generation is upon us, and they are kind, welcoming, and every bit as serious about their fandom as “Generation 1” is about theirs. And we can all get along!
I’m hopeful about what all of this means for fandom in general, and future Celebration experiences as well. Now that Christensen has broken the ice, perhaps we’ll see more of the actors, artists, and craftspeople who contributed to the prequels making appearances at events like Celebration. I’m sure there is interest among the fans, and I’m certain the contributors are more than ready to interact with those who appreciate their work. Now that we’ve had a successful appearance by such a vital part of the Prequels, I feel certain that exhibitors will feel emboldened to book them at conventions and other similar gatherings.
Here’s to you, Hayden Christensen. Thank you for taking a chance and showing the fans that you are proud of the work you did (as you should be), and allowing us the chance to express our appreciation. Here’s to you, the fans. Thank you for welcoming Christensen so warmly and rapturously, thus ensuring that we will have the opportunity to hear more stories from the prequel era of filmmaking, as well as the opportunity to interact with those individuals who have added to the Star Wars legacy in such a meaningful way. And, finally, here’s to YOU, the Prequel Generation. Thank you for taking up the mantle of fandom in such a tremendous way, and thank you for being awesome and remembering that, above all, Star Wars is supposed to be FUN! I hope to see more of you at future Celebrations
When they announce the location of Celebration 2019, if it’s happening stateside, I’ll more than likely be there. I hope to see you there, too. Just look for my hat, it seems to be easy to spot.
Until next time,
May The Force of Others Be With Us All
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, on CoffeeWithKenobi.com, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.