“The Force. It’s Calling To You. Just Let It In.”

Over the last decade there have been few voices in my life that I turn to when it comes to discussing the things that have mattered most to me.

We connected as parents on a gaming forum then it quickly moved to actually playing games (specifically anything Halo) and eventually faith.

As a fellow fan of Jesus, nerd, pop culture junkie and fan of shooting things in the face (virtually, of course) Rob and I have spent many hours discussing everything from gaming strategy and stats to the faith based spirituality easily found in the Walking Dead series. 

In addition to having all these same interests, Rob is also an aspiring screenwriter with two scripts registered through the WGA (Writers Guild of America).

So with this, I’d like to introduce my close friend, Rob Kotaska as a new contributing writer to the Nerd Pastor blog. 

Here is his first post! Enjoy, and please make sure to make him feel welcome!

Growing up as an identical twin means sharing just about everything but your underwear and soul.  In my case the “everything but”  included a love for Luke Skywalker.

My twin liked Luke, but Han was his jam.  Me? Make Mine Skywalker, despite of, or perhaps in part due to his remarkable ability for acting uncool and corny; he just clicked.

Of course it did not hurt that all the great Star Wars experiences in video games and most of the great moments in the films involve Luke Skywalker.  Destroying the Death Star (with help from Solo), taking down an AT-AT with a snowspeeder, a lightsaber duel with Vader: All Luke.   How could you not want to be, or identify with the hero?

There was another connection that really drew me in.  Luke was a man of faith: in his father, in a higher power (in this case, the force), basically in doing the right thing.  At the end of Return of the Jedi that faith is tested.  Luke dips into his dark side and refuses to completely lose his way.

I can identify with that moment more than I would like, and the scene never fails to give me goosebumps:

And for over eight thousand days Luke was a guardian, “The Trilogy” the Rosetta stone of my geek culture— before the dark times, before the prequels.   My love for the series took a hit. The films disappeared from my day-to-day for the first time since I was three.

My kids came along, and like a force ghost my love for the series came back more powerful than I could have imagined. I gathered the toys from my youth for them. Shared “The Trilogy”. And dealt with the bantha in the room, the prequels, by answering their queries about Darth Vader’s origin by saying “It is not as interesting as you might think.”  We still have not watched those films.

My son James was the first to grab on to Star Wars in a meaningful way. He found his Luke in Ezra Bridger, the lead of the DisneyXD show, Star Wars: Rebels.  Ezra’s struggles to balance between good and bad seem to resonate with my 7-year-old.  It is a bit concerning, but it makes sense given the struggles his age brings.

My daughter Anna watched Star Wars with me, but was never able to foster that same connection with any character.  I tried to get her invested in Hera or Sabine from Star Wars:Rebels.  She enjoyed their presence, but was never drawn to them on a Luke level.  It makes sense, they don’t have a Luke arc.  They are supporting characters.

I recognized something in Anna’s fandom shift in a profound way after watching the last trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My daughter found her avatar, her Luke, in the hero of The Force Awakens: Rey.

Anna finally saw herself in a Star Wars hero and cannot wait to watch Rey’s adventures.  The same is true with my 3-year-old daughter, who is the same age I was when I first watched Star Wars.

My daughters constant queries about Rey must be my long overdue penance from late 1982. My parents made the mistake of sharing that the Return of the Jedi trailer played before a film they went to see.  I pestered them for weeks to describe every single shot in painstaking detail.

Some people don’t understand my assumptions about Rey as the hero of the film.  They point out the first trailer, which leaned heavily on Johnny Boyega’s Finn, or the Instagram teaser of Finn with the lightsaber as proof that he is the lead.

These are valid points.

Here is my counter:

We are dealing with JJ Abrams, master of the mystery box.  It feels like too much of Finn’s story has been shown for me to believe he is the first lead. He is a major character, but likely more Han than Luke…and sorry Han fans: Han is second fiddle, no matter how roguishly cool he may be in the first two films.

As for my “proof”.  Why would you think Rey is the lead?

Rey is the first character shown in the last trailer.  A female voice asks “who are you?” and Rey replies “I am no one”.  That reeks of a first act hero arc material.  Luke felt the same way, he was a no one on the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe.

Note the positioning of Rey on the poster, lined up with Kylo Ren and his lightsaber.  Finn may be getting the action beats in the trailer, but Rey is front and center, and in direct conflict with the main villain.

She is not just a passenger on this hero’s journey, but the hero of the journey.

By the time the female voice from the beginning of the trailer calls to Rey (I presume) “The Force. It’s Calling to You. Just Let It In”, Anna had a smile on her face that reflected mine from 35 years ago.

Given a character she can really identify with, Anna is finally letting the Force in.  Just like her father before her.

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