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CT When Star Wars Wasn't Popular

Discussion in 'Classic Trilogy' started by starbuck_archer, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. starbuck_archer

    starbuck_archer Jedi Knight star 1

    Jul 23, 2019
    I was looking back to the origins of my own fandom of Star Wars in the late 80s/early 90s. I must say, it was a different time to be a kid into Star Wars, and not for the better.

    First, if you wanted toys, you were getting them from a hobby shop (for premium prices). The Star Wars figures I played with as a kid were made 20 years before I got them.

    One upside was that since there were no new Star Wars movies in the foreseeable future, any new material required me to read books. Timothy Zahn is responsible for me reading a lot of classical literature I have enjoyed, but I started with his Thrawn Trilogy.

    However, this was also a time when it wasn't "cool" to be a Star Wars fan. "Nerd culture" was not mainstream: I caught some crap from by Little League team mates for being into "that old thing." But I was a dumb kid, and a fan, and the EU material was very good, so I threw money at books, computer games and magazines while catching crap for being a "nerd."

    Now, if one is not into Star Wars, they are not cool. I suppose this is the issue I take the current regime that owns Star Wars: gentlemen and ladies, I was spending my hard-earned lawn-mowing money to buy Star Wars products at a time when being "a Star Wars fan" was not cool, popular or upworthy. And you guys arbitrarily cancel the content and declare previous fans "racist", "sexist" (or whatever) for not thinking the current content is the next best thing to Shakespeare. Fans like myself kept the franchise going between the long years of ROTJ and TPM. You don't have to pander to me, just don't insult me.

    Aside from that, I am happy for the current "state" of the Fandom, in that its no longer considered "uncool" to be into Star Wars. Here is to a generation of fans who can grow up without having to get into long quests for their figures, deal with the usual "nerd jokes" or encounter a jock-dominated (well, I was into baseball too) culture of the late 1980s/early 1990s. There are conventions galore, and fandom has become a enterprise in and of itself: No more scrounging hobby shops to find a used Han Solo action figure.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  2. cratylus

    cratylus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 9, 2001
    Loving the classic trilogy was cool, and it was normal. Being obsessed with it to the point of continuing to collect toys and read comics and novels did mark you off. I was in the latter category for sure.
  3. Kenneth Morgan

    Kenneth Morgan Chosen One star 4

    May 27, 1999
    Well, back in the days between the Marvel comic ceasing publication and "Heir to the Empire", I remember seeing a sci-fi fan magazine cover bearing the headline, "Is STAR WARS Fandom Dead?" I didn't read the article, but I certainly disagreed with the premise. The state of fandom for any franchise waxes and wanes, but I never thought it was "dead".
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Jun 19, 2019
    I was a little kid back in the early and mid 1990's. I was too young to care if Star Wars was popular. It was just a fun interest to share with my father and younger brother.

    We had the classic trilogy on VHS tapes (there were no DVD's back then, of course) and I have some great memories of the three of us watching the movies together on our family room sofa. I used to cover my eyes when Vader appeared on screen. [face_laugh]

    My brother and I were lucky to have a big box full of Star Wars action figures. We also had a large toy Millenium Falcon and a toy ATT walker that were really cool. My brother had a friend who always wanted to come over to play with our Star Wars toys. My brother also had a green Luke lightsaber and a red Vader one. And a life-sized Yoda stuffed animal that could look very real when propped on his bed. And a Vader mask and cape he could wear when wielding his red Vader lightsaber.

    And we used to build a fort from covers that we'd call the Millenium Falcon, and I'd pretend to be Leia while my brother would be Luke.

    I didn't really get into the Star Wars books back then. I think the only Star Wars book I read back then was the Glove of Darth Vader book which turned out to be weird. I don't think I picked up another Star Wars book after that until the junior novelization of TPM came out. That was when I really got into Star Wars books. Before that the Star Wars merchandise in my house was mainly toys and movies.
  5. Beautiful_Disaster

    Beautiful_Disaster Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 12, 2005
    I remember after ROTJ came out it was definitely cool to like Star Wars, but only if you were a boy for some reason. Being a girl, I was told that it was only "for boys" when I was in 3rd grade. I remember around 1985, the coolness kind of died off for a while. I didn't really notice it coming back until the first Thrawn trilogy books came out when I was in high school. I never really cared if it was popular or not, though. But it didn't seem as difficult to find people to discuss Star Wars with once the EU started.
  6. ThePhilistineCritic

    ThePhilistineCritic Jedi Padawan star 1

    Apr 1, 2020
    I wasn’t alive back then, but my understanding was that it was cool enough to own the trilogy on VHS and revisit it occasionally, but reading all the expanded universe and whatnot was not cool.
  7. Darth Chuck Norris

    Darth Chuck Norris Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 13, 2014
    I was a kid when Star Wars debuted in 77. I honestly don't remember Star Wars not being popular. In the late 80's the fanfare died down mainly due to the movies no longer being in the forefront, and not readily or easily available for constant intake, but it was still popular. For a lot of us who grew up on the OT, as the middle of the 80's came along, we were going into high school, getting into sports, finding jobs, and of course interest in the opposite sex. Add all that in with a lack of content being put into the mainstream, and the fanfare died down. It's been a lot different with the prequels coming along in 99. They piqued people's interest again, but once they movies were finished, there was a continuous stream of new content with the Clone Wars, and then into Rebels, and into the sequels. This had led to an explosion in the popularity mainly because it hasn't left the forefront and has allowed continuous consumption. And as far as toys and other merchandise, without the movies to support new products, sales and availability declined. I know for myself and a lot of friends, we had the vast majority of the figures and ships, so without new or original characters or vehicles, we stopped buying them because we had them.
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  8. Jedi_Sith_Smuggler_Droid

    Jedi_Sith_Smuggler_Droid Force Ghost star 5

    Mar 13, 2014
    Star War disappeared in the mid 80s. It's hard to explain how big it was in 1983. Star Wars was everywhere. By the end of 1985 new Star Wars merchandise had largely dried up. Other toys became more popular than Star Wars. It's not that Star Wars wasn't popular, there just wasn't much new and it was also hard to access. It was more that Star Wars had gone away.

    Most people couldn't easily watch the movies during the 80s at home. Most video tapes weren't affordable to own until the end of the 1980s. Star Wars wasn't released to own until 1990. That was a large part in Star Wars coming back. Because people could watch it again.

    But it was never unpopular.
  9. cxcfffxx

    cxcfffxx Jedi Knight star 1

    Jan 17, 2017
    For me, the SW never lost its luster. In 1995, my father had the classic VHS trilogy and we watched when we could. We went to see the trilogy re-released in theaters in 1997 and we were very happy.
    Emperor Ferus likes this.
  10. icqfreak

    icqfreak Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 7, 1999
    I can totally relate to the OP.

    I remember being lucky to find a few star wars shirts in the mid 90's when I was in late elementary/early middle school, and I got made fun of if I ever wore them to school. So I mainly only wore them on the weekends after that.

    I WAS however lucky enough to have a few friends when I was younger who were just into SW as much as I was which helped.

    I also remember that it was so hard to "play" star wars for many years. I would either use my imagination with my LEGOS, or play with the handful of old action figure I had found at flea markets. When the star wars micro machines first came out, I was in heaven, along with the first new kenner action figures.
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  11. jaimestarr

    jaimestarr Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 13, 2004
    I too remember the dark times of Star Wars fandom. It wasn't that the films weren't beloved, cool, or near and dear to people. It's just that George Lucas/Lucasfilm had completely taken the foot off the gas pedal and pulled the car over. The brand wasn't "trendy" because it wasn't promoted.

    The first new Star Wars toy I saw in the 90's was a bendable/posable Luke Skywalker. I rejoiced. Then, a flood of new Star Wars merch, games, apparel hit just in time to hype us up about the Special Editions and The Prequels. Lucasfilm never looked back and Star Wars has, even in off years, been in the forefront of pop culture.
  12. Jedi_Sith_Smuggler_Droid

    Jedi_Sith_Smuggler_Droid Force Ghost star 5

    Mar 13, 2014
    That amazing part is, those dark times, Lucasfilm stopping the car - I think that is what made Star Wars so enduringly popular and timeless. I don't think this was calculated. More likely George Lucas was just burned out. That made fandom and promotion of Star Wars a grassroots effort. Nothing was being sold to us. It's sort of amazing. Especially compared to today when nothing stops.
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  13. jaimestarr

    jaimestarr Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 13, 2004
    Agreed. It was such a thrill to scavenge comic book stores, hobby shops, and such for hard to find SW merch. My fandom was sustained by my VHS copies, and the Lucasfilm Fanclub Magazine.
  14. Christus Regnet

    Christus Regnet Jedi Knight star 3

    Mar 10, 2016
    When I was in elementary school in early 90's, it was not cool to be into Star Wars. Then sometime in the latter 90's it was relaunched into this perpetual mass marketable brand that still kind of exists today. By then, I was a teenager, and had to put away any kind of nerd stuff to fit in. I went to see the rereleases and all the Prequels, but that's it.

    I remember getting X-Men comics in the early 90's, and don't remember even seeing or hearing about Dark Horse Star Wars comics back then.
  15. Bor Gullet

    Bor Gullet Jedi Knight star 2

    Feb 8, 2018
    Star Wars, while not being totally dead, was definitely retro, a dated curiousity in the late 80's and 90's. I remember it well being a teenager during that time.

    From say 1988 to 1997 it would have been about as culturally relevant as Buck Rogers.

    Following the novels was very niche and apart from the West End roleplaying game pretty much the only Star Wars content available.

    The Special Editions raised some interest - mostly to do with curiousity about what could be done with the then modern CGI following Jurassic Park.

    But it was really in 1999 and the anticipation for Episode I that what I would call the modern fandom started, especially as internet chatrooms and forums were just taking off.
    Sarge likes this.
  16. cratylus

    cratylus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 9, 2001
    During the "dark times" Star Wars was consistently recognized as hugely influential in film and in popular culture. I think everyone knew Star Trek had been resuscitated because Star Wars had done so well; Star Trek actually became more like Star Wars in the eighties, with Star Trek II and III definitely carrying a sort of Star Wars quality new to the franchise. The Next Generation show became much more popular when they acquired a clear villain in the Borg, thereby again emulating Star Wars rather than following the utopian political path to the exclusion of all else.

    There was no contest as to what had kick-started science fiction, fantasy and space movies as well as television. Star Wars normalized an interest in spaceships and distant planets that never completely went away in the film industry. The new standard of special effects also unquestionably came from it, and the pacing of films, as well as the inclusion of more "action" sequences proabably also flowed from it. The creation of a complete fantasy world, rather than a mere extrapolation to the future, was another result. People knew Star Wars contributed these things, and the original trilogy earned a beloved place in the hearts of people in America and also other parts of the world. That never went away.
  17. moreorless12

    moreorless12 Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 4, 2016
    You might well be correct, that this era of Starwars was akin to Star Trek in the 70's, whilst it certainly wasn't "unknown" the spread did feel much more organic.
    Its a bit of a generalisation perhaps but I would argue the classic age group for a big OT Starwars fan actually tends to be late 30's/early 40's, people who would have been too young to really become big fans via the original cinema releases.

    I suspect part of it is actually that Starwars toys worked to lay the ground, people who were too young to pickup on the films fully on release would probably have grown up with the toys which then actually fed in reverse into the films on VHS/TV.
    Bor Gullet likes this.
  18. cratylus

    cratylus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 9, 2001
    I agree with JSSD that the interruption of new content, followed by a trickle, actually heightened the appetite for more. It's part of the Lucas approach that hasn't been emulated by his corporate successors. Similarly there was a three-year gap between saga movies; Disney brought that down to two and added anthology movies in the off-years. Even though I think there was a lot of good quality in these productions, to me they were uneven and the absence of a wait with yearning anticipation removed a pickle so to speak from the dinner. But as I've said elsewhere, taking more time between sequels would also have allowed them to work through the material more. It was hard enough without Lucas as a personal guiding light. The auteur, especially when independent, has an advantage over the corporation. And of course justifying the purchase was a factor here that wouldn't have affected Lucas. They had to make their money back on a certain clock, to justify confidence in their investors.

    I think we will continue to get some quality, but the ultimate motivations have been rearranged. The new materials will continue to be uneven. Also I think they will make more lateral tie-ins between things they put out, which is the Disney way and they will make it more like Marvel in that sense.

    As time goes by I don't fault old fans like me if they prefer to pine over the glory days, whether it's the classic or prequel era. For my part though I have to say the new trilogy has been a lot of fun, even with the elements I consider deficiencies.
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  19. Christus Regnet

    Christus Regnet Jedi Knight star 3

    Mar 10, 2016
    That's interesting, because right after A New Hope was released, there was an idea to make a 12 movie serial, with each movie being released every 2 or 3 years until the end, but was ultimately squashed for a trilogy of trilogies, with each trilogy a generation apart. If they had gone with the 12, Star Wars would have ran out of steam.
  20. cratylus

    cratylus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 9, 2001
    We needed gaps and now it is time for another.
  21. AllTheSingleMaras

    AllTheSingleMaras Jedi Knight star 2

    Aug 16, 2019
    I mean... a little pandering would be nice. Like not killing the EU and maybe have some EU content continuing on in books. And a Mara Jade early years show, while we're at it.

    But no, I applaud what you have said and agree. I was the dork in grade-school, reading this while everyone else was reading "Holes" (good book... but not my cup of blue milk), and when I did a report on one of my favorite EU books and drew pictures for the slides, kids really let me have it, and I wasn't taken seriously by the teacher... but I was reading at a higher level with more difficult themes. (And I felt Luke would be my friend if he were real.) I bought SW books... not realizing that my young obsession was helping in keeping Star Wars on the map. All that time, imagination, creativity... it would have been nice to be thanked by keeping the content that I loved canon, instead of nursing an environment that pits the old and new against one another. It's just... lame.

    Anyways. My fondest memories were of reading EU books and reinacting them for my big brother who didn't have the time, or attention span, to read the books... but wanted to know what happened to the movie characters. Courtship of Princess Leia was the first one that I acted out/abridged for him. :)

    Then Middle-school hit and every girl was reading "Tuck Everlasting" (gag me), and if you carried a book around it was asked about... and if it was Star Wars it was a death sentence by judgey pre-teens... so I read at home. Instead of school. How messed up is that? My mother thought my brain would rot on Star Wars and that I would be socially awkward so she pushed books like "Thorn Birds" at me...which how is a handsome priest falling for a teen that he watched grow up better mind fodder than galatic good vs. evil and light swords-

    Okay, this has turned into a literary therapy session. Point is... it was hard to be a Star Wars fan then, and its particularly hard to be a Star Wars fan now if you don't like the new, Disney-made stuff. I kinda wish it was obscure again... but that will never happen.
  22. Darthvader1975

    Darthvader1975 Jedi Knight star 2

    May 2, 2020
    From 85 to 97 was a dark time. Barring Timothy zahns heir to the empire released in 1991 there wasn't a lot around. Around 96 I do remember star wars stuff appearing in forbidden planet as we were all gearing up for the special editions on 97. I got vader and his ship that year but mainstream wise not a lot. It wasn't cool to be a nerd. How times have changed
    Christus Regnet likes this.
  23. May The Force Be With Stu

    May The Force Be With Stu Jedi Padawan star 1

    May 9, 2019
    Funnily enough it was during the unpopular times that I majorly rediscovered it. 1994.
  24. Bazinga'd

    Bazinga'd Skywalker Saga / WNU Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Nov 1, 2012
    IMH Star Wars has always been popular espeicially to its fans. I think during the period that we are talking about here, it was just not in the public's collective consciousness as it is today. So when we talk about when someting is or isnt "popular" its all from a certain point of view.
  25. ezekiel22x

    ezekiel22x Chosen One star 5

    Aug 9, 2002
    It was an interesting time. Heir to the Empire and Super Star Wars were the biggest things driving my interest back then, but the toy line wasn't active. It seemed reasonable that the series would never return to its earlier heights regarding widespread attention. It was hard for me to believe new movies were actually coming even after they released a piece of concept art.
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