I get reminded in weird ways how old I am, sometimes. For instance, there was a discussion happening between some of my online acquaintances about Star Wars, specifically about the original movies (where young Luke Skywalker is the protagonist). I made a comment about what a freak I was considered to be by classmates because I had seen the show more than 13 times. And the comment made no sense to the people in the discussion.
So I had to explain that I was talking about when it first came out, and was only available in theatres. This was in 1977, when I was a teenager. Worse than that, it didn’t play in any of the theatres in the smallish town where I lived until about four or five months after it first came out. The closest place that had a big screen and a decent sound system where the movie was playing was more than an hour drive away—not only not in the same town were I lived, but not in the same state!
When you’re a high school student you don’t have a lot of disposable income, so the gas money and cost of tickets wasn’t a trivial expense. I carpooled (either using my old beater car or letting one of my friends drive) twelve times over the course of the first summer the film was out in order to see it. And then in the fall I went once to the truly crappy local theatre that finally got it, dragging a few friends I had never been able to talk into taking the longer trip.
Also at that time period, while home VCRs technically existed, they cost thousands of dollars and were huge, heavy things. Video rental stores didn’t become a common type of business for a few more years, when the technology got a little cheaper. And even then, the players were expensive enough that many people would rent both some movies and a machine from the store in order to have a movie night at home.
Cable television existed only in cities and larger towns. When cable first came to our small town, I was 19 or 20 years old, and it consisted of 15 regular channels, plus the premium channels of HBO or Showtime (Cinemax, Stars, and the like didn’t exist, yet). I write “or” because while very few people I knew had cable at all, most of those who did had only the 15 basic channels, and no one splurged on more than one movie channel. No one.
And, of course, DVDs literally didn’t exist, yet. Let alone the internet.
I had to wait three years before The Empire Strikes Back came out—by which time I was a freshmen in college. Then another three years after that before any of us got to see Return of the Jedi.
I saw all three of those movies, during their respective opening weeks, in the same big theatre in Beaverton, Oregon. It was like a religious pilgrimage for me, by then. I’d been hooked at 17 years old, and the passion still burned with the intensity of a billion suns when I was 23.
This is one of the reasons that, when I hear some of my friends complaining about how many months it will be before the new season of My Little Pony comes out, I don’t always give them as much sympathy as I probably ought.
On the other hand, I’m just as bad. The last episode of Justified season five aired eight months ago, in April, and I’ve been dying while waiting for season six to begin… which it will in January 2015. That’s less than 30 days from now. Inside, 23-year-old me is laughing so very hard at current me because I’m agonizing over having to wait merely months for the next chapter in a saga. And this is hardly the only series or movie that I have such lamentations about.
So, while part of me rolls my eyes at younger fans, another part of me is rolling my eyes at me, too.
Of course, we should remember that 173 years ago, back in 1841, people are said to have lined up for blocks in London waiting for a new edition of a weekly magazine called Master Humphrey’s Clock so they could read the next chapter of Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop. Even more fun were the stories of people meeting English travelers disembarking from ocean liners in New York at the time, to ask whether Little Nell lived, since American publication of the stories was several weeks behind the British chapters.
As they say, times change, but human nature doesn’t.