I found out on Facebook today that Tony Pacitti’s book My Best Friend Is a Wookiee: One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy is going out of print. Now, I wrote a review of it on Amazon, but now I feel like I have to say something more about it.
Tony Pacitti himself has said that the Star Wars galaxy and culture has changed so much that his role is smaller in it now. Some of the Amazon commentators themselves have written that Pacitti talks about his own life more than Star Wars and that at the very worst, his reminisces are very self-indulgent and have no value.
I think it’s safe to say that I disagree with all of the above. Pacitti talks about a period of history: from the 1980s to the 2000s where the cultural impact of Star Wars and geekery is seen on people growing up. He uses himself as a prime example obviously, since his work is a memoir, yet what I find really striking is just how much his childhood and experiences have in common with my own. Pacitti talks about television shows and games that existed during the same period I grew up in: from Saved by the Bell to Magic Cards. But more than that, he captures that feeling many people had after the Original Star Wars Trilogy ended: that need to see more. It was the need to see and experience more of that universe.
So I too delved into the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I too bought as many books that described that universe in more detail. I role-played in that universe and so did my friends: so do we still in fact. My friends and I watched the Old Trilogy long after the 70s where we hadn’t been born yet and we had similar reactions to the Prequel Trilogy: reactions that have great sympathy with Pacitti’s own.
I’ve written about Star Wars on here before with regards to what my actual issues with were and what I think George Lucas had been trying to do in an ideological way. I won’t rehash them except to say that Lucas too had been influenced by his own childhood and young adulthood to create what he did. Pacitti was definitely informed by what Star Wars represents. Star Wars is a space opera: an epic fantasy with a backdrop of space, a setting with technology, droids, and aliens alongside human beings. It begins “Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but it is closer than you think.
Star Wars contains archetypes that we can all relate to: facets of different kinds of sentient existence. These characters are accompanied by powerful leitmotifs–by thematic music created by John Williams–to bring out the terror and wonder in us. Is it that inconceivable that a film series like Star Wars, having ingrained itself into the popular consciousness and playing our collective unconsciousness, could have informed our time period after the 70s? I know there are many other films that have done something similar, that this element is what people look for when they want to call a creative work a classic or something seminal: a seed of an idea that leads to something else.
Shouldn’t a classic also be judged by how it influences not just a large amount of lives, but one life? Tony Pacitti manages through a caustic wit to identify himself, and himself in relation to a culture that has not changed at all: in that it is only still growing. So I agree that the culture around Star Wars is changing, but it is still Star Wars and I think that Pacitti’s role in Star Wars–at least with regards to what he wrote in this book–is still relevant and important. I for one am really glad that he wrote it and that I bought the thing when I did two years ago.
We all want to identify ourselves with the things we love because we adopt them or feel sympathy with them as a part of us. So once again Tony, thank you for writing this book and thank you for reminding me who my best friend is.