Nearly four months in, and we're finally getting our first article of 2020. I know, I'm just as excited as you are. So, what is there to write about this year? The early rumors of World War III? The rising anti-capitalist sentiment in the midst of a tumultuous election year? Or the very serious and rapidly growing worldwide threat of COVID-19?
Mollusk, if I'm being honest with you, I've grown so tired of hearing about this virus. Wash your hands constantly, stay hydrated, sanitize common surfaces like keyboards, door knobs, etc., and practice social distancing. You've heard it all before, you'll keep hearing about it until this thing finally wipes us all out. Okay, this is the first and last I will ever talk about COVID-19, the trending media scare of this election season. Because really, this is all redundant information that you and I are both very apathetic about at this point. And we don't do "redundant" here at Put It on My Bill.
We do very much specialize in "apathetic", though.
If we're meant to die from this, we will. And if we're not, we won't. But some will. Some already have. And there's nothing very entertaining about any of that.
What is entertaining, is Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend who shares the same loser interests as myself, and we got to talking about hypothetically basing personality types off of different fictional characters. How we got to this point of dialogue, I'm not sure. There may or may not have been alcohol involved, I stopped paying attention to what I put into my body a long time ago.
The concept that I'd came up with is that in our generation, when two men are friends and form a cohesive, bonded pair, they each fit into one personality mold - you are either an Anakin Skywalker, or an Obi-Wan Kenobi. See, in the mid-2000's, there were many a prevalent pop culture phenomena that attracted spunky, energetic young boys like myself - Jackass, Playstation 2, The All-American Rejects, the list goes on. However, the most powerful, long-lasting, and seemingly unending cultural occurrence was the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, especially the larger-than-life conclusion, Revenge of the Sith. Before I continue, it is obvious that you, the impassioned, tender, and in all likelihood unbelievably handsome reader, are wondering which of these two personalities you fit into more. Or, if you're like me and grew up in the same aforementioned culture, you already know which Jedi your heart and soul has belonged to since 2005.
An Anakin Skywalker is the member of the pair that is more of the "execution", rather than the "planning". They tend to be more headstrong and quick to conform to a state of mind, or jump into an activity or social event without much of a concept or outline of what exactly they're doing. The Anakin will agree to go out drinking with you without asking which bar you're going to, or who you're going with. They don't care to know. They also tend to lean closer to a darker personality, usually they have more serious and troubled early lives. Anakins aren't usually ones for moral posturing. Pragmatism and quick solutions overrule any predisposition for careful and complex thought. An Anakin knows exactly what they want, what they're thinking, and are sure of themselves, even if maybe they shouldn't be.
Now, the Obi-Wan Kenobi is a stark contrast to the Anakin. Obi-Wans are fully conscious of now; mindful of the living moment. An Obi-Wan sees the grey in most situations, and as a result has more trouble coming to simple and straightforward conclusions regarding some things. If you ask an Obi-Wan to come out to drink with you, they'll want to know where, why, who with, and for how long. Not because they're a goody two-shoes NERD, but because it just makes the most logical sense to be sure this is a choice that they'd want to commit to. Obi-Wans, while fully sympathetic to the problems of others, can't always put themselves in the other's perspective. Usually moralists, who believe there's always a way to do the right thing, even if it means sacrificing something of their own.
"Boy, Bill, you've really thought this through." No, mollusk, I've lived it. I grew up watching the films, playing the tie-in games. I had lightsabers; some I still have lying around the dusty metal box I call my home. This is something I've just kind of observed for the better part of the past 15 years, since that film had came out and given me a childhood worth remembering.
I was the Obi-Wan.
I had a best friend growing up. We lived just a couple streets away, and naturally it was easier to just hang out with this one friend than to make more friends in this terrible post 9/11 world we live in. Conveniently, we both had a love for Star Wars, and video games. Whether we fed off of each other's fandoms or not, I honestly couldn't say. We bonded over many of the genuinely groundbreaking Star Wars licensed games from around that time. Knights of the Old Republic, LEGO Star Wars, Republic Commando, the surprisingly great tie-in game for Revenge of the Sith, and chief among all of these, Pandemic's Battlefront II.
And when the two of us would arrive home from school, fleeing to the safety of mine or his living room, safe and away from the horrors of childhood responsibility and the insignificant but seemingly insurmountable roadblocks we'd run into in the hallways and the classrooms, we would have these games, these movies, toys, this universe, to shelter ourselves in. We'd immerse ourselves in these games until the ever-so-late hour of 6 PM, when my mom, sitting patiently chatting with his mom in their kitchen, would get tired of indulging me, and come to tell me it's time to go home. Protests from my friend and I falling on deaf ears, my mom and I would say goodbye and leave.
This was our ritual, day in and day out, as if we were paying some kind of delusional tribute to a franchise that'd been fanning the flames keeping us sane in our bored suburban childhoods for as far back as either of us could remember.
He was the Anakin. I was the Obi-Wan. He flew Anakin's Jedi starfighter, I flew Obi-Wan's. He played as the CIS on Mustafar in Battlefront II, I played as the Republic. We'd recreate that final duel from the end of the film regularly - why wouldn't you? It was so cool. We had the respective action figures and lightsabers belonging to our heroes. Sometimes we'd hit each other too hard with the sabers, and one of us would cry. Then the one who was crying would get mad, hit the other, and we'd both be crying like a couple of little pussy boy bitch boy pussy babies.
I-It's all a bit weird to look back on.
And really, interestingly enough, the infectious nature of these two characters comes from basically the first 30 minutes of Revenge of the Sith, and nowhere else.
If you were a dedicated fan of Star Wars back in the 2000's, or just have a knowledge of those films and media today, you might share the same feeling I do; that Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones do very little for the bond that these two icons of the series share. Remember, we're talking 2005, so "The Clone Wars", the very popular 2008 animated tv series doesn't count. And the 2003 animated series of the same name, while a showcase in some brilliant, exciting and at times visually stunning animation and action, did very little for it's central characters in it's very short lifespan.
In The Phantom Menace, Anakin and Obi-Wan hardly interact. The truly meaningful interactions these two have in the film are with a third party character - Qui-Gon Jinn. Who could almost be a third personality on the chart, but good lord, man, it's 2 in the morning. I don't have the time! And in Attack of the Clones, while the two do share a fair bit of scenes, it boils down to a not-that-enjoyable pissing match between the two, with Obi-Wan acting like an insecure parent who's intimidated by their child, and so they try to boss them around, which sets the child off to be even more whiny and disobedient. Attack of the Clones does have some strengths, but the Master-Padawan relationship is not one of them.
No, the sentiment you see most often with Star Wars fans and film critics - mind you, Star Wars fans and film critics are among the most vile, loathsome and contemptible vermin you could find - is that the fond, caring and respectful relationship Obi-Wan describes sharing with Anakin to Luke in A New Hope never really becomes apparent in the prequels until Revenge of the Sith. And I do have to agree with this line of thought - mind you, I am among the most vile, loathsome and contemptible vermin you could find.
What truly amazes me, though, is listening to young men like me, who were once boys, playing the same games, fulfilling the same roles, fighting in the same adventure. It's remarkable, how many of us share the same story. Like zealots in the same cult, worshipping the same intangible force. We're veterans of the Clone Wars just as much as any Jedi Knight or grizzled Republic clone trooper would've been. Those of us left, those Obi-Wans and Anakins, going through a life riding off of that 2005 peak-Star Wars high. Occasionally bumping into other Obi-Wans, other Anakins. Fellow Jedi heroes, now in hiding after Order 66 was executed on our childhoods. Forced into exile, living a life of responsibility, of hard work and little reward.
Maybe some of us are Yoda, hiding between the musty walls and dreary lighting of a cubicle in a corporate office, living day-to-day, slowly degrading from a once respected and powerful Grandmaster into a cackling, mischievous little old man. Maybe some are Obi-Wan, changing our names, desperate to forget our once noble identities, trudging along in the desert, weathering and aging rapidly under the hot sun, breaking our bodies working construction, landscaping or roofing. Dealing with past mistakes and where they've brought us today. The current mess of things. And like these Jedi Masters, we have the heydays of the Republic to remember fondly.
I wasn't always a monotone, depressed, aging and anxious worker monkey. I was once General Kenobi, leading troops of the Clone Army of the Republic into the heart of the Separatist forces, participating in great battles, dueling powerful enemies. I knew nothing of the downfall of my Jedi Order that would occur. At some point, I failed someone. Maybe, in failing someone, I failed myself. Maybe my failure was running away too early, or too late. But even today, as I rot in my hut in the sand, I hold out hope that one day I can make amends with my past mistakes.
The best friend I had when I was 10, my first Anakin, I don't speak to anymore. A few years ago, I took a trip back to my hometown with my mother, and for the week that we were there, we found a night to stop by his family's house. When we first met up, he and I shared what was a very foreign kind of hug to me. A kind of mutually bittersweet but understood kind of hug. The kind of hug I've shared with my father, the very few times we've hugged. The more I think about it, the more that I realize how serious those hugs were.
This childhood Anakin and I, now having spent time apart longer than we'd actually known each other, we had just a moment where it was just him and I, alone. He had stepped outside with his dog so that it could use the bathroom. The dog he had when we were children had died, this was a new one. I could tell you all the years later that his old dog's name was Buster. This new dog, I couldn't have told you it's name the next day.
While the two of us were out on his porch, on a drizzly day in October, we didn't really talk about much. College plans - or a mutual lack thereof - how our families have been, what video games we're playing these days, nothing all that meaningful. We did get to mutually agree, after all these years, about how much of an asshole his dad had been when we were kids. He was a drinker, and while I never witnessed it myself, I was certain even then that he was abusing them. It was a weirdly cathartic sentiment to be grown men able to acknowledge that reality. To stick it to him, and to the scared silence about it that we shared as kids.
What we certainly didn't talk about on that porch, was Star Wars. Maybe that kind of childhood framing device seems trivial to talk about in hindsight. Or maybe it was just an unspoken subject, something that was just floating in the air, not really worth bringing up because what's reminiscing about the past while we were already reminiscing about the past? Probably, though, we just didn't get around to it. His dog finished using the bathroom, and the two of us, Master and Padawan, went back inside.
We spent the rest of the night just sitting in the same room, him playing what I think might have been Mortal Kombat, me playing Super Smash Bros. with his little brother. Amazing how when I'd left them as a child, we would be giving his younger brother a controller that was deliberately unplugged, lying to him that he was playing with us, and when I'd returned to them, this kid was beating me at games! The sands of time, I guess. This went on until the ever-so-late hour of 6 PM, when my mom, sitting patiently chatting with his mom in their kitchen, grew tired of indulging me, and came to tell me it's time to go home. There weren't really any protests this time around, just a somber sort of understanding.
"Goodbye, old friend, and may the Force be with you."
That was nearly three years ago, and we haven't really spoken since. I'm friends with him and his mother on Facebook, but of course that doesn't mean a thing. The modern luxury of being able to stay in constant contact with people across the world doesn't necessarily encourage it. Before social media, we had e-mail. Before then, phones. Before then, postal services. People fell out of contact even then. It just is what it is.
I'm preparing to watch the original six films with the best friend I have today, she hasn't seen them in a long enough time that there isn't much she can recall from it, outside of what she's seen in EA's Star Wars: Battlefront II. A different Battlefront II, of course, 12 years apart from the one I shared with my first best friend. It's like poetry, it rhymes. If you're wondering what the overall point of this article has been, you're assumption is as good as mine. I guess I just wanted to record this kind of social phenomenon boys like me experienced, and maybe still do. Like Star Wars, our sagas are never-ending. Unlike Star Wars, our sagas are not being artificially kept alive by the money-hungry hand of a towering inferno of a corporation. YOU are keeping your saga alive! You remnants of a time long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
In my saga, things are different than they were in the glory days of the Galactic Republic. And that's fine. Call it the will of the Force! You'd be wrong, and you'd sound as pretentious as I have sounded throughout this seemingly infinite wall of text! The fact is, that when I see Anakin and Obi-Wan next to each other in some nerd's action figure collection, or fighting side by side in a co-op match in the new Battlefront II, or cosplayers at a convention, whatever! I get to thinking about all the thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories that I've written about in this article. And I needed to write about it. Hell, I pay for this website, I needed to write about something.
Thank you, to you Obi-Wans and Anakins. We'll always be who we are, even if we're playing a different kind of pretend.