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The End of 'Star Wars,' But Not Its Fans

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The End of 'Star Wars,' But Not Its Fans

The End of 'Star Wars,' But Not Its Fans

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FRANK STASIO, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Frank Stasio in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan.

Well, you'd have to be living in a galaxy far, far away not to know that "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith" opens today. From trailers to cereal boxes, the Force has arrived. "Revenge of the Sith" finishes up the saga that began three decades ago when George Lucas' unique film became an obsession for millions. For the final installment, fans around the world stood in line for weeks to be among the first to see the movie. No matter what you think and no matter that you now can buy film tickets online, hours before the 12:01 screening last night, the line at the Uptown Theater here in Washington, DC, stretched for blocks. TALK OF THE NATION was on hand to find out how long some of those fans were prepared to wait.

Unidentified Man #1: I got here late. I got here on Monday morning.

Unidentified Man #2: I was out here for 11 days.

Unidentified Woman #1: I've been out here for most of these--I was actually here in 1978. The same line, the same theater.

Unidentified Man #1: The camp-out itself is what makes it so much fun. I mean, seeing all these people every three, four years over and over again, having a great time.

Unidentified Woman #2: We tend to do this sort of thing. We'll probably do it again for "Harry Potter" when the book comes out and the movie. So--we like doing this sort of thing.

STASIO: There you go: Vance Rego, Jimmy Meritt--both from Maryland; Megan Owens of Washington; and Nicole from Rhode Island. And if you detect a wistfulness in some of those voices, possibly it is for the end of an era. What will those fans do once "Star Wars" finishes its run? All right, well, some of them may move over to "Harry Potter," but for many, this is the final installment in a way of life. And they aren't alone. Trekkies faced the music last Friday when "Star Trek: Enterprise" left the air without any continuing journeys. And whatever happened to all those "X-Files" fanatics and Dead Heads and "Buffy" fans? What becomes of the cult when the object of its obsession runs out? That's the subject today. You can give us a call: (800) 989-8255, totn@npr.org. Tell us about your obsession. What is it that you have lost, and how have you replaced it?

Later in the program, a new book weaves together fairy tales, "Canterbury Tales" and jet travel to create a fiction of globalization.

Right now, we want to hear from you. If you're a fan with a personal poison--a TV series, a movie series, a book or an obsession--give us a call at (800) 989-8255. How are you going to deal with the end of "Star Trek"? (800) 989-TALK; e-mail address, totn@npr.org.

And what is it about a series like "Star Wars" that generates this kind of fanatical fan that would stand, sit and sleep in line for hundreds of hours? For an answer, we will present exhibit A, Nicholas Johnson, who made sure to stake out his place at the Los Angeles movie line nice and early back in the beginning of April. Joins us now from Los Angeles.

Welcome to the show, Nicholas.

Mr. NICHOLAS JOHNSON ("Star Wars" Fan): Hey, how you doing?

STASIO: Good. You were in line for more than 300 hours. Was it worth it?

Mr. JOHNSON: Three hundred thirty-six hours. I was 20th in the line.

STASIO: And you were only 20th.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah.

STASIO: But you did get a seat. How was the flick?

Mr. JOHNSON: The flick was incredible.

STASIO: Yeah?

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah. Can't wait to see it again.

STASIO: You're going--you won't have to wait as long, I guess, for the next run.

Mr. JOHNSON: No. I'm hoping--I'm thinking a middle-of-the-week matinee.

STASIO: What are you going to do--I mean, obviously, you've got a few more weeks to see it over and over again, but what are you going to do now that the series is over?

Mr. JOHNSON: Wait for the TV show, and just go on with a happier, fuller life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STASIO: This is something you've been looking forward to for a while? Hey, I understand that you--there was actually a story about your 336 hours in line in that somewhere along hour three you realized that you left your--something--an artifact at home. Tell us that story.

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, I--David Barclay, who was one of the assistant puppeteers for Frank Oz, was at our theater. And I wanted him to sign one of my Jabba the Hutt toys on his belly. And I drove all the way down to Los Angeles--from Los Angeles to Long Beach, California, woke up in the middle of the freeway about five times going about five miles an hour because I was really tired from selling Jedi robes. And I got home and I got my Jabba, I had a three-hour nap, and I headed right back in line.

STASIO: Then--and I guess you had people saving your place or something?

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah, we signed in and sign out. It was for a charity auction, the Starlight Starbright Foundation, so we signed in and signed out.

STASIO: OK. So now you're talking about waiting for the TV series. I mean, in a sense, what I hear you saying is you really haven't come to the point where you've said to yourself, `It's over.'

Mr. JOHNSON: Oh, no. It's not. They say it's not over. I'm here for them.

STASIO: Do you have the feeling that this is just a ruse to sort of create a groundswell so that George Lucas is forced into coming up with at least one more film?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, I've been following the boards online, and I personally went myself to Lucasfilm site, and I saw the hiring for the TV series.

STASIO: So you're waiting for that. Now--and does it occur to you ever that you--you know, so you want a part in the process? I mean, when you see a TV series or something coming up, do you say to yourself, `Hmm, Nick, why aren't you, you know, up for a role?'

Mr. JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. You know, I draw. Genndy Tartakovsky, who does the Cartoon Network "Clone Wars" series--I spoke with him and approached him, and asked him, `Where do I submit my artwork?' And he told me--I ran into him again at the line--and he was gracious enough to remember me. And I gave him a "Star Wars" button that I had made. And I still plan on pursuing it. And I've been drawing "Star Wars" characters to--you know, mainly--I have a lot of my own characters designed, but for a theme of the movie, I did, you know, a lot of "Star Wars" cartoon characters in my style. And they're pasted up and down the street. And people were hitting me up--apparently, they got stolen off the phone at the last minute. So that's, like, a big compliment.

STASIO: Now has it ever occurred to you that--do you ever think to yourself, `Maybe I've gone too far,' or, `I'm going too far'?

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah. When my paycheck--when I have no food in my refrigerator and I've got more toys in my kitchen than I do food.

STASIO: That's the time. Well...

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah.

STASIO: ...I appreciate you taking this time. Nicholas Johnson, thank you very much.

Mr. JOHNSON: You're welcome.

STASIO: Nicholas Johnson's a fan who stood in line for 336-plus hours in order to see "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"; joins us from a friend's house in Los Angeles.

You can join us on the phone by calling (800) 989-8255.

Terrance has done just that from Augusta, Georgia. Hello, Terrance.

TERRANCE: Hey, how are you?

STASIO: Good.

TERRANCE: Great. Great. I just wanted to say, can you say "Antiques Roadshow"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STASIO: That's where you're headed now that you've got a life?

TERRANCE: No, no, no. I'm just saying I think that that's going to be the next--I think that's where the fans are going to need to go. I personally hope that Mr. Lucas will go back to becoming a real filmmaker again instead of heading up Star Wars Incorporated because I think he was an excellent filmmaker, and I hope...

STASIO: So you're suggesting all the spin-offs and all of that have distracted him from what got him...

TERRANCE: Yes, they have. I mean, he did what he wanted to do with Skywalker Ranch and all; I mean, he had a plan and he followed it. Now I'm hoping he'll go back to the creative end. "American Graffiti" was great. I mean, I think the man was on his way to becoming a fair-to-middling great filmmaker. And I hope that--I mean, and he's beyond a phenomenon. I mean, he's been an innovator. Now I'd like to see the next stage, I want to see his sequel, which will be him as a great filmmaker.

STASIO: Very interesting. Thank you very much, Terrance. Yeah, what's...

TERRANCE: You're welcome.

STASIO: ...in it for George Lucas after all of this?

Well, joining us now to explain why someone would stand in line for that much time to see a movie is Amy Sturgis, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She's also written about "Star Wars" and teaches a course on "The Lord of the Rings."

Thanks for joining us, Amy.

Professor AMY STURGIS (Belmont University): Thank you for having me here today.

STASIO: Why would someone stand in line for this long to see a movie?

Prof. STURGIS: Well, I think there are at least three things going on here. For some, there's a sense of nostalgia, reconnecting with something that came from their childhood. For example, there are a lot of 30-somethings and 40-somethings who are heading back to the films today, "Episode III," because they remember being young people being touched for their first experience with "Star Wars."

There's also just a sense of community among fans--the same reason people have tailgate parties before football games. If you talk to some of the people across the country who are waiting for the film, who are camping out for days, many of them will say that the experience of connecting with other fans is as important as the culminating experience of watching the film.

STASIO: But they're connecting also around a particular idea or...

Prof. STURGIS: Absolutely.

STASIO: ...a sort of body of ideas. What is it that can create--what's the difference between ideas that create this cult mentality and those that don't?

Prof. STURGIS: Well, the sagas you've mentioned--"Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Lord of the Rings" as well--were all constructed with the building blocks of time-tested legends: quest, exploration, good vs. evil. So it's no surprise they continue to speak to us today. But what's new in our day and age is a lack of opportunity to participate in the storytelling. In the past, oral culture, people would tell stories around the fire, they would sing songs. One of the reasons folk songs in collections have so many different disparate verses is the fact that people kept changing the story and adding to it.

Today, when franchises and estates own the stories, we still have that urge to be more than a passive audience. We wish to be creators, participants. And so those who dress up as characters or write fan fiction stories about the universe or engage in role-playing games or online discussion boards or, for that matter, camp out to see the films and create a mini-culture there built around that experience--they're all acting on that desire to be participants in the storytelling.

STASIO: And that really is something that's a very modern phenomenon, kind of a new-media phenomenon, as people, as you say, create their own villages, their own life after the series itself.

Prof. STURGIS: Exactly.

STASIO: Has this happened with "Lord of the Rings" as well?

Prof. STURGIS: Oh, definitely. And even more so now that we're in the information age and we have the Internet, for example. Since Peter Jackson has refocused attention on Tolkien's great works, there's been an explosion of communities, whether they are the MUSHes, multiuser shared hallucinations online, the role-playing games, the costuming, the fan fiction, fan films--things that really weren't possible, you know, in the 1950s and '60s when the first flush of fan reaction to "The Lord of the Rings" came out. Now with the opportunities that the Internet and the digital age afford us, people can really sink their teeth into it and create a new fan experience all over again.

STASIO: How have you created a fan experience, and what new experiences are you creating as a result of some of your favorite series, now that "Star Wars" is coming to an end? That's what we're taking a look at today, and inviting your phone calls at (800) 989-TALK, totn@npr.org.

Stay with us. I'm Frank Stasio. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

STASIO: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Frank Stasio, sitting in for Neal Conan. I'm in Washington.

And last night marked the beginning of the end for "Star Wars" fanatics. And as they contemplate life after the trilogies, we want to hear from fans who've already been there--Trekkies, Dead Heads, "Buffy" fans, whatever the object of your obsession--if it is over, how have you handled it, how did you handle it while it was going on? If the end is yet to come, well, you know who you are. "Harry Potter" fans, are you bracing yourself? Give us a call, (800) 989-TALK; that's (800) 989-8255. Or you can send us an e-mail at totn@npr.org.

Our guest is at member station WPLN in Nashville. She's Professor Amy Sturgis of Belmont University. And of course you can join us as well.

Maria is on the line from Cleveland. Hello, Maria.

MARIA (Caller): Hi, Frank. How are you?

STASIO: Good. You have a question for us or an observation? You a fan of some kind?

MARIA: Actually, I just had an observation. I'm a horror-fantasy genre person, and I was obsessed with "Buffy" and "Angel," Joss Whedon's brilliant creations. And I felt at a great loss when "Buffy" ended after six seasons, and then "Angel" abruptly ended after five. There was a big campaign that they tried to get "Angel" to be extended, but that didn't go anywhere. And I just--in this type of genre, there's really not much out there. So I've turned to books like Nancy A. Collins and Laura K. Hamilton, but I'm anxious for Joss to have his "Serenity" movie come out. But other than that, you know, I'm kind of in a void.

STASIO: All right...

MARIA: And I do want to say, Frank, that they do have college courses on "Buffy" and the metaphors that are in Joss' writing, and all things "Buffy."

STASIO: Well, and let's talk to Amy Sturgis about that--thank you very much for your call, Maria--you know, about the scholarship that goes around some of the themes that are raised in the various series.

Prof. STURGIS: There's a great deal out there, and continuing to be more attention paid by academics as both the phenomenon of popular culture gains credibility and as people look beyond the initial wrappings to see these larger themes. Certainly, as the last caller mentioned, Joss Whedon's work builds on a lot of old texts, a lot of classic literary motifs. The same is true, actually, in things like "Star Trek." There's great philosophy courses built around the philosophy of "Star Trek." What does the entire concept of the Federation mean? What is the prime directive, and how do we understand that? Courses in a number of these things.

I myself have taught a course on fan participation in media where we look at the way, you know, things like these science-fiction conventions have evolved, and what role they're playing in our culture, and what larger themes--again, like, as I mentioned before, things like good vs. evil, like the quest, redemption--are individuals pulling out of these series and movie sagas.

STASIO: Well, the other thing it suggests is that we know that George Lucas certainly was very self-conscious about the way he was going to concoct and create myth and use myth--Tolkien the same thing.

Prof. STURGIS: Yeah.

STASIO: They had the sort of the benefit of depth psychology and those insights, whereas fairy tales and some of the other stories that emerged seem to be less self-conscious--I guess we don't really know. Is there anything about these sagas and that the fact that they're more self-conscious that makes them either more or less valuable?

Prof. STURGIS: I think they're particularly valuable because of that self-consciousness, because, in a sense, each of these sagas is something of a literary quiz. We can go back and mine these things--and I would mention "Harry Potter" is exactly the same way--and see the different streams of thought, of philosophy, of literature and storytelling that informed them. And so, in a sense, not only do you learn the original texts, but you go back and learn all of the inspirations behind them. "Star Wars"--a classic case. I know there are courses on the Taoism and Buddhism and the Eastern worldviews that inform that saga. There are a lot of ways to use these basically as a cultural literacy test.

STASIO: Let's go out to Northfield, Michigan. And Cicely's on the line. Hello, Cicely.

CICELY (Caller): Hello. I just wanted to say that I'm an obsessive fan with "Harry Potter" and "The West Wing." And both of those--with "West Wing," you have a lot of downtime between seasons, and a lot of time between the "Harry Potter" books. And I've noticed that--myself included--that a lot of fans entertain themselves by writing fan fiction and reading it. And...

Prof. STURGIS: Yes.

STASIO: And sharing--and Cicely, can I ask, and sharing it as well...

CICELY: Yes.

STASIO: ...so it's sharing it among yourselves?

CICELY: Right.

STASIO: Yeah.

CICELY: And it's a great way to take the characters that you love and the story lines, and build upon them and make them your own, and make them that much more personal. And I suspect that once both series end, that that will continue on for many years.

STASIO: Thanks very much, Cicely.

CICELY: Thank you.

Prof. STURGIS: I think it's significant that these fan communities do create a second life for these series. One of the most active and thriving fan groups online that write the kinds of fan fiction that our caller was discussing is the fan group based around the series the "Man from U.N.C.L.E" from the 1960s. Most of the people who are participating in that now were not even born when the series was out. And yet they've created this second life that passes from one generation to the next. And the participants then become part of a dialogue that's, you know, decades old.

STASIO: And they develop a cultural history. Well, we have somebody...

Prof. STURGIS: Exactly.

STASIO: Our next guest is an example of--has done just that sort of thing. Despite what it says at the megaplex, George Lucas is not the only one making "Star Wars" movies these days. "Star Wars" fans are getting the Force. Fan-produced "Star Wars" films have their own Web site, awards ceremony, and the blessing of Lucas himself. Joining us from the studios of WIVK in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a "Star Wars" film fan and "Star Wars" short filmmaker, John Hudgens.

John, welcome to the program.

Mr. JOHN HUDGENS (Amateur "Star Wars" Filmmaker): Thanks. Glad to be here.

STASIO: Well, first, let me--tell us a little bit about your short film, "Sith Apprentice."

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, "Sith Apprentice" is a parody of, obviously, "Star Wars" and Donald Trump's "Apprentice" show. It was just--you know, the Emperor takes on the Donald Trump role, and he's trying to find his new apprentice, since that is what he's trying to do in the real films. We just have a lot more fun with it--you know, killing Jar Jar Binks, having Darth Vader, you know, do "Riverdance." We just had a ball with it.

STASIO: (Laughs) How does Donald Trump fare in this movie?

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, of course, Donald Trump is the Emperor. You know, he is the grand master of everything, pulling everybody's strings, and he gets to pick his new apprentice.

STASIO: Well, let's hear a clip. A very evil boss runs through the final candidates for the job. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of "Sith Apprentice")

EMPEROR: Recently, I summoned those with the darkest hearts to come to Coruscant for the chance to win the dream job for any bad guy. They have faced many challenges, and many have already been defeated, leaving only these four, the best of the worst.

Darth Maul.

DARTH MAUL: At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.

EMPEROR: Jar Jar Binks.

JAR JAR BINKS: Me's a-gonna show everyone how bad me's a-really is.

EMPEROR: Count Dooku.

Count DOOKU: I thought Peter Cushing was going to be here.

EMPEROR: And Darth Vader.

DARTH VADER: If I were ...(unintelligible), I'd just promote a few stormtroopers.

STASIO: Oh, you know, if it wasn't so sad, it'd all be funny. That's his--from a film, "Sith Apprentice." And my guest John Hudgens is the producer. Now what did it cost to produce this film?

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, it didn't cost as much as it should have, you know. I'm not exactly sure myself. It's more than 500, less than a thousand. But a lot of the stuff, we had a lot of help from friends and other people of constant--I mean, pretty much everybody donated their time and their efforts. Most of my expenses were, you know, in feeding people and paying for some various location fees. We, you know, paid to rent out part of a hotel for certain sequences and stuff like that.

STASIO: And why do you do this?

Mr. HUDGENS: Because it's fun. Well, part of the reason also--the way Atom Films has set up the contest with Lucasfilm is that all the finalists online actually get paid royalties on these since they are actually--you know, they have to go through all the legal hoops; everything has to be cleared legally. You know, we can't use any copyrighted music or anything like that. And they're very careful about stuff like this. They actually do pay royalties for the films that are on the site, which does help offset it, you know, eventually. But mainly we did it because it was a funny idea, and the only way were going to see it done is if we did it ourselves.

STASIO: Well, you know, Amy Sturgis, I guess that raises the question--in a program like this and in a place like NPR, we try to figure out what the issues are and how they're being dealt with, and sometimes it all looks pretty serious and grim. And yet when you hear things like this, you get the sense that there are alternative communities out there that are already sort of bypassing all of the traditional and, you know, the conventional ways of doing things, and coming up with answers by themselves. And nobody's paying attention, not the media and certainly not the policy-makers.

Prof. STURGIS: Exactly. They're solving the problems that they see in the original texts that they love, or they're fixing mistakes. And they're also having the opportunity to create a training ground for filmmakers, for writers, for artists who are focusing their talents on the things they love, and getting feedback from fellow fans, and then being able to go on with these honed skills and apply them elsewhere. It's a fascinating study of how these communities are supporting themselves and are, you know, as you say, solving the problems, answering the questions really under the radar of a number of people, including many times the creators themselves who originated the original texts that these fans are responding to.

STASIO: Fascinating possibilities. Let's go to Alaska. Gary is on the line. Hello, Gary.

GARY (Caller): Hello. How you doing?

STASIO: Good.

GARY: Good. Yeah, I'd just like to comment that if it wasn't for these epic series like "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings," those of us that are involved in the IT business working with large computer networks would have to go a little further coming up with ways to name our different computer networks. I know a lot of computer networks, different computers on the network are named after different characters from "The Lord of the Rings" movies or using the "Star Wars" genre. And I've been in conversations where we've been talking about things on different computers and referring to them as the people that were actually part of these productions. That's really kind of interesting sometimes when you hear that kind of conversation going back and forth among a bunch of computer geeks. (Laughs)

STASIO: Good point. Thank you, Gary. I guess that does raise--yeah, some of the stuff does get into the mainstream, doesn't it, Amy?

Prof. STURGIS: Absolutely. And sometimes the creators actually recognize this. Chris Carter in the final season of "The X-Files" named a walk-on character for a fan fiction writer whose works he actually, you know, liked and who was very beloved in the community. J.K. Rowling recognizes fan sites that create fan art or fan discussions or role-playing games each month in the "Harry Potter" universe. And obviously people like Gene Roddenberry, who sanctioned the first real conventions that started the phenomenon today, are aware that this is going on and actually really take a great deal of joy in that.

STASIO: We are talking today about life after "Star Wars." Now that the final episode is on the screens, what are you going to do when it's all over? Or if you've been a fan of another series--"Lord of the Rings," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"--any--"Star Trek" as well, which ended Friday; it's now out of production for the first time in many, many years--what are you going to do now that it's all over? You can give us a call here at (800) 989-8255 or send us an e-mail at totn@npr.org.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Frank Stasio in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan.

My guests are Professor Amy Sturgis, professor of interdisciplinary studies at Belmont University, and John Hudgens is here, an amateur filmmaker who made "Star Wars: Sith Apprentice." And we're talking with you as well. The number to call is (800) 989-8255. And let's go out to Assad, who's on the line from Cleveland. Hi, Assad.

ASSAD (Caller): Hi. Well, I think like Professor Sturgis and Mr. Hudgens and lots of your callers have pointed out, a lot of this classic science fiction really tends to keep living on and on through books and comics and the fans making their own things, own productions. But the other thing is that I think that a lot of science fiction fans can really wait for the inevitable revival to happen--I mean, a "Doctor Who" is back in production; "Star Trek" was out of production for so many years before it came back, and even "Battlestar Galactica" is back, and I don't think anybody really ex--I don't know if people are really expecting the sequels to actually get made. And I don't know. God help us.

STASIO: Well, let...

ASSAD: Might have been better off if they hadn't been made.

STASIO: John Hudgens, let me ask you if you're kind of fully expecting to see more despite promises to the contrary.

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, I don't know that we'll see any more films. I mean, Lucas has already announced that they're going to be continuing the "Star Wars" series in television--you know, there's going to be a live-action series within a couple of years and they're going to be continuing the animated stuff like they've done with "The Clone Wars."

STASIO: How about you? Are you thinking about doing a series? You've got lots of ideas--a little bit of stuff committed to DVD.

Mr. HUDGENS: I would love to be involved with the real series. My big project right now is I'm working on a documentary, which has actually got nothing to do--it's with "Star Wars," but that's taking up--you know, I'm trying to get that done before I continue on with, you know, anything else.

STASIO: You've got a day job.

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, my day job--I work for Warner Bros. Television, so all this stuff is done around my real work, so you know, when I really get into it, I don't sleep much.

STASIO: Let's go to Tom on the line in St. Louis. Hi, Tom.

TOM (Caller): Hey, how's it going?

STASIO: Good.

TOM: Well, I'm a Dead Head. You guys were talking about some of the subcultures that develop around these things, and you know, during one of my sociology classes we had to write a paper on subcultures and I did a study on it, and it's amazing when someone like Jerry died and the band ends how they just move on to another thing but still stay in the same culture, you know, whether it's going on to Phish or, you know, Widespread Panic or somewhere else like that, you see people just move on to a different thing but still, you know, kind of meet up and follow the same way.

STASIO: A kind of cultural evolution. Thanks very much, Tom. I guess that's what you might call it. Amy Sturgis, would that be how you describe it?

Prof. STURGIS: Yes, absolutely. There's a term in fandom called `Spanish butterfly,' which suggests once you've entered in to the subculture in whichever way, if it's through costuming or going to the conventions or making films or making music, once you enter in, then you're free to roam about, as it were, and so those who, you know, came in perhaps through "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" now feel comfortable with hopping to "Harry Potter" or the new "Battlestar Galactica." As is pointed out, all things that were old seem to be new again.

STASIO: And the joke is that, you know, these folks ought to get a life, but what you're suggesting is this is a life, and in a sense it's a very powerful life, as superficial and silly as it may look on the surface.

Prof. STURGIS: Absolutely, and in the same sense that you can see, you know, a father taking a son to a baseball game and giving him his first jersey to match the colors of the team that they support, you can see a mother taking her daughter to a convention and both of them dressing up as Leia and Amidala from "Star Wars," and it's another form of participating in the community. It's the intergenerational aspect of this is becoming really something of a phenomenon, and it's another way of creating community and family.

STASIO: Professor Sturgis, thank you very much.

Prof. STURGIS: Thank you.

STASIO: Professor Amy Sturgis is professor of interdisciplinary studies at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and John Hudgens, thank you.

Mr. HUDGENS: Well, thank you.

STASIO: John Hudgens is a "Star Wars" amateur filmmaker. He made the film "Sith Apprentice."

In just a moment, a grounded airplane, harried travelers and a night of fairy tales are the ingredients for a novel on globalization. "Tokyo Cancelled" after the break. Stay with us.

I'm Frank Stasio. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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