What It Meant Watching The Force Awakens With My Dad
Warning: Spoilers ahead! Keep reading only if you've seen The Force Awakens.
It wasn't supposed to be like this — my dad, my mom, and me sitting in a row together watching The Force Awakens. It was supposed to be my dad, my older brother, and me because we've obsessed over the films for years. But a work schedule mishap led to a new trio. My mom, who has refused to watch the films throughout the years (something I could never accept if I ever get married), fidgeted in her seat throughout the two-hour show. But as the Millennium Falcon soared across the screen for the first time in the movie, I looked to my 72-year-old dad, Manuel. His mouth crinkled into a smile. This was my second time watching the movie, but my first time watching a new Star Wars film in theaters with my dad.
Growing up, you learn very quickly your parents' favorite interests, in ranking order. My dad's are: the Bee Gees, Star Wars, and steak. I don't know the first time I watched any of the films, but I do remember when the toys started littering the bedroom I shared with my older brother: a huge Millennium Falcon set; an R2-D2 Tamagotchi; a TIE fighter figurine. These toys now sit beneath the bed I only sleep in during the holidays, but they helped cement one of the many common interests my brother and dad share. They can talk about the films for hours, theorizing and reliving some of their favorite moments.
As we walked out of the theater, my dad's first words remarked on Han's sad death. He spoke about it in Spanish, so there was a lesser chance of spoiling it for other fans. It was funny seeing a look on his face that any Star Wars fan can immediately recognize — he was deliriously happy. He talked out his feelings, and I nodded along without much commentary. Maybe it's because I had already gone through this process four days earlier on the premiere night. Or perhaps it's because as I grow older and live 3,000 miles away from my parents, my Spanish skills grow weaker and my father's English skills do the same.
Yet, the magic of Star Wars lies in its ability to transcend culture and language. These days, my dad, who was raised in Peru, mostly sticks to watching movies and shows with closed captioning. My mom joked about whether or not he'd understand Star Wars in theaters without the subtitles to fill in the blanks. But of course he understood — his English is good enough, and you don't need to know every last word to fall in love with the idea of a world beyond our own and the wars that can go on it.
To me, being a Star Wars fan is one way of being able to connect with my dad. We're not the strongest candidates for having the best father-daughter relationship. Neither of us likes to show emotion or express ourselves, and it's hard to build something out of that void. But with Star Wars, we can have a connection in this galaxy that needs little words to accurately convey how special it is.
So we didn't gush about how meaningful it was that we got to share this Star Wars experience together. We might never talk about it that way. But what matters to me is how Star Wars has given us a common bond. What matters are the smiles we both get on our faces upon hearing the Millennium Falcon swoosh around or the same feelings we share when a favorite character dies. It's the simplest connection but one that will continue from this galaxy to the next.