Of all the moments of disappointment in my life (a number comparable to most others, I'm sure) none are clearer than watching that first Star Wars prequel.
Yes, mine is a life of great hardship. Please send all charitable donations to the Wes Burns Foundation (motto: Hey, you have money? Why don't you give me your money? Well ... why don't you give it to me anyway?) and make all checks payable to cash.
While there aren't enough column inches to describe everything that disappointed me about that movie I think the chief culprit was the anticipation.
When that first Star Wars prequel (no, I'm not typing it's name, my nerd-rage won't allow it) there was hype for about a solid year. And this was well before the age of smartphones or internet connections that didn't start with you telling your sister to get off the phone; this was analog hype.
When the day finally came it might as well have been a national holiday. We all left school early to go stand in line with like-minded geeks, nerds, fans of movies, fans of crowds, random passerby and even a couple normal people (normies) thrown in the mix.
After whiling away the hours with Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and wondering why the guy in the Darth Vader costume REFUSED to break character we all finally got into the theater and, for the first time I had ever seen, people applauded the dimming of the lights.
Then we watched the movie.
So we shuffled out of the theater, shell shocked by the middling garbage dressed up as our childhood that just robbed us of $8, two hours and our entire summer.
I remember something my friend Amos said. Amos is possibly the only person who liked going to the movies more than I did our senior year of high school. So, naturally, we were talking about just how amazing the movie was going to be. Now, and I'm paraphrasing from a 14-year-old memory here, Amos said something akin to "The best thing about the new Star Wars is that, if you get bored during the summer (It was released in May of 1999) you can just say 'I'm going to go see Star Wars again.'"
The movie being terrible wasn't simply a massive disappointment to millions of people that started a downward spiral for the brand that culminated in the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney; the movie being terrible took away all the collective joy we were going to have with it for the foreseeable future.
Was it really THAT bad? Was the hype the problem? Why did I?care so much? Did I need to get more sun?
While this may have been the first time I've faced these questions it certainly wouldn't be the last. Especially the "get more sun" one ... turns out the answer was "no."
So when the new season of "Arrested Development" was released on Netflix last week I was prepared for the disappointment.
I can't describe to you just how popular "Arrested Development" was among my friends in college. Example: We had a party when the show went off the air that culminated in one punched wall, a trashed kitchen, an inebriated rocket scientist and a whole bunch of things you can't print in a family publication. Needless to say the show was important to us.
Obviously I?was worried. Was it going to be bad? Was the hype a problem? Why did I care so much?
To answer these questions in order:
No, it was not bad. It wasn't the same show I?remember watching with my friends in college, but it was still really funny.
The hype is a problem because the hype is ALWAYS a problem. If the expectations are too high the product will almost inevitably disappoint.
As for "why did I care so much" it isn't because the show was THAT funny (although it was pretty great), but it was simply how we communicated with each other. "Arrested Development" is the reason I can text a friend of mine, after not talking for months, and say "You're gonna get some hop-ons," and know they'll understand and enjoy.
We're Americans, and Americans share our collective culture through media. Mass media is the reason the fourth largest country (by land mass) in the world can have such a tightly knit cultural fabric; it's the reason that I can overhear a total stranger say "Bob Loblaw lobs law bomb," and have an instant sense of kinship.
As we age, our cultural waypoints change; less about TV and movies and more about shared experiences with spouses, children, jobs and other assorted whatnot. But we cannot forget the cultural artifacts that connected us in the past, just as the companies that make said artifacts cannot keep themselves from reviving, repackaging, remaking and reimagining them for us, time and time again ... all for a few dollars more.
So if some company is offering you a new version of something that gave you and your friends such good times (this will happen with greater frequency as you age) then go ahead and buy a ticket and take the ride. Or don't, because it might be terrible; but you can always talk to your old friends about horrible the new version is. Whatever you decide just remember the words of the great Public Enemy: Don't believe the hype!
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.