The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be. – Michael Eisner, May 1 1989
Two terribly significant things- at least to me- happened in May of 1989. 30 days apart, Disney’s MGM Studios theme park opened to the public and Danielle Elise Herd was born into the world. Both fixated on the Golden Age of Hollywood, built on high highs and low lows, sun-drunk on a charade of fanciness baked into the hot Orlando asphalt… Today known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it is unexpectedly my favorite place to be in the entire world. My theme park twin. My darling of darlings.
Hollywood Studios and I have something else in common, even more than our eventual need to rebrand, to re-create ourselves: We fucking love STAR WARS.
I mean, is there anything better? Is there any greater feeling in the entire corporeal world than that hitch breath of wonder, of promise between “A Long Time Ago in A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and… STAR WARS?
Funnily enough, I did not fall in love with Star Wars first in a cinema or even in a living room. I was not born to nerds. My mother had seen the original trilogy and enjoyed them well enough while my athletic father couldn’t pick Chewbacca out of a line-up. So, I wasn’t introduced to that vast world at first via VHS tape. No, instead my sporty little family- Mom, Dad, my little brother Matt, and myself- visited Disney World. And it was there, amid the Muppets and the ice cream cones and the Great Movie Ride (my original favorite), that Matt and I had our minds thoroughly and completely blown apart.
(I met Captain Rex before I met Luke Skywalker, which, again, feels significant.)
Star Tours, originally opening at Disneyland in 1987 and then at Disney World in 1989, lit a spark in my brother and I. We didn’t know where we were or who we were with- had never heard of Endor or met C-3P0 before- but we felt that undeniable Star Wars promise for the very first time and we were hungry for more. When we returned from that trip, Matt was gifted the original trilogy for his birthday and I was more than happy to watch those tapes with him over and over again, transfixed by the film-nerd seriousness of those old Leonard Maltin introductions.
But also… Star Wars didn’t feel like it was supposed to be for me. I was a little girl and I liked Disney princesses and stuffed animals and picture books. I didn’t seem to have an obvious place in this world of laser swords and action figures, right?
I still watched Return of the Jedi over and over and swooned over Luke Skywalker’s bravery. With all due respect to a certain Little Mermaid, I wanted to be a part of that world.
But, besides my supposed gender identity, I mean… Star Wars was over, right? Star Wars belonged to nerdy cis men who had come of age in the 1970’s and I was lucky that I had gotten to experience at all, whether in my family’s living room or on Star Tours.
What’s it like to love a thing you feel you can never really, truly have?
Stay tuned for more… And May the Force Be With You.