I will freely admit to still checking out Toys R Us in Chatswood every now and again. I do this in hopes that my childhood imagination is reignited by a renewed sense of playing with toys, but sadly even anime figures like the Medicom ones I regard as worthy enough to exist in my house are few and far between.
Now let’s consider a recent exception to this. I have been looking for a decently priced electronic Lightsaber which is blue, because out of all the Lightsaber colours in Star Wars, I always loved the blue one. I like blue as a colour in general. My favourite superhero, Superman, is largely blue in his colour scheme. Blue reminds me of happy, happy things. I never use that word to describe my feeling sad for some reason, the word blue never comes out of my mouth when I’m sad.
Because to me, blue is not a sad colour. Blue is what I think of when I think of what lunchboxes I had as a kid, the colour of cheerful bright tones which modern superhero designs lacked, whereas in anime you tended to see blue used a lot more, hence I associated anime with bright pop art colour schemes with a real sincerity to it. Sincerity. A word that we fear.
There are certain things that hurt us, or we claim hurt us, in this world. For my brother, it was seeing Star Wars constantly altered with CGI. But growing up, George Lucas never seemed to change aspects of the Original Trilogy that bothered ME.
Even the much reviled “NO!” put into Return Of The Jedi didn’t bother me as much as people online say it should. Because while many refused to purchase the Blu Ray due to leaked clips, seeing that alteration in context is a different animal. Really the footage is not changed to remove all the conflict, but Vader only says his infamous new NO after we see the already famous silent looking at his son and back again shot. Because people only saw the leaked clip, they don’t even realise how much of the Star Wars they say they love so much is still there.
And what never changes about Star Wars being rad is the Lightsabers. No matter how much these films are altered and rereleased - the iconic nature of the Lightsaber cannot be replaced. You cannot buy yourself the Force, but a toy Lightsaber which was child safe to play with could belong to anyone. Andy Warhol said something similar about McDonald’s being beautiful in the same way.
It was something a lot of kids had, and though interest in the action figures of Han and Chewie fades, the thrill of increasingly more lifelike Lightsabers never gets old. Why is this? Is it because it’s a toy of fantasy a young man never outgrows? Or is it because a Lightsaber toy makes you feel more of a Jedi than an action figure of Luke does? Thousands of cosplayers might agree on this one. The Lightsaber endures because it is the one symbol of Star Wars that even George Lucas cannot ruin for fans and haters alike. This icon is too important now for him to throw away. Even if the Special Editions cause diehard fans to hate Lucas, nobody ever says they hate Lightsabers. In any discussion of Star Wars, good or bad, people don’t diss the Lightsaber not because they want to look cool. It’s because their hearts will not let them. It is too late to tell a generation of men they are too old to play with Lightsabers. It would be like taking away a child’s right to dream. Not only would the world be a sadder, poorer place without it… but not even a Game Of Thrones villain would ever do this even if he could.
I’d been checking out Toys R Us every now and again when I went to Chatswood for exercise via my local walk. With this, I’d noticed more and more that every time I went there, there were less and less toys that interested me there. I felt like my childhood was soon over, and it probably is.
Because when I go to Chatswood, I usually head to the JB Hi-Fi to check out music and movies I can buy instead. I don’t really think about playing with plastic Admiral Ackbar too much, I’m more concerned with the greatest toy that no shop ever sells. A lot of people think it doesn’t exist anymore. But as a writer and artist I play with it every day. It’s imagination.
Imagination is the reason that at my age I’m more interested in reading a good book or comic, listening to good music or watching a good, or so bad it’s good movie to relax. The toys my brain needs to play with are more abstract than just Lego now. There’s more to it than buying a box of bricks and hoping for the best.
I felt sad about this for a long time, sad because I was conflicted about what my interests and hobbies even were, had my depression stolen my joy I held onto for dear life if I could just reach it?
I didn’t have many friends to share ideas with - have fun with like a normal lad my age. What was making me sad wasn’t a loss of childhood at all. It was that I was clinging to ideas that no longer allowed me to grow naturally into my new stage of life. I felt I knew so little actual human friends in my life offline that I barely understood what being cool even meant.
In a fit of despair, a final last gasp of childhood, I thought I would find nothing in Toys R Us that day, like all the other times. But something was different when I walked in. The Star Wars toys had moved to a new, tiny section. It was where it seemed a huge legacy would die. But as I found out, I’d noticed a new toy on the shelf there that made me get misty eyed.
It was this blue FX Lightsaber that unlike the ones I’d had as a kid that folded up and collapsed, it was more like those high roller cosplay replicas than anything else I’d seen there. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I tried it out. It felt like something I’d actually want. But with that came a flinch, these three hood rat kids that looked right out of Attack The Block saw me playing with it. I felt like a huge dork in front of these thug teens, even though I had five years on them they’d probably be able to get the drop on me still.
They didn’t speak to me directly, they just looked at each other, and this lanky Middle Eastern kid in a grey hoodie just said: “this is gangsta as FUCK”.
Those words sent an all too human chill down my spine as I heard them uttered by the least likely candidates for fanboys I’d heard in my entire life.
When I got insomnia advice from the Dream King Neil Gaiman himself, I was pretty prepared, but not for THIS. Everything I ever imagined about the typical Gen Z profile just evaporated before my eyes, getting all misty on me. If I told these guys I thought these Lightsabers were gangsta too, they wouldn’t even mug me, they’d sooner hug me. It was like finding out that there exist grown men who watch My Little Pony religiously, in the Year Of Our Lord, 2012, times a thousand. My beliefs about the sad direction the youth of today was headed in were rocked to their very core. I had no words to express this baffling, borderline religious experience.
It was like meeting Elvis on the street, twenty years after his death - it was just, WOW, these guys, they’re un-fucking-believable, to paraphrase Walken. I am convinced that this was the moment I began to renounce irony. I know this because the broken, tattered Hello Kitty iPhone case I held onto in order to provoke any feeling at all in my fellow man ironically - as soon as I left the store I tried to tear it off which broke that brittle hard case even worse than it was before, like a snake shedding a dead skin as it slithered anew. And no, I don’t automatically think snakes are evil, just like I don’t think blue will ever make me sad when I see it anywhere.
This sight for world weary eyes, jaded by two decades of irony… it motherfucking left me truly, madly, deeply INSPIRED. It was a presence, that I had not felt since… since I was a boy…
The iPhone case was as busted as the Dude’s car at the end of The Big Lebowski. Utterly trashed, just as my mistaken grasping for irony might have left me. I walked down the escalator to one of those iPhone case boutiques you see popping around everywhere these days, they’re usually staffed by Asian people not because they’re too poor to work elsewhere, it’s just a reality. Besides, would you rather Chinese people being poisoned by the making of iPhones, or them bing safe and happy in a boutique selling cases for them? Most of you’d want them to sell cases instead of work even worse jobs right? I thought so.
There was a certain case for my phone I’d been hankering for. One of the ones that looks like a cassette tape from the old days but it’s a phone case made of rubber which is flexible and doesn’t shatter. My brother said I shouldn’t get one because everybody had one like that, but the white and blue cassette case I’d researched was exactly what I wanted in a phone case. Unironically.
So I bought it. I didn’t buy a blue FX Lightsaber, couldn’t afford it yet. But soon enough, one will be mine. And I won’t feel like such a dork.