A newbie Awakens: This non-fan becomes a convert after seeing the latest Star Wars film

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My palms were sweating as I stood in line to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This wasn’t from anticipation. I had surprised my boyfriend with tickets on the film’s official opening day and, while we stood in the fan-filled lobby and my boyfriend talked shop with a fellow nerd, I was filled with dread at the thought of a fellow movie-goer finding out my secret: I’d never seen the other movies in the franchise.

In the past, whenever I revealed my apparent deficiency, I saw an immediate loss of respect in the person’s eyes. Having seen Star Wars is almost a status symbol, of sorts. So, for the most part, I faked it; if it was brought up, I mumbled that I hadn’t seen all of them but that I got the general gist and the new one looked neat. I could have just watched the movies, but I was in too deep and also convinced that I couldn’t enjoy Star Wars and be loyal to my first love, Lord of the Rings.

I wasn’t faking all of it: I knew that Luke and Leia were siblings and Darth Vader was their father and that the light side was good and the dark side was bad and Yoda taught the Jedi. Not a complete ignoramus. I also read a synopsis of all of the films right before I saw The Force Awakens, which helped.

What I truly didn’t know was how much I would like the new movie … and how much it would make me want to see the others. When the theater darkened and the main theme started playing, I teared up. Me. The girl who has no personal connection to the franchise or the characters and who, frankly, is terrified of outer space.

I was a little confused by some things, and pestered my boyfriend before, during and after the movie, desperate for answers. Here were some of my questions:

How does “the Force” work? Are there any rules, or can some people just harness it and wield it more so than others?

How did they build all those fancy ships, when they don’t even have modern comforts on some of the planets? (I’m looking at you, Jakku.)

I thought lightsabers were kind of just magical lasers. I didn’t know they were basically flaming swords. So much cooler!

What the hell are all of the different alien species? How many planets ARE there in this galaxy far, far away?

Why do Storm Troopers wear those suits if they can just get shot right through them? Why don’t they invest in some actual armor?

What’s the deal with Han and Leia? Did they ever get married?

I believe that these are all perfectly valid questions, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, either. I think that the guy who was sitting in front of us caught wind of my deception, but he didn’t call me out or whip out a lightsaber.

The thing is, whether you’ve seen the rest of the movies or not, this new film is almost universally appealing. There’s a strong cast of newbies and old favorites, complete with both a female lead and a black lead. The struggle between good and evil unites even the most stubborn viewers, and the special effects were stunning.

I went to see The Force Awakens a second time in the theater, and I’m planning to binge watch the other movies when the holiday craziness dies down. While I don’t consider myself a total convert, I finally understand the hype and why people gravitate towards this franchise. Plus, I’m looking forward to my new non-pariah identity.