by Giorgio Scherrer
The battle of Hoth in Star Wars Episode V was just being lost when I casually checked my Twitter account and discovered that this was not an ordinary evening. It was movie night in the JCR, the second film of the evening, and it was 13th November.
From about 10pm – when I saw the first tweet about shootings in Paris – to 2am in the morning, my eyes would be glued to my little smartphone screen, incredulous at the news coming in, getting worse and worse, and culminating with over one hundred and twenty people killed. And still, Star Wars was running, rain was falling in Third Quad, and everything was so normal, except for the snippets of text on my screen and people’s faces around the room.
Over the course of that evening the line between what was real and what was fiction became blurry to me. My surroundings were too normal to be real and the virtual news that just kept flooding and flooding my screen was too horrible to be invented. The only thing I could still grasp was the movie, the Star Wars I had known since childhood. But it, too, seemed somewhat changed.
When Luke ran off from Dagobah to save his friends, knowing it was a trap, for the first time I understood him. And when Han was put into frozen carbonite it seemed sadder to me than ever before. And when Yoda had his first entrance in arguably the funniest scene in the whole series the laughter that came out of my mouth sounded so surreal and horrible in my ears that I hope I will never hear it again.
I always thought of myself as a rational mind, but these events affected me like I never thought they would. Witness-testimonies made me cry, and that evening I felt the urge to lock my door before going to sleep for the first and only time since I’ve been in Oxford.
In the following days I could hardly utter a comprehensible sentence on what I thought should or shouldn’t be done. The French president’s talk of ‘an act of war’ and the debates on French flags as profile pictures or the hashtag #prayforparis just made me feel vaguely sick. And it was only when some people dragged the refugees – the ones fleeing that exact same terror and much more of it in their home countries – into the argument that I could become angry again.
Today, when I think back to this terrible evening I can’t help wondering why – of all things – Star Wars was what I clung to that night. Although the case can be made that the movie is about righteousness, peace, friendship and even diversity, it still seems inappropriate to me that my head mixed the perception of a terrorist attack with that of a science fiction movie.
It could simply be that in a movie everybody always seems to know what to do and how to react. But maybe it is less about what Star Wars’ protagonists believe in than how they act it out: by taking their ideas seriously enough to fight an empire for them, but not so seriously that it’d stop them from looking at themselves with just a bit of irony.