Let me start with an important distinction: I’m not trying to tell you how you should feel about Star Wars or Tiger Woods.
I’m not really sure what I’m trying to do. On another sleep-deprived morning after another midnight showing, I guess I’m just trying to digest how, after more than 20 years of watching both, I’m feeling about two of the most interesting things in my cultural world.
There have been six Star Wars movies released in my lifetime and I think I’ve gone to the midnight showings of four of them. I fucking love Star Wars, which puts me in a very isolated position around these parts. Below is a photo of me trying to share some thoughts with the rest of the NLU crew.
But sitting in the sold out theater last night, despite 41 cups of coffee and a cherry coke, I found it tougher than ever to get excited. (I promise this is not a movie review; I actually thought it was pretty fantastic and you should go see it. Or don’t. Whatever.) Sitting there watching another chapter of a story I’ve watched since I was a kid, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just going through the motions. Excited because I was supposed to be excited. Because I can rarely stop thinking about golf, it reminded me of how it’s felt to follow the Tiger Woods saga the past few years.
The resemblance is undeniable. I mean, seriously, here’s what Tiger actually posted on Instagram during his latest comeback.
I’ll spare you all the comparative metaphors about the tortured hero’s journey. But it’s funny to look at the similarities of these two stories, both of which are so much larger than their respective industries.
You have the endless whispers and conspiracy theories (everything from Rey’s parents to Cat’s worst-ball 66’s). The nostalgic re-appearances of Han Solo and Notah Begay and Admiral Ackbar and Hank Haney all reprising their comfortable and familiar roles within the universe. It’s not that much of a stretch to picture Tiger getting his latest back surgery in that room where the droids pieced Darth Vader back together.
And of course, there are darker, more cynical similarities. Overwhelming corporate interests in the continuation of both sagas create an inescapable, soul-swallowing hype machine every time a new development takes shape. Gross opportunism by the #brands to capitalize on the excitement of both are enough to make you want to curl up inside your tauntaun and die.
These cynical views of course lead to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.
The Dark Side interpretation of both of these things is that each is chasing a ghost of its former self. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
But where does that view leave us? Should we urge both to call it quits and protect a legacy of greatness? If we do, we’d all be worse off for it.
Neither will ever again be what they were at their best. But simultaneously knowing and ignoring this is the only way to avoid them becoming victims of their own successes.
We need to be honest about the fact that the excitement is going to inevitably and slowly dwindle from both of these stories. There’s no way to avoid that. But it’s so obvious that our galaxy is better with these two cultural mainstays than without. “The Last Jedi” wasn’t my favorite movie in the series, but it was a hell of a lot more fun than going to see “Daddy’s Home 2” in the next room over. Even when Tiger is an old, gray Ben Kenobi-style mentor, he’ll still be the most interesting person to watch on the driving range. It’s easy to forget that as you’re flogged with commercials and brands and takes, but we have to keep fighting the urge to let that impact the experience.
It’s going to be a struggle to keep this in perspective over the next two decades. There will surely be times when the Nissan commercials and Tiger reaction GIFs will seemingly be too much to bear.
But your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.