And in related news...
Forgive me everyone, I'm a little ticked off at this year and what just happened. Let me tell you all a story. It's a true one as it just so happens and it's near and dear to my heart. Once upon a time, in the long ago year of 1983, a young boy went to see a movie with his mother. It wasn't just any movie. It was a classic and the last of a trilogy of iconic movies. It was called Return of the Jedi and it, along with more Star Trek: The Original Series than was probably healthy at that age, began what added up to a lifetime of Science Fiction fandom. Fast forward a few years.
That same boy grew up to become a man with a child of his own. The world's most beautiful little girl sat on his lap. She looked back at him, "I love Star Wars Dada," she said "I like R2D2. He's so funny." She laughed and he kissed her on the back of her head and thought back to a funny moment of his own. Sitting in that movie theater with his mother and laughing as the guy in the row in front of them walked out, disgusted by the appearance of Jabba the Hutt. Funny moment and good times, all courtesy of one of the greatest film trilogies (and later franchises) ever.
A lot of icons came out of that movie. We all know lightsabers, X-wing fighters, TIE fighters, the Death Star, Luke, Leia, Han, Darth Vader, etc. But really, what was the biggest icon to come out of Star Wars? R2D2. Stop laughing. I'm serious. Think about it.
When the Star Wars book and record sets were released, it was an R2D2 clip that told you to turn the page. When you buy the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game (the first one at least) it came with an R2D2 random number generator instead of a die. There are two characters that have been in every Star Wars movie: R2D2 and C3PO but it wasn't Threepio that carried the message. It has been R2 that the entire galaxy has relied upon twice to get the information about the enemy base/ship to where it needed to be. I've read a fan theory somewhere that the entire Star Wars movie franchise is told through the eyes of R2D2. He has been the biggest character in one of the biggest franchise in movie history. And now the actor who played him is gone.
For those wondering, the boy/man in the story was yours truly. Star Wars really does go back that far for me (yes, I missed the first two theatrical releases. I was born in 1976. This time it's not my fault.) I really have watched it with my daughters and my Riley really did speak those exact words. My life would have worse without Star Wars. One of the things I like about my ex-wife when I first met her was that she was a Wars fan. Without Wars I may not even have a child. That too is a true story, even if I did the computer room in fantasy instead of Star Wars like I was instructed. Oh well.
I guess I just can't get used to this. As a Star Trek fan I've lost quite a few of the people I grew up with. DeForrest Kelley was the first. Jimmy Doohan is gone. Leonard Nimoy got his own post here last year. When I think about it it makes me want to vomit.
Wars is a different animal though. Granted, we lost Alec Guinness in 2000 but we've still got the rest of the main characters from the original trilogy. Christ, they're all still acting in the new movies. Well, maybe not Harrison Ford, but it's SF so who knows. They never found the body after all. But that's a different subject for a different post.
The bottom line is that we lost Kenny Baker today. The guy who made my daughter laugh. The guy who made me cheer. The guy who made one of cinema's most revered characters come alive. The guy who was with us through it all. He got our heroes out of the Death Star and got the ship working on the escape from Naboo. The memories could go on.
I've read a lot about him today. His family has spoken about how ill he was. They've talked of how he was told that he probably wouldn't survive past puberty. How he defied all the odds and made it to the top despite what the world told him he could achieve. What a scrapper. It's easy to give up but he didn't. Just like his character.
Kenny Baker was three feet eight inches tall. My five year old daughter is taller than that. There weren't many people who could have fit into the R2D2 outfit. It's weird though, because the shadow cast by that man has to be at least five hundred times that. The world will long remember the Star Wars movies. I'm going out a limb to say this but someday these films will be remembered the way a lot of literature is. I won't go so far as to compare George Lucas to William Shakespeare, but Lucas's stories are just as topical and far easier to understand. Kenny Baker was in all of them.
The world changed today. Some people won't acknowledge that fact and I'm okay with that. Those that laugh and mock us will have a field day with this one and I'll shrug it off because I always do. Those that don't understand can't understand and that's not going to change. There's no point in wishing otherwise. We get it though.
So lift a glass tonight in a toast to one of the greatest actors you've never seen. Tell the world what a great time you've had watching Kenny Baker and what he meant to you. It's different for all of us. It's also the same for all of us. It's just weird. But remember this: I meant it when I said no.
Kenny Baker is NOT dead. He may not be able to hug his family the way he used to. He may not be able to act in the forthcoming movies. There are a lot of things he can no longer do. But the Star Wars franchise lives. R2D2 lives. And as long as they do, Kenny Baker will live. It's our job to keep it that way.
Some R2D2 related products are listed below: