Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 274: Star Wars — The Force Awakens and Merch, Merch, Merch

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I was delighted to join Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson — and to share my first Pop Culture Happy Hour panel with the estimable Gene Demby — to process our reactions to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We recorded this episode just a few hours after seeing the movie; the review I wrote to accompany the release of the podcast came from a day or so later. I know my opinion had not entirely settled yet, but we had a fun, lively discussion.

When I sat down to watch the film again two nights later, with Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon seated next to me, he asked if I missed the 20th Century Fox fanfare before the glowing green Lucasfilm logo appeared. We’ve spoken before about how that fanfare always gives us a ripple of excitement no matter what we’re about to watch, because of the sense-memory of Star Wars. Strangely, I hadn’t noticed its absence until Glen pointed it out. (There was a lot of other stuff to notice, c’mon.)

I don’t think I mentioned during they toy-talk segment of the podcast that I divested myself of my entire collection of Star Wars figures — in their bust-of-Darth Vader carrying case — at yard sale sometime in the late 1980s for less than $20. My mom, I recall, was not pleased. It’s not that she thought I could maybe hold onto them and pay for grad school one day; it’s just that I had put my parents through a lot demanding that they track down particular figures for me. (I also demanded a talking toy car from Knight Rider, as you’ll hear.) I’m sorry for that, Mom and Dad.

Stuff I found out for this episode that you won’t learn from it: Star Wars action figures each retailed for $1.49 in 1977, $1.99 in 1980, and $2.49 in 1983. There is no small sum of irony in the fact that while many of us, including me, have decried Return of the Jedi as an extended toy ad, it was only the revenue from the sales of Star Wars toys that kept that film’s precursor, consensus favorite The Empire Strikes Back, afloat during its troubled production. (Chris Taylor covers all this in his fine book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe.)

Finally, I was happy to be able to pimp my tenth Christmas mixtape, which is posted for your hall-decking streaming pleasure right here.

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