Every year, I personally will sit down and watch the Star Wars Holiday Special, much to George Lucas’ chagrin. I had never involved my child in that yearly yuletide giggle before now. Well, until this year when it’s the last Christmas where I can legally demand it of her…
As I prepared cookies this past weekend, I sat her down and gave her little notice that she was going to take part in one of my favorite holiday rituals. She tucked in, next to our tree and and we enjoyed (kinda? a little?) together. It wasn’t long before Itchy, Lumpy and Mala — Chewbacca’s family back home — were introduced and she was side-eyeing me. “What is this? Why are they horrifying!?”, she asked with wide eyes. I just turned my head and gave her a soft knowing smile and responded “Well, you can thank Stan Winston for that, my darling.” and went about mixing cookie dough.
Somewhere around the hologram machine that Lumpy watches with circus dancers, she was just gawking and holding her cheeks. Here, I can’t really do it justice other than including it here in full:
Bella: So, how come we’ve never heard about his family in the movies?
Me: Well, that’s a great question. Thing is, George Lucas told them that if they were going to do a special for CBS, that they should base it on Wookiees. Just wookiees.
Bella: Did he regret that?
Me: The fact we’re watching a bootleg copy complete with commercials should answer that. Lucas hated it so much that he doesn’t even like discussing it and has never released it officially to video. He won’t even answer questions about it. If you hand him a still from it, he won’t even sign it.
Bella: Wow. Why is he so salty about it?
Me: Keep watching.
So, we got through a couple of the musical numbers. One had Bella shaking her head as she asked me if Itchy, the Grandfather, was watching inappropriate videos in eye-shot of Lumpy, the child. I just chuckled and nodded, letting her know that was pretty much *everyones* takeaway from that scene. It actually made numerous adults quite uncomfortable when viewing it for the first time with their kids, from what I remember frin talking to folks. CBS never re-aired it and sure, that was probably George Lucas’ doing but perhaps a bit of the weirdness in that scene as well.
Then yet another musical interlude with Jefferson Starship, in which we discussed the concept of them using lightsabers as microphones and how it went against the very concept of the difficulty in acquiring the crystals for lightsabers. Once more “Whose idea was this?” was asked, for me to then remind gently my child that Lucas was approached often about doing specials and he offered the job to someone else to direct and also write. One person who co-wrote it was Bruce Villanch. “Who?” she asked. “Nevermind.” I replied.
Once actual characters from Star Wars showed up, mind you, Bella became far more involved and even scooted up on the couch to take notice. That was until she saw just how much make-up they caked on poor Mark Hamill. After a RuPaul’s Drag Race comment, she just chuckled and said with a smug look on her face, “I bet they never expected we’d watch this on HD televisions.” which amused me. “To be fair,” I said, “I doubt anyone expected this would stay culturally relevant enough for us to be still watching it on HD televisions. Yet, here we are.” before pulling a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. “Yes, we. We as in us. You used to just keep this to yourself.” she responded and was met with me smirking around the corner with an oven mitt pointed from the kitchen. Sarcasm was definitely passed down through generations.
With a lot of repeated appearances of Harvey Korman and then a stalker-y Art Carney, I had to keep reminding Bella that Korman was playing multiple characters and Art Carney was not the same person. Then again, Korman as the head-volcano cantina-goer with a crush on Bea Arthur is kind of hard to ignore. It was the birth of this interaction though:
Bella: A fun drinking game they could play there is “Take a drink for every time Bea Arthur sings the word ‘friend’ during this song.”
Me: The Empire wouldn’t have anyone left to threaten with curfew because that game would kill everyone in the Cantina.
Bella: Then they should DEMAND it be played.
We then progressed to more Stormtroopers threatening child Wookies, to which Bella shouted “Is this really happening!? It’s a kid! From a beloved franchise!” and then I had to step in with “Tsk, tsk. Chewbacca’s family is NEVER mentioned in the films. They’re not really… part of it.” and she wasn’t into that answer. “STILL!” she bellowed. This continued on through Han Solo showing up on screen, Carrie Fisher’s darling face making an appearance in the midst and then the thrilling end-battle. You remember, the one where someone goes flying through Chewbacca’s treehouse villa to their death below?
Bella: That was vicious.
Me: They were threatening his family!
Bella: I know, but..
Me: I know, you’re still expecting this to be for kids. It so wasn’t.
As Chewbacca stared with the most lifeless eyes you’d ever seen through blue-hazed flashbacks of his adventures up until now, Bella thought it was over. Heck, the commercials were rolling in faster after every single scene now it felt and it was reasonable to assume. Nope! She still had a musical number with the Star Wars cast and Chewbacca’s family. You know, where Wookies apparently only wear clothing once a year in the form of red robes and Princess Leia gently caresses Chewbacca’s tummy over and over.
Bella: His wife is literally right in front of them.
Me: It’s condescending and weird, right? Can you imagine doing that to any of your friends?
Bella: Why is Leia doing that?!
Me: I think we can blame whoever was directing this monstrosity, babygirl. Them or one of the editors that could’ve halted these close-ups after it slipped the director’s view.
Bella: It’s almost like NOBODY edited it at all.
Bella: Maybe that’s why I like it.
And there you have it. That one last conversation while watching is exactly why the Star Wars Holiday Special is so charming. It is intoxicatingly weird and it almost laughs in the face of doing things with any sort of sense to order. As the credits rolled, Bella and I were picking up the living room and shutting things down and she chuckled and said “I loved that. We should watch that every year.” which made me pause. “We sure can, kid.” I replied and thus another fan had been indoctrinated. The weirdness always wins.