Last night I got home and the house was filled with the comforting smell of couscous, and my old man was rattling pans around. It is a very homey and pleasant feeling, to come home to someone rattling pans around. Someone you know, I mean, not a stranger.
We ate delicious couscous and shared a beer and then we watched The Star Wars Holiday Special.
The Star Wars Holiday Special was made in 1978, and is basically modeled on the old-school “variety show” template, wherein all those old fashioned actors who make their living appearing on variety shows get together and sing songs and do funny skits. The Star Wars Holiday Special opens with a very long narrated intro like the beginning of the Tonight Show: “WELCOME! To the Star Wars Holiday Special! Featuring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker! Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia! Harrison Ford as Han Solo! Bea Arthur! Art Carney! Diane Carroll! Anthony Daniels as C3PO! R2D2 as himself! And the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader! Also featuring JEFFERSON STARSHIP!”
This is hilarious enough, but then the montage goes on:
“…And introducing! Chewbacca’s family! HIs wife, Malla! His father, Itchy! And his son, Lumpy!”
Lumpy? (“does that mean his real name is “Lumpbacca?”)
I had first seen The Star Wars Holiday Special many years ago when Ryan and Jason discovered it and Jason woke me up at 8 in the morning to tell me the whole plot over the phone. I thought he was exaggerating, or possibly that I was dreaming, but then we watched it together and it turns out that yes, the first 30 minutes really IS completely in wookiee with no subtitles. Then Art Carney comes in with pornographic holograms for Chewbacca’s dad ((Itchy, recall (featuring an extraordinarily problematic monologue by a black woman in which she repeatedly says, “I am here for your pleasure: take me,” etc.)), and we see shots from the actual movie “Star Wars” intercut with Chewbacca and Han apparently trying to get Chewy home for “Life Day,” which is some pan-denominational wookiee celebration that’s clearly just christmas.
The remaining many, many hours of the Holiday Special involve Luke, Han and Leia saying things like, “Thanks, old pal. I just want you to know how much you and your family mean to me,” roughly 100 times. There is also a scene where a storm trooper watches a hologram of a Jefferson Starship performance. And Bea Arthur tends bar in the bar on Tatooine where the alien band plays that great song. And of course, Carrie Fisher sings a song about “Life Day.”
It’s strange, because it posits this alternate reality wherein the characters in “Star Wars” actually realize that they are characters, and that when they aren’t filming “Star Wars” they’re hanging out, doing normal things, and getting to know each others’ families. The scene in which young Lumpy actually watches an episode of a “Star Wars” cartoon in which Boba Fett almost captures his father is particularly troubling. Is this actually happening in the context of the flimsy “plot” of the Holiday Special? Or is it an episode in the “Star Wars” fictional universe in which his father is an ACTOR?
“Oh R2 look–it’s Chewbacca’s family.”
Also worth noting is how infantilized Chewbacca and his family are by the rest of the human people who ostensibly share their lives, their hopes and dreams, their political goals. Although he is a famously brave rebel warrior and skilled fighter pilot, most of the people in “The Star Wars Holiday Special” seem to treat Chewbacca, at best, like he’s somebody’s cute little brother/dog and, at worst, like he’s actually developmentally disabled. Like it’s just kind of cute that he wants to get back to his home and family without dying.
The Star Wars Holiday Special closes with a surreal, frightening close-up of Chewbacca’s motionless face superimposed over a montage from “Star Wars,” as though he is remembering the stuff that happened to him an indeterminate number of days ago, either in reality, or in the film. “He’s remembering being in the film!” Gary pointed out. “He’s remembering stuff from the film that he wasn’t even there to witness!” This was true. It was as though Chewbacca, the actor, was enabling us, the viewer, to remember all those great scenes from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” that we may have forgotten about in the brief interval between the film’s release and that year’s spate of televised Christmas specials. Thank you, Chewbacca. Thanks to you I will truly never forget that time Han and Leia kissed in the supply closet.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the scene wherein enemy fighter spaceships (I forget what those are called….because I’m not a FUCKING NERD) attack the Millennium Falcon (I remember that shit for sure, though) as it is ostensibly carrying Han and Chewy home to the Wookiee planet for Life Day, and instead of special effects we just see Harrison Ford and the actor in the Chewbacca suit going “whoooaaaa” and like pretending to get bounced around in their seats.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is very difficult to get ahold of, because, as Ryan pointed out, “Lucasfilm went on a holy Jihad to destroy every copy soon after it was released.” (By typing “jihad” into my blog I probably just became an international terrorist). The version I saw still had the original commercials on it. In particular I remember one that was just a ton of people of different ethnicities singing a song about how you should join the union. There were many afros and polyester jumpsuits.
We also decided that Harrison Ford was not playing Han Solo, but rather the lesser-known Solo brother–John Solo.