Salon // “Star Wars toys made me who I am”

I had the enormous pleasure of writing about my obsession with Star Wars toys for Salon. It’s my dream job to write an officially licensed Star Wars book or even, failing that, a history of the Rise and Fall of the Galactic Empire, inspired by Edward Gibbon.

Here’s an excerpt:

As Sansweet writes, “By the time the last of what we now call ‘vintage’ Kenner figures worked their way through stores worldwide in 1985, about a quarter of a billion of them had been sold.” In her book “Glittering Images,” the theorist Camille Paglia points out that the enormous success of those toys — the official, licensed ones, I mean — is in part why many art historians have not yet fully embraced “Star Wars.” “[George] Lucas’s massive product licensing and merchandising tie-in, which he presciently negotiated with studio executives who saw little future in them, made him a billionaire,” she writes, “but his phenomenal success as a shrewd businessman has certainly slowed his recognition as a major artist.”

That is the art world’s loss. The extent to which those toys opened up so many young imaginations is the same extent to which Lucas remains unappreciated by so many of the self-styled gatekeepers of Art. Those of us who know better appreciate that the Star Wars universe constitutes one of the indelible mythic creations of our time, and some of us even have the toys to prove it.