The important thing to know is that lightsabers are cool. Always have been, always will be, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. The second thing to know was that I wasn’t allowed to use “war toys” as a child. The third thing was that Obi-Wan Kenobi was therefore off limits and cool. I sat in the front row of the movie theater, opening weekend of The Phantom Menace, clutching my Millennium Falcon pencil sharpener, and fell in little 9 year-old love.
Why? Because Obi-Wan Kenobi had a lightsaber, and could do kicks and flips, was older than me, and undeniably badass. I celebrated with him, I mourned with him. I wanted to be his very special Bestest of Best Friends and go everywhere with him and explore the galaxy. I wanted to save him with, uh, my knowledge of Harry Potter and that one report I did on squids the month prior, somehow. I wanted him to save me from situations whose outlines grew increasingly more gruesome as only an imaginative 9 year-old can make. I contemplated growing out my bowl cut into a Padawan braid.
You know, the way everyone reacted to that movie.
I don’t remember the first time I watched Star Wars, but then again I don’t remember the act of learning to read, either. In my memory it is as if the stories were always available, and the galaxy always needed saving. It is possible that I was initiated into Star Wars by my father solely as a prelude to going to see The Phantom Menace in theaters. My father, a pilot and writer in the aerospace industry, did his damnedest to imbue my sister and I with a love of flight. (My very first crush was Amelia Earhart, which is for another essay.) Making us watch Star Wars at a young age would not have been out of character for him.
So I crushed on Obi-Wan. Not Old Obi-Wan from the original trilogy. Young, vital, worried, dashing Obi-Wan from the prequel trilogy movies: my Jedi Knight on a mighty steed/spaceship. He was both accessible in that he, like me, was still a student, and inaccessible as he, unlike me, was in space and had a sword. I sort of fixated on those two issues as the only things preventing us from being Best Friends But More Than Best Friends. Best Friends Who Also Maybe Held My Hand Sometimes? Best friends, I decided, probably hold hands a lot.
And so I declared I would be an astronaut and that I wanted a sword. My mother, bless her, took the first desire seriously and I received several talks about how “the world is going to tell you that girls can’t do math, but you’re smart and you need to do math to go to space.” Believe your children, and get them to do their multiplication tables so they can go to space and marry Obi-Wan Kenobi. My love of Obi-wan turned into a love for all things Space and between movies I faded away from him and towards other space operas and ships.
My desire for sword fighting manifested in other parts of my life, namely a halfhearted fling with karate (my pristine white belt hangs in a closet in my parents’ house, to this day). I wandered in and out of various forms of stick twirling—batons being, of course, not war weapons to my hippie parents. After viewing the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly, I felt Big Feelings about Christy Romano’s authoritarian figure (please see Bisexuality, next paragraph) and imitated her rifle twirling with a yardstick. In college, thanks to a boyfriend, I got into staff fire spinning, which involves soaking wicks on either end of a 5 foot staff in kerosene, lighting them, and then spinning the staff in the air. Darth Maul, but with elements that exist in this galaxy.
The other two Star Wars prequel movies came out when I was a teenager, still finding the best words for how love and crushes made me feel. As such, I went opening weekend both times, but didn’t have the immediate attachment to the character, because I found him confusing in a heart/pants way. My memories of The Revenge of the Sith are mostly of my friends imitating Anakin’s last “Noooooooo” shout, and my admiration for Padme Amidala, to be completely honest. (It was about this time that I came out as bisexual, so this holds up.)
In and around this was a low-grade crush on Ewan McGregor, the actor who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi. You know it’s a crush when you’ve seen them in terrible movies, and, well, The Island sure counts. In better films, Moulin Rouge was viewed often in my circle of theater weirdos in high school. Watching Velvet Goldmine in college was… formative, shall we say. The Pillow Book even more so.
I came back to Obi-Wan in a roundabout way. I was writing my thesis and didn’t want to be writing my thesis, had run through most Harry Potter fanfiction easily available to me, and decided to hop fandoms. An author whose Harry Potter work I respected had also written a SluttySpyObiWanUndercover fic, and there I went. I am unable to separate in my brain the confluence of my swan dive into Obi-Wan-based fan fiction, my thesis in my senior year of college, and Kesha’s music circa 2009. They all blend together.
The Obi-Wan of fic wasn’t the Obi-Wan of my preadolescent fascination. This one was conflicted and vulnerable and more complex than the lightsaber wielding hero I remembered. I liked him for this. I liked how people imagined his deep feelings, his love for the Jedi but also his love for Anakin and Padme, and how that tore at him. The Obi-Wan of fic also, to be honest, had a lot of steamy sex scenes, and that was obviously more appealing to me at 19 than at 9. Fic lets you go anywhere with a character, but I mostly read along the through line in fandom that had him be well-meaning if flawed, badass if unsure, competent if alone. I imagined how much he needed a good ear to listen, and how good I would be at that job.
After college, like so many other aspects of life, this crush gets a bit more messy in terms of chronology. I re-watched the Star Wars prequels and got into spirited arguments in bars over their redemptive qualities. (Fight me). I continued to read fic, in and around the usual fandom hopping in Avengers, Sherlock, and LOTR. I developed a decent secondary crush on Wedge Antilles and Poe Dameron. (Are you sensing a theme of reckless dashing heroes with deep inner personal conflict and good intentions? Good. That’s the theme.)
Other Obi-Wan fans and lovers of Star Wars will have noticed I have not mentioned the Jedi Apprentice novels yet, even though they came out during the heyday of my childhood fascination and form the base canon for many of the fics I read. Basically, I didn’t know that they existed until after I’d read all the fic. I read them all on my Kindle in train stations around Eastern Europe when on a backpacking trip, Bulgarian train announcements blending in with wrenching emotional trauma stories written for 10 year-olds.
I used Netflix to find the cartoon version of The Clone Wars on DVD, and then later the fully fledged computer animated show, where my love of dashing and conflicted Obi-Wan was augmented by my later-in-life appreciation for men with a good beard. (No, you’re a 28 year-old with a crush on a fictional character most recently illustrated in a show for kids.) In an attempt to seem more adult about all this, as I am self-conscious about it, I watch Clone Wars dubbed in Spanish, so at least it’s “educational” and I can “practice my languages.” Lies, all of it.
My crush on Obi-Wan Kenobi never really went away. It influenced me at deep levels of my life—many of my adult friends were made because we were both into Space Stuff—and followed me as I grew up. What started as a childhood fascination with everything I couldn’t have, namely cool swords and being in a far away galaxy and also spaceships, matured into a set of valued traits for a partner, what has amounted to a template for the people I date in real life.
Upon reflection, everyone I’ve ever dated has embodied some aspect of Obi-Wan Kenobi, although I don’t know if they would take that as a compliment. The smart and serious high school scholar who dabbled in karate and fencing and complex equations. The college boyfriend with a black belt who was also really into Space Adventures, hacking, and has a heart of gold. The girlfriend from my early 20s with short auburn hair, a confident smirk, and a compassionate streak a parsec wide. My dating history is Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Other people are out here with contemporary crushes on Finn and Wonder Woman and Captain America and whoever that one character from Steven Universe is: everyone else you can get a fictional crush on. They have changed and updated with the times, their crushes new and exciting. Mine, like an old friend who has been with me through some shit, merely deepened and is now a quiet companion.
I could do worse, in life, than crush on a badass diplomat with a compassionate heart, some insecurities, and a loyalty to a cause. Here’s hoping that I’ll find one, and also for an Obi-Wan movie between the two trilogies that is just him crying in the desert for two hours, punctuated by some lightsaber fights and repartee. I’m available for script consults.
Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)