If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you that the odds of George Lucas putting his new museum in Chicago were about 3,720 to 1. Someone must have mentioned that to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who then replied “never tell me the odds!” (With an expletive attached to that I’m sure.)
Yesterday you could have knocked me over with a baby Ewok, since that's when the news broke: the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones decided to place his new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in the Windy City.
From what I’m hearing, dealing with the San Francisco city government is much like trying to find a space pilot in the Mos Eisley cantina. You have to watch your step, and it can get a little rough. So much so that Lucas gave up on his hometown and switched locales from the bay to the lakefront.
Now, I'm not going to complain that we were Lucas' second choice. Heck, Harrison Ford wasn't even cast for the role of Indiana Jones until after Tom Selleck passed on it. It doesn't dampen the excitement in Chicago's geek & nerd community to have a piece of the Lucas Empire making its permanent home here.
Nor does all the pessimism that can be found among those who would cry of backroom deals made as a part of Chicago politics. It's not like Mayor Emanuel was dissolving the city council and declaring himself the Emperor. (Maybe that comes later?)
When I asked my fellow geeks on social media the reasons they liked the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art making its home in Chicago, they responded with the following:
A trip to the Star Wars Universe will now be shorter than the Kessel Run. These days if you want to see artifacts from Lucas’ legendary science-fantasy franchise, you have to wait for a touring exhibition or make the trip to San Francisco. Once the museum opens, Chicagoans will be able to visit with Yoda, see the Millennium Falcon, or any number of Star Wars props and set pieces for the price of a Ventra Pass. Just be careful if you’re taking the Brown Line. I hear it can get as smelly as a pack of Jawas.
The museum will inspire the next generation of local filmmakers and artists. Above all things, Lucas has said that his museum will be a teaching institution devoted to promoting the arts. Aspiring artists from different disciplines will explore the craft of creating a narrative. Art students will be able to see the timeless works of Norman Rockwell and other classic painters up close and personal. Writers will learn about Joseph Campbell and “The Hero’s Journey.” Young filmmakers will be inspired by the process behind creating movies like THX-1138 and “The Empire Strikes Back.“. Howard the Duck will not be allowed admission.
Chicago will be a year-round destination for the geek/nerd demographic from all over the world. Things really started to get cooking when the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) took off, what with it being a suitable stand-in for folks who are shut out of San Diego Comic Con. Not to mention Chicago TARDIS which has become one of the top Doctor Who conventions to draw “Whovians” from all over the country.
With the international appeal of Star Wars, folks will be traveling to Chicago from all over the world; and not just during convention season, but year round, to geek out at the Lucas Museum. Chicago will be the center of the galaxy, so be kind to any gungans you meet on the street.
And let's not forget…
Enough jobs to fill a Sandcrawler. Okay, it may be an exaggeration, but you’d have to assume that there will be plenty of jobs to be had once the museum opens. Can you imagine being able to work at a place where your job is to talk about Star Wars? Where you could be a part of an institution and a legacy that will inspire generations of young minds to create fantastic worlds of their own? I’m already working on my resume to apply for Head Trash Compactor Maintenance Worker. Those dianogas are quite cuddly once you get to know them.
So yeah, in the weeks and months to come, there is going to be a lot of discussion about the museum and how it will impact Chicago and the local economy. There will be those who are excited and looking forward to the prospects of having such a unique institution in Chicago. There will also be naysayers and doubters who'll complain about how the museum will change the lakefront or -gasp- keep Bears fans from tailgating.
But as a Star Wars fan who has been inspired by the films of George Lucas, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying “Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Lucas. You’re part of the family now.”
ELLIOTT SERRANO IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR AND RESIDENT GEEK