"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" -Benjamin Braddock

Star Wednesday: Darth Vader Bend-Ems

2016-03-25 08.12.48

From the day Star Wars debuted in 1977 through the mid-1980s, it seemed like the Star Wars floodgates would never stop. It all started with only a few action figures, but by the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983, action figures and playsets were just one of hundreds of things Star Wars fans could purchase. By the age of ten I had Star Wars pillows, sheets, and curtains for my room, Star Wars pencils, markers, and folders for school, and all sorts of other galactic items. Where the theatrical movies stopped, the Saturday morning cartoon shows and made for television specials began. It seemed like it would never end!

And then it ended.

Other than the occasional computer or video game, not a lot of Star Wars items were released in the second half of the 80s, and save for a few bits and pieces here and there, things didn’t pick back up until the Power of the Force figure line relaunched in 1995. What were fans to do?

Well, in some cases, we bought Bend-Ems.

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Photo courtesy of StarWars.com

Bend-Ems were a line of bendable, rubber Star Wars figures. They looked dumb when they were released, and their looks haven’t improved over time. Collectors bought them for the same reason (and with the enthusiasm) that people lost or stranded in the wilderness occasionally resort to drinking their own urine. Saying that you liked the Bend-Ems line of figures is akin to saying Jar Jar Binks is your favorite Star Wars character. It’s like saying you prefer the lines on an ’87 Yugo to a ’57 Chevy, or that your favorite movie of all time is the intermission cartoon they used to show at drive-in theaters.

I didn’t buy all (there were only around 20) of the available figures in the Bend-Ems line, but I bought a few of them, and Darth Vader was one of those. A far cry from the menacing Dark Lord of the Sith we had grown to know and love, the Bend-Ems version of Darth Vader seems proud of his opposable thumbs and hint of a goofy grin.

I started working for the FAA in 1995, and on one of my first work trips, I had a terrible flight — one so bad that it kept me from getting back on an airplane for almost a decade. When I started flying again, I wanted to take something with me. Something I could put in my pocket and focus on. A good luck charm, if you will. That item became this Bend-Em Darth Vader.

This Darth Vader figure, as silly as he looks, as been on every single flight I’ve taken (and most road trips, too) since 1995. On flights, if my clothing allows, he usually rides in my front pocket. The rest of the time he stays tucked away in my laptop bag. I may not be able to see him at all times, but he’s there. Last year after visiting Hawaii I was able to claim that I had been in all 50 states, and I dare say Vader has been to all of them, too.

Darth Bendy doesn’t stand alongside my other figures on their display shelf. Instead he stands alone, right next to the door of my computer room. There are always things in that room that get packed up when I head out for a trip, and when I walk out that room on my way downstairs, the last thing I grab is him. I haven’t been in a plane crash yet since I started carrying him with me so it looks like he’s working.

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1 comment to Star Wednesday: Darth Vader Bend-Ems

  • AArdvark

    That photo looks like it’s from a Star Wars musical and everybody is doing jazz hands.

    THE
    JAR JAR JOLSEN
    AARDVARK