Unless you haven't watched any of the previous movies before TFA, in which case, uh, sorry.
Get caught up already!!!!
I was seven when Mom took me to see Star Wars in its first theatrical release. I remember standing in line, I remember the scroll of words with the opening fanfare, and I especially remember the trash compactor scene and how the princess got to fire the gun. I was in starry-eyed love. My fervor for the series peaked with Empire Strikes Back. OMG IT WAS SO GOOD, it took my breath away. I'd been reading the magazines, the novelizations (there was a great pre-New Hope Han Solo series - I wish I'd kept those books), watched the specials, played with the toys (I had two Princess Leias and a Darth Vader), and the movie made me so excited.
From 10 to 13, when Return of the Jedi came out, I collected the cards like a fiend. Every time I got to the K&B Toy Store at the mall, I'd get my Grandpa to buy me a pack. I remember going to a summer theater camp and learning some basics of stage swordplay from the college-aged Star Wars nerd leading the classes. He was impressed because I knew what "parry" meant. Duh! I knew my way around a light saber fight scene.
The local car dealer had an appearance by "Darth Vader" and I asked to go. I knew that it was just some guy dressed in a Darth Vader costume, but it didn't matter. When I saw that helmet shining and that cape flowing, I trembled like the little awed fangirl I was.
I read Lord of the Rings around sixth grade/age 12, and I fell hard. My heart still beat for Star Wars, though! I was excited for the third movie. Return of the Jedi came out when I was 13. I liked it. But I was let down. Another Death Star? Really? Ewoks? I mean, they were okay, but this 13-yr-old target demographic wasn't bowled over. George Lucas had let me down! (Although the redemption arc that ended in that movie has, OBVIOUSLY, made an impact ALL MY LIFE.)
I was bitter when the special edition Star Wars came out. George Lucas, stop your tinkering. I want to see the movie I remember, not bad Jabba the Hutt CGI! In the last two weeks I've watched the original print of A New Hope and the special edition, and I'm much less bitter (although I still think the Jabba scene is subpar.)
I didn't get excited at all about The Phantom Menace. I'd left Star Wars, my first fandom love, a long time before. But I was willing to give it a chance! Because Star Wars! Oof. It was not a good viewing experience. George Lucas, how could you do that to me? You stomped on my childhood broken heart. I think I saw the other two, but I don't remember a whole lot of them, other than REALLY liking Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and REALLY wanting to like Anakin and Padme's stories more than I was able to.
So the whole build up to The Force Awakens kind of slid past me. I wasn't going to be let down again. Then I got excited and I went and saw it, and yeah. THE FORCE AWAKENED INSIDE ME!
Help me out, tried and true Star Wars friends. I am aware that some canon has been nullified with this advancement. All of the novels post Return of the Jedi, right? What is canon now? The Clone Wars movie and series is on my Netflix queue - it's still canon, yes? I mean, I'll probably watch it anyway, even if it isn't, but I'm curious. I have the need to do all the readings, just like I did back in the day.
My heart is back in a galaxy far, far away. It's pretty awesome.