My son hasn’t seen Star Wars yet!
But thanks to its pop culture ubiquity, he definitely knows about it. Whether or not the kids themselves have seen the movies, my son’s preschool classmates wear shirts emblazoned with the different characters, Detective Munch himself has a toy light-saber, and he’s already announced that he wants to be Darth Vader for next Halloween. (He’s also announced that he wants to be Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, and the Joker, so let’s give it some time before we buy the next costume.) Sight unseen!
Recently he even asked me if he could watch it “someday,” a question I could barely even answer due to my enormous grin.
Like every dad whose childhood was shaped by the original trilogy, I am dying to show it to my son. But I’m exercising restraint. Because Mom and Buried.
I shouldn’t blame her. And I don’t, really. Detective Munch is only four! I can’t say I’m surprised that so many other kids his age have already seen the movies but I am a little surprised when people are surprised that my son hasn’t seen it. It’s not so crazy to give the kid until at least five, right? No matter how badly I want his help mocking C-3P0!
There are a lot of things you can’t control as a parent, and that list only grows as your kids do. One of the things Mom and Buried and I are trying to control while we still can is the media Detective Munch is exposed to. We made a pact early on to try to make sure the things he watches are educational or, at the very least, as non-violent as possible. Consequently, we were all about that PBS, PBS (no Disney!) All about that PBS, PBS (no Disney!) All about that PBS (HELP ME I CAN’T STOP!) Sorry, Disney, but I’m not totally sure what “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” teaches, aside from the hot dog dance.
He hasn’t seen much live-action stuff yet. He liked what he saw of The Wizard of Oz that his grandparents showed him, and Mom and Buried and I gave both E.T. and the appropriately titled The NeverEnding Story a shot, despite the fact that Mom and Buried was worried about E.T.‘s guns (that Spielberg notoriously attempted to CGI out a few years back) and The NeverEnding Story‘s references to death and destruction, along with the general issue of it being unbelievably terrible. (She needn’t have fretted, as neither movie held his attention for long.)
There’s plenty of both violence and darkness in Star Wars too, and in most fiction, really. Without conflict and stakes, stories would be meaningless. And the violence? There’s no escaping it, whether you’re on the playground with friends or you’re watching cartoons (“Jake” even features sword fights, a plank and a hungry alligator); Detective Munch already gets a kick out of pretending to attack things, including Yours Truly and Yours Truly’s crotch (stupid collateral damage).
The good news is that Star Wars is basically a cartoon itself.
Sure, there are some dark themes, a little mass murder, and some potentially scary stuff (the Floating Torture Ball of Hypodermic Needles always freaked me out), but it couldn’t be less realistic. To me, the fantastical nature of the setting (it features talking robots and telepathy in a galaxy far far away, a long time ago; i.e. NOWHERE and NEVER.) renders the violence relatively toothless, especially since there’s no bullets and no blood, and even when people die (with the exception of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen), you either can’t tell (storm troopers) or they become benevolent ghosts). It’s a fairy tale, and nowhere near as dark as the original Grimm ones.
The bad news is all the guns. We don’t like guns in our family. (It’s surprising and more than a little alarming and sad that saying that is almost controversial in this country. Shouldn’t we all dislike guns? They’re not super-likable.)
I understand the reluctance to expose my son to guns and death and all that depressing stuff (especially since some friends told us that after they watched the trilogy their kids did nothing but pretend to shoot each other for months). And I understand, and even support, my wife’s desire to keep those wolves from the door for as long as possible. Sadly, the real world can’t be avoided forever and I’d rather make sure he is introduced to that stuff in a fictional context, with us around to answer any questions, before it barges in unannounced, and she agrees.
The movies provide an opportunity to explain some stuff to a young kid, like morality; making bad choices; how annoying whining is (exhibit A: Luke all movie long); what a burning corpse looks like; and how George Lucas eventually would go on to rape millions of childhoods. That’s not to say Star Wars is the only way to do broach those subjects, and since Mom and Buried doesn’t have a connection to Star Wars like I do, the urgency hasn’t necessarily been there for her. But she knows that so long as we’re smart about it, the movies and TV he watches won’t screw him up any more than the ones we watch screwed us up.
To be honest, I am more concerned with the fact that his attention span isn’t quite there yet. I’m less worried that the destruction of Alderaan will scar the kid than I am that his total lack of interest in the original trilogy will scar me!.
So, despite how eager I am to share these movies with him, I don’t really see a downside to waiting until he’s a bit older, when he can better understand and appreciate what’s going on in that galaxy far far away. Of course, if delaying it for another year results in someone spoiling The Empire Strikes Back for my son, I’M going to turn to the dark side.
For further reading, DorkDaddy put together a post featuring a collection of other dads’ feelings on the perfect age to expose their kids to Star Wars.