Everybody likes a good hero, right? Especially kids.
Back in my day, I searched the skies for Superman, pretended I was a Jedi, and even wrote a school paper about how much I admired my dad. When I became a father, I was excited for my son to find his own heroes.
I just didn’t expect them to be the bad guys.
When you’re just a kid, say, a five-year-old like Detective Munch, you’re supposed to root for the good guys. You’re supposed to want to be Luke Skywalker, or, at the very least, that lovable rogue Han Solo. You’re not supposed to idolize Darth Vader! But that’s exactly who my son cheers for most when we watch the movies, and who he pretends to be when he’s playing with his lightsaber.
Detective Munch recently got a new Jurassic World dinosaur toy (he hasn’t seen the movie yet, but he was into dinosaurs before they were cool – I mean, we live in Brooklyn). When he took the scary-looking T-Rex out of the box, the first thing he did was make it eat the Crocodile Dundee-looking dino-wrangler guy that came with it. And he cackled the whole time. This fondness for Sith lords and ancient predators has got me sensing a trend. Maybe I should have given him a new Rescue Bot instead!
I get it. Every kid likes dinosaurs (and judging by the crazy success of Jurassic World, every adult does too!), and the Star Wars prequels not only recast Darth Vader as a sympathetic figure, they landed him front and center on the merchandising. (Having never seen the prequels (he never will!), the merchandising is what my son is likely responding to. Anakin and Darth are everywhere these days. Back in the ’80s, he was mostly in our nightmares.) When I was little, I played with a lot of the same toys. I had an Optimus Prime, I loved to pretend that one of my favorite superheroes had gotten brainwashed and joined the enemy, and what kid wasn’t fascinated by fearsome prehistoric behemoths?
Still, I can’t help but feel like Detective Munch’s interest in the bad guys is an indication that he’s getting older. When you grow up, you eventually learn that most heroes aren’t actually super; they’re just human. Things are no longer so black and white, and maybe you indulge in a little antihero worship. That’s part of the “joy” of adulthood: watching your dreams die and your idols crumble and then steadily drinking your disillusionment away.
But my son is only five, and regardless, I’m not exactly worried about him growing up. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. At the same time, I thought he’d still be firmly in the innocent, rooting-for-the-good-guys phase. When you’re five, you still see heroes everywhere, whether they’re wearing capes, swinging baseball bats, riding horses, or tucking you into bed at night.
Not eviscerating you with their talons and gorging themselves on your corpse.
One day, I asked him to pick a favorite from the three groups he’s been most enamored with: the Transformers, the superheroes, or the terrifying killing machines. He paused, looked me dead in the eye, and chose the terrifying killing machines. Then he pressed the button on the T-Rex that generates a sound that simulates THE SWALLOWING OF WHATEVER IT WAS THE DINOSAUR JUST ATE AND LET’S BE HONEST THE DINOSAUR JUST ATE A HUMAN BEING.
The description of this Tyrannosaurus Rex toy, straight from Playskool by Hasbro? “TYRANNOSAURUS REX is the ultimate dinosaur for preschool JURASSIC WORLD fans to track and capture!” Hahaha! When my kid plays with this thing, the only thing getting captured is the still-beating heart of any idiot who dares to try to control it. The toy is designed for younger kids to start transitioning to bigger, more sophisticated toys, but I think Detective Munch skipped past “sophisticated” and went straight to “diabolical.”
He still loves Iron Man and Captain America and Heat Wave and Blades – when he gets to watch TV, he always chooses “Rescue Bots” or one of the Avengers shows – he just also loves pretending to digest them. Besides, if you consider the amusement park in Jurassic World a zoo, then maybe the dinosaurs – held captive against their will, in an environment far from natural – are the heroes! Right? My son’s totally normal! Right?
It’s okay. I know he’s just playing. And I’m thrilled to see him using his imagination, not to mention taking his toys and crafting story-lines and pitting the heroes (no matter which ones he chooses) against the villains, and also playing by himself in his room, quietly and with the door shut. But just in case, even though he’s not quite old enough for the Jurassic Park movies, I’m tempted to throw one on tonight just to scare him straight.
Here I was, hoping he might look up to me, but instead, he looks up to an ancient, lumbering beast whose body makes strange noises and is always hungry.
Hey, wait a minute…
For more info on the PLAYSKOOL HEROES product line, specifically designed for younger kids who are excited for big kid adventures and based on characters from TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS, JURASSIC WORLD, and MARVEL SUPER HERO ADVENTURES, visit the Hasbro and Playskool Social Channels:
Thanks to Playskool Heroes by Hasbro, which compensated me for this post and encourages dads and kids to be heroes together, even if my son stretches the definition of “hero” a little bit and kind of makes me nervous to go to sleep at night. I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s already pretty obvious that the opinions in this post are mine and mine alone but now you know for sure.