The Dark Side of Watching Movies with Kids

Over the weekend, I finally showed my son Return of the Jedi! What a tremendous father/son bonding experience it… almost kind of was.

He enjoyed it, I think. Mostly. The parts he paid attention to, at least.

Watching a movie with a five-year-old is not all it’s cracked up to be. Even one they’ve been begging to see for months. But that’s my fault.

His overconfidence was his weakness. My faith in his attention span was mine.

I’m a big pop culture guy, as I’ve written about before. One of the special perks of being a parent is introducing your kids to the stuff you loved. Aside from having someone to fetch your beers and do your housecleaning, sharing favorite movies and TV shows with your kids is basically the number reason to become a parent.

Unfortunately, like everything else, it’s a double-edged sword. I finally showed my son Return of the Jedi over the weekend (when the cat’s away…), but it didn’t exactly go as planned. Because when you have children, NOTHING goes as planned. Why are you even making a plan? God, you’re an idiot.

The Dark Side of Watching Movies with Kids

  • The Questions – Oh my god, the questions. “Why is R2 a waiter? Why is Luke dressed like the Emperor? Why is Lando there? Why is Darth Vader bald under his mask? Why are you showing me this when I’m only five years old? Why are you getting another beer? Does Mommy know about this? Why are you crying?”
  • Explaining Things –The questions are annoying because he’s talking during the movie (I’m a total prig, I know). The answers are annoying because I’m forced to talk, which also makes me miss things, and then I realize I don’t really know how Luke got Darth’s body off the Death Star and onto a funeral pyre either! Holy cow kids are perceptive but whatever, IT’S CALLED SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF JUST SHUT UP AND WATCH THE MOVIE!
  • The Attention Span – Or lack thereof. My son could barely sit still without reenacting something he just saw, thereby missing the next scene, or telling me a story about something totally unrelated, thereby missing the next scene, or suddenly practicing spinning in a circle because what the hell is going on THIS MOVIE IS A BIG DEAL TO ME YOU’RE CRUSHING MY DREAMS!
  • Copycatting – My son copies everything he sees. Mostly, it’s behavior he learns from me and Mom and Buried, but it’s also the media he’s exposed to. This stuff rubs off on a young kid, which is one of the reasons my wife wanted to delay the Star Wars movies and why I wanted to delay Aladdin (kids are annoying enough without them hamming it up like tiny Robin Williams!) There are a lot of blasters in these movies. And Detective Munch has recently gotten more interested in punching people (to be fair, I suspect that’s the superhero influence). The good news is he used the force to open the (automatic) door at the grocery store yesterday, which was awesome. The bad news is he’s also gotten really haughty and pedantic. Too much C-3PO!
  • Kissing Not every movie we watch has kissing but a lot of them they do, and when my son sees it happening he makes a big dramatic fuss. “OH NO, NOT AGAIN!” That reaction made plenty of sense in Star Wars, when it was incest, but with something like Nine 1/2 Weeks it’s kind of the whole plot so JUST HANDLE IT, JUNIOR.

I’m exaggerating a bit. We got through it, and he enjoyed it, and it’s been fun to show him these movies and impress into him how they are the only Star Wars movies that exists and any kid at school who mentions the prequels is a dirty lying liar and stay away from them!

But the beginning was definitely rough. He was so excited to finally be watching it that for the first fifteen minutes, I could barely hear the dialogue over all of his chatter. (Thankfully, I memorized it years ago.)

It took all of my patience (and the better part of a six-pack) to get through the whole thing, but at least now I’m ready for the next time. And there will be a next time, believe me. Not only has he already asked, I learned the first time he saw a non-animated, more plot-heavy movie that it takes a few viewings for the story to sink in.

And I’ll be sure to pause it on the dead Ewok so I can explain how misguided it was for those silly creatures to get embroiled in such a dangerous conflict. Cool it with the adorable slapstick, Wicket! WAR IS NOT A GAME!


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