Introducing our children to the films that have influenced our lives can be both a hugely rewarding and terrifying experience. Let over-enthusiasm get the better of us by introducing a film too early and the child could be put off for life – disaster. We decided it was time to introduce three-year-old Tilly to Star Wars. Picking through the films carefully we put the DVD on and got a reaction we never expected.
My first cinema memory is of going to see Return of the Jedi. Assuming I saw it on release I must have been around five-years-old. I never looked back, accumulating a vast array of (sadly long since disposed of) Star Wars toys, like many children in the 80s. I loved it. The excitement was still there years later with the anticipation of the prequels, while the latest film has modernised the franchise and achieved a whole new degree of cool.
We are an unashamedly geeky family with a passion for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Game of Thrones and many others. Some of these our daughter won’t be seeing until she’s an adult but Star Wars has always felt like one of the safest options when providing Tilly an introduction to the world of geekery. Nevertheless there’s a certain anxiety in deciding at what age this education should begin and in what form.
Star Wars does on the outside bear many of the hallmarks of being child-friendly. Anyone around my age will undoubtedly recall owning the action figures. Then there’s Lego. These days the traditional action figures and craft seem to matched in at least equal numbers with yellow-faced block equivalents. Okay they don’t go as far as offering Star Wars Duplo but we seem to be in a pretty family-friendly space here.
Star Wars for small children
So which of the Star Wars films should we use to begin our education in geekery. ShireMum and I cast our minds through the films to recall what might be some of the less suitable scenes…
The Force Awakens
It is a brilliant film but sadly I have to rule this one out immediately. Intense, dark and featuring “scenes that may upset some” as the people on the telly say, it’s fair to say that there’s a bit too much going on that could either lead to nightmares or awkward questions in young children. I’ve love for Rey to become a role model for my daughter one day but for now let’s move on.
The Phantom Menace
Jar Jar Binks. Love him or hate him. Okay, we all hate him, but surely he’s just the sort of annoying character that indicates a film suitable for small children. A major goodie is dispatched though while the baddie is separated from his legs. Both are very cleanly done but may lead to awkward questions from a curious child.
Attack of the Clones
Things start to get a bit darker here as an older Anakin heads on the slippery slope to the dark side. His mother dies, leading to the mass slaughter of sand people, albeit off camera. The level of fighting steps up including injuries to Amidala, while Boba Fett’s father gets his head removed care of a lightsaber, albeit disguised by the helmet.
Revenge of the Sith
Getting seriously dark now, there’s a case of first degree burns and the dispatch of nearly all the good guys ever including the younglings. Definitely out of the running until Tilly has graduated from the Padawan academy.
A New Hope
Now then, this is more like it. The original films are surely wonderfully wholesome. Classic scenes abound and any deaths are largely limited to anonymous stormtroopers and exploding ships. And Obi Wan doesn’t really die anyway. There is the matter of Luke’s uncle and aunt’s scorched skeletons but I have to admit I never noticed that as a child. Just hope they don’t get too attached with any of the rebel pilots as they don’t fare too well. Poor Biggs and Porkins.
The Empire Strikes Back
There’s snow, there’s clouds, oh and Luke gets to sleep in a dead Tauntaun’s stinking guts. That might lead to questions. There’s implied torture, which can probably be overlooked, although the carbon freezing scene might be a bit uncomfortable, not least for Han. Then Luke gets his hand cut off. Still, like all gruesome moments in the original films they are fleeting and can be missed easily, plus Luke is back with a hand again by the end so all is well.
Return of the Jedi
Things heat up here but it’s not too bad, after all we have those cuddly Ewoks. True, they initially want to eat our heroes for dinner but that’s sorted quickly enough. What do we have then? Well the Rankor gobbles a green piggy guard at Jabba’s Palace and of course the fat slug himself gets seen off by Leia with the aid of a chain around the neck. Yoda dies in the style of all first-rate Jedi masters, leaving no work for the undertakers, meanwhile some Ewoks get clobbered and mourn briefly. The Emperor is a bit scary of course and we have another lost hand albeit a bionic one before his Sithness gets dispatched down the lift shaft. There’s not much to cause worry on the whole.
Star Wars Rebels is probably the best known of the current spin-off cartoons and is action packed but clearly toned down children. Younger children may find the plot tricky to follow but there’s nothing to worry about that I’ve seen so far.
Star Wars Lego: Droids Tales is a recent discover of ours and a great option for both children and adults alike. The slightly convoluted plot of each episode engineers C3PO telling the story of each of the films, which deftly avoids any of the troubling elements of the original films and do so with a large dollop of humour. A great choice.
Introducing Star Wars: Our Experience
We opted to start with the Phantom Menace. Possibly not the best decision in hindsight as Tilly found the amount of dialogue dull. Trying one of the original films didn’t fare much better at first. It was only when we showed Rebels that she had an accessible entry point. It was then we had the Eureka moment as we discovered Droid Tales on the Disney XD channel. Here C3PO explains each film briefly and simply; as ideal an introduction to the films as there could be. As hoped, Tilly then asked to watch the films again and this time watched them through.
Tilly asks questions when watching the films. Lots of questions about what is going to the extent that we often want to yell TORONTO BOSH and run out of the room. Still, it’s extremely positive that she’s taking an interest in the films and wants to understand what’s going on. Happily, she also hasn’t commented on any of the scenes we had potential concerns about, I can only assume because they’re depicted in a way that can easily be overlooked by younger viewers, so well done George.
Some scenes do creep her out but it’s ones we never would have expected. In particular, Dagobah. Yes, that’s right, the swampy home to a small hermit who turns out to be the greatest Jedi master of all time. Well apparently it’s the spookiest and scariest part of all of the films. Everything else be it the people-gobbling Sarlacc pit, wicked Emperor, desert world, snow world or forest world are all fine and dandy.
Beyond the films, Tilly has also begun to apply her new found Star Wars knowledge in play (resulting in no shortage of enthusiasm from ShireMum and me). “Daddy: be a Jedi” has become a request for imaginative play and when we’re practicing reading she will inevitably want me to spell out Luke, Chewie or Vader (I’ll get onto him in a minute.) Tilly has also just been allowed to play with mummy and daddy’s full-sized lightsaber, which has taken her interest to a brand new height of excitement, although she’s quite wicked with it. Were it a real lightsaber, daddy would undoubtedly be finely diced up by now.
Yet I also detect an attraction by my daughter to the power of the dark side. Darth Vader appears to be her favourite and we know she’d much rather had a red lightsaber to wield given the choice. Given that she tends to favour the robber in games of cops of robbers this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. As and when we get on to buying Star Wars toys, I expect the dark side figures are going to be favourites.
What has been your experience of introducing your children to favourite films? Are they Star Wars fans at a young age? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.
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