Wanting our children to experience the positive things we experienced as kids is natural. Training ourselves to not give them too much too fast is a test of our patience as well as our ability to read our kids' readiness.
I love Star Wars. The original trilogy, when Han shot first and nobody had ever heard the term "pod racing." I love the story and the familiarity. Episodes IV and V – well, I'd count those among my 10 favorite movies of all time.
I want to show them to my kids, especially the older ones who are 5 and nearly 7. But there's a problem. I'm ready, they're not.
The scene from Tangled when the baby is stolen kept my older kid awake for parts of four nights. A zombie scene in one of those newer Scoobie Doo cartoons drove the kids to bury their eyes in pillows until it was over. How are they going to handle Luke and Darth in the Dagobah cave if they can't handle Disney and Scoobie?
So I wait. And I plan. And I take emotional refuge where I can, such as the awesome Star Wars/Harry Potter cake created by Iowa City's Mary Greve (see photo) for her daughter's birthday. Our family and her family each have three kids, a fondness for Star Wars, and some apprehension about when to fully submerge our kids into that world.
So many questions:
- How soon is too soon?
- In what order do you show them the movies? (Because let's face it, if you go in order, 1-6, that whole "Luke, I am your father" moment loses its magic.) (Sorry if I just spoiled that for you.)
- What about Jar Jar? Or that climactic scene from Episode 3 when Anakin is on fire and losing his limbs?
For guidance, I turned to prolific Star Wars author Jason Fry. His books include Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare, and numerous books about The Clone Wars animated series.
A very brief Q&A:
DS: Do think the series should be viewed first chronologically, Episodes 1-6, or in the order in which they were released theatrically, 4-6 and 1-3?
Jason Fry: I think the best way to do it is 4-6 and then 1-3, for the reasons you mention, but beware that "Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father" has become general knowledge. In all likelihood, your kid will learn the secret through schoolyard osmosis before you ever show her the movies. Which is a bummer, but that's life.
I have a preferred order, but I'll warn you that it's REALLY insane: 4,5,1,2,3,6.
This way you preserve the big reveal, and after the revelation, you find out how Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader, culminating with his temptation and fall to the dark side and Sidious's service. 3 and 6 are very much parallels, with 6 ending with Sidious trying to tempt another Skywalker into becoming his apprentice. Going from 3 to 6, in my opinion, makes the parallels clearer, strengthening 6 as a story.
DS: I haven't introduced my youngest yet to the series, but it's coming. Soon. The only real legwork I've done is to tell her that Jar Jar is, for a lack of better words, "stupid," and "nobody likes him even though he's a good guy." Sorry – I couldn't help myself. I thought I was being proactive and even a little clever until I read somewhere (I forget where) that Jar Jar wasn't created for 30-plus-year-old men, he was created for kids, and grownups should just lay off and let kids like who they like. What are your thoughts on Jar Jar and his place in the universe?
JF: I'm not the biggest Jar Jar fan, but kids do seem to like him, and he's really just in Episode I. Live and let live, I say!
As for the whole burning Anakin thing? Well, you know your kid best. Use your judgment.
When will our first viewing happen? Hard to say. Maybe this summer. Maybe next. I vividly remember seeing it for the first time, my parents taking me when I was 6 during one of Star Wars' early-1980s theatrical re-releases. It was special, and I want it to be special for them, not traumatic.
So it comes down to what so many things come down to for parents: patience and understanding.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.