This weekend, a friend from out of town came to visit. The kids were still awake which meant they were running around showing him their favourite toys – a Chewbacca plush toy, a Poe Dameron action figure, matching lightsabers, more Star Wars Lego than you can shake a stick at – when Danyaal turned around and asked, for the umpteenth time, whether he could watch Clone Wars. As usual, the answer was “No.” And as usual, the response was “But Daniel watches Clone Wars.” Also, as usual, the response from the nearest geek-friendly adult is “He’s not allowed to watch Clone Wars?”
Let’s pause here to consider that Danyaal owns lots of Star Wars paraphernalia, he wears a lot of Star Wars-themed clothes, he plays a lot of Star Wars pretend games, he’s been through more than a few Star Wars sticker books, his first alphabet book was this one and so, of course, he was the kid in the Gr 000 class who, when the teacher asked if anyone could think of words that start with “m”, responded “Millenium Falcon”. And clearly, as parents, we are also huge Star Wars fans.
So I understand why people so often assume that he’s watched lots of Star Wars. But except for that one time when I wasn’t home and Sameer made the misguided decision to allow him to watch a single episode of Clone Wars, his Star Wars viewing has been entirely restricted to trailers for The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
The short answer to the question is that Star Wars is actually age restricted. The movies, especially the original trilogy, can be a bit campy so it’s easy to forget that there are lightsabers, blasters, things blowing up – including entire planets – people getting limbs chopped off and melted by lava, mothers dying in childbirth, princesses being tortured and interrogated. There is also loads of tedious, political dialogue and some kissing that I’m not quite ready to explain. This is not exactly kid-friendly material.
When Danyaal’s sixth birthday was looming, we considered letting him watch the original Star Wars (A New Hope). I ran through some of the key scenes from the movie in my head, doing a quick mental check on whether it would be alright. But with Vader strangling people in the opening scene, Obi Wan chopping off Ponda Baba’s hand, Han shooting Greedo (first) and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru being burned to a crisp all before Luke ever leaves Tatooine, we figured he wasn’t quite ready for Star Wars.
Remember, this is the kid who cried hysterically after seeing this parody video.
The complexity of the storyline is another issue, though. There are several factions in Star Wars, multiple characters, storylines happening in different time frames. It’s a lot to take in, especially for a kid who only recently graduated from Peppa Pig. Would he really get the full experience if watching meant lots of explosions but very little understanding of plot?
And to be quite honest, I’m hoping – perhaps naively – that there may be some way to prevent him from being spoiled. I never got to experience the iconic “I am your father” scene because, having watched the original Star Wars movies out of order (I saw Jedi first), I already knew about the entire weird Skywalker family setup. The jury is out on whether we’ll actually manage to achieve this. By my estimate, he’s still a good two to four years from being able to watch any Star Wars, and already he’s been asking us what Vader’s real name is, so he’s probably somehow been at least partially spoiled.
Now, there are many views on how soon to introduce Star Wars, and a lot of people have let their kids watch these films as early as age four or five.
For parents who are tired of the nagging or want to begin the slow induction into Star Wars mania, Common Sense Media has a great age-by-age guide for the entire Star Wars franchise, including the various animated iterations. (Common Sense Media, by the way, is a fantastic resource for parents and teachers who want to help kids navigate media and technology use.) They recommend an age of at least seven for A New Hope, eight for Empire, Jedi and the prequels, and 10 to 11 for the newest films.
But it really also depends on the kid. Again, Danyaal is the kid who just last year asked me to turn off the Snow White audio book because it was too scary, who had to watch the Lion King in two separate sittings, who barely made it through Moana, and that only because I was sitting right next to him. (That Te Kā was scary, man.) So, with the number one parenting rule of “Know your kid” in mind, we’ve decided to redshirt him on this Star Wars issue, at least for a couple more years.