You’re about to take your kid to see Star Wars for the first time in a goddam movie theater (because you’re a better father than Darth Vader.) Of course, when you saw it, it was this little space opera written by the guy who did American Graffiti and maybe you bought an action figure. Today, your padawans have met a Death Star-sized marketing blitz. They’ve watched the teaser trailers 100 times! They’ve put together dozens of LEGO Star Wars projects! They ate an orange with R2-D2 on it!
But unlike the Battle of Yavin, you need a solid plan of attack so that you aren’t constantly interrupted by questions like “How do lightsabers work?”Or “Why is satirical memoirist Carrie Fisher in this movie?”
Facebook / 501 Legion
Consider Albin Johnson and Matt Blum your Yoda and Obi-Wan for getting the kids up to speed on the entire Star Wars Universe. Johnson is the founder of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers, a group of Star Wars cosplayers that have been doing the Imperial March for great causes since 1997. And Blum is the Editor-in-Chief of GeekDad, which earns him his own prestigious level of nerd-cred. Between them, they have indoctrinated 7 kids into this sci-fi franchise, so they can definitely help you explain the gravity of this moment.
Introduce The Main Themes
To start, Johnson introduced all of his girls to Star Wars the same way, “Put it in the context of a fairy tale,” he says. “If they can imagine a princess into a castle, that’s Leia in the Death Star. Luke is a prince in his armor. When you think of pirates, that explains Han Solo. And if a knight is looking for a wizard’s help, that becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s a great way for girls and boys to make that contextual leap.”
Blum says, “It’s probably good to give your kids a brief overview of some of the real-world concepts they may not know about, particularly “empire,” “rebellion,” “war,” or “bounty hunter.” When my wife and I showed the movies to our kids, we made much use of the pause button to explain things. It helped a lot. It also helped to be able to pause the cantina scene to say ‘Now, you’re about to see a green guy shoot at Han Solo and somehow miss, but it’s important you know that before the film was modified for no good reason the green guy never got off a shot at all.'”
Lessons To Take Away
It’s not Sesame Street, but the films do feature a green muppet who will teach your kid important life lessons. Johnson says, “When you talk to kids about good versus evil, they don’t understand the depth. But when you talk about controlling impulses — listening to that inner voice that tells them what’s right and wrong — that’s all Anakin Skywalker. Point out that he’s everyone who doesn’t want to be a team player. Be patient and calm, and use that excitement for something good.” You should probably skip over the part where instead of using his words, Anakin murders a room full of younglings.
The Correct Order Doesn’t Involve Prequels
As someone who has seen the trilogy more than 100 times, Johnson says to start with Episode IV: A New Hope, because it has the blueprint. “Watch episodes 4, 5, and 6. Then use prequels as flashbacks. My twins actually have no interest in the prequels.” [COUGH!] Humblebrag.
“There are only two scenes in The Phantom Menace that are worth anything,” says Blum. “The pod race and the climactic battle between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul. Attack of the Clones is worth seeing once, but you’re not missing much if you don’t ever see it. Return of the Sith is also worth seeing, once, but probably no more than that.”
And if you think you have to dust off the laserdisc player to give your kids the original, un-remastered, non-CGI version of the trilogy, Johnson says he prefers the updated dogfights and fully-articulated Jabba the Hutt, who really does seem a more intimidating with another 3 or 4 chins.
What They Need to Know About The Force Awakens
Let’s assume everyone made it through last night’s marathon screening of the original trilogy (“Nobody sleeps until those Ewoks sing “Yub Nub!” — You). Matt Blum has already seen TFW and says that the opening screen crawl will explain to the kids how this movie connects to what they just saw. If you want to give them mild-spoilers before you enter the theater, Blum says, “Kylo Ren is definitely evil. So is the Supreme Leader, who appears as a giant hologram and is Ren’s boss. General Hux and the First Order are very unsubtly Nazi-analogous. And there are several intense scenes involving peril, violence, and death.” Great, now you have to explain Nazis!
Make It Family Time
“My 19-year-old called from college and demanded to watch Star Wars with us when she came home,” says Johnson, who says that although he’s often in public dressed like a Stormtrooper, he doesn’t take it too seriously. “The moment people become too serious about Star Wars I switch off. You need to make it fun for kids.”
And If They Hate Star Wars …
“Like everything else in parenting, just try to relax and let it go,” says Blum. “The may very well come around in a few years, but chances are much better if you don’t push them. It sucks when your kids don’t love the things you love, but you surely did the same thing to your parents, too. This is just one of those things that make parenting a tough job.” See? The guy is basically Obi-Wan.