The most recent eyebrow-raising Star Wars product is a venture aimed at kids. Called “Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures,” it takes the form of minute-long, animated vignettes which breathlessly retell and re-contextualize moments from the classic movies. When Luke gets the lightsaber from Obi-Wan, he doesn’t just casually turn it on; now he flies around like he’s in The Matrix and his hair is blown back for extra emphasis. Ordinarily, purists (read: Dads born before the ‘90s) might not care about this kind of thing, but the “Galaxy of Adventures” videos repurpose the original dialogue tracks from the films, which might be Star Wars blasphemy. And like any member of the Skywalker family, contemporary fathers are more than a little torn about how the Force of childhood continues to get repackaged. To explore the latest disturbance in nostalgia, I reached out to four real fathers and asked them to search their feelings. What I discovered is there might be more balance in the Force than you might expect.
“It’s kind of gross but nothing new, right?” Brian Gresko laments. “Star Wars has always been a brand. The only difference here is the shamelessness.” Gresko is a dad and a writer and the editor of the anthology When I First Held You, a book featuring essays by fathers about fatherhood. In regard to his own Star Wars fathering experience, Gresko tells me that his nine-year-old son has pretty much moved on from Star Wars a long time ago. “In terms of age, when my son turned five I got him the boxed set of all six Lucas movies, which we watched in order of their release. It was a big deal for him, I made it like a rite of passage. The downside is that now, at nine-years-old, he associates the movies with ‘little kid’ stuff, and isn’t so interested in them.” Gresko’s story is an interesting one, and it suggests one important thing: too much of Star Wars, even at an early age, might not be a good thing. When so much media is made available every day for kids, how do dads keep something as special as Star Wars…well…special?
“I like to make an event of Star Wars, a special movie night or something like that,” says Justin Lemieux, an actor, teacher, and father of two. “That way it isn’t just another thing that’s on all the time.” Lemieux’s belief is that though YouTube isn’t an ideal format, adults getting bent out of shape about Star Wars, repurposed or not, is something that just isn’t worth a dad’s time anymore. “It would seem odd to only get up in arms about the preciousness of Star Wars now,” he explains. “If I was prone to offense it would have happened a long time ago. The horse is long out of the gate with this kind of stuff.”
Comic book writer and editor Jonathan Baylis agrees, saying “It doesn’t offend me. But animating original Star Wars just leads to more toys, which is basically what George [Lucas] did from day one. Why should I be offended that Disney is doing more of the same?” Baylis’s comment should be sobering for Star Wars nostalgia purists for one simple reason, this brand has always been about making money from a kid-friendly space-adventure. Though, perhaps older fans were more comfortable with that fact when the money-making scheme was the brainchild of one man’s mind, not a giant corporation.
“Media monopolies are scary and I’m 100 percent going to stay in the Star Wars hotel at Disney World!”Mordicai Knode tells me, embodying perhaps the truest balance to all of these viewpoints. Knode — who works for the science fiction book publisher Tor — might personally long for the days of a pre-edited version of Star Wars, but thinks that holding onto the past isn’t something he or anyone else should do. He tells me although his daughter is still very young, he’s shown her brief segments of Star Wars already. “Tear down the gates, tear down the gatekeepers,” he explains. “Star Wars is wonderful; come and share it with me.”
As long as this famous faraway galaxy is worth time and money, the frontline in the ever-raging Star Wars is childhood. And though there are several fully grown adults who have devoted huge parts of their career to serious discussion of Star Wars (very guilty right here) the stories of a galaxy far, far away are — at their best — simple enough for children to love, and thrilling enough for adults to cherish. Which is why every new iteration of Star Wars always carries with it the vague threat of messing with childhood and nostalgia simultaneously.
However, if the small, incomplete sampling of young dads I talked to is any indication of Star Wars dads at large, most of us are more than willing to let go of our more aggressive tendencies, in favor of a more Jedi-like path. Back in the old films, Luke Skywalker tried to change the world, but in The Last Jedi, he just accepts things as they are. In this way, all Star Wars dads are — or should try to be — more like Luke. We may not be crazy about new versions of Star Wars, but we’re not going to yell about our childhoods being ruined anymore. After all, we’ve got different childhoods to think about now.
Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures will continue to release more shorts on YouTube and on the Disney app throughout 2019, all the way up until Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, 2019.