My boys are 7 and 5 years old. They love to draw. Their latest drawing craze has to draw Star Wars scenarios. They draw stick figures with Darth Vader helmets, recreate a decent picture of R2-D2 and everyone is holding a light saber (yep, even R2-D2).
You see, my boys have not seen any Star Wars, Episode IV ??? or otherwise. I wasn???t even aware they had so much knowledge until they started drawing. So, they don???t appreciate the significance of the light saber and haven???t got their heads around what a Jedi Knight is. Hence, everyone in their drawings has a light saber. I know it shouldn???t, but this really annoyed me and I felt like sitting them down to watch Episode IV: A New Hope and explain that R2-D2 can???t be drawn with a light saber and introduce them to the whole experience.
But, on reflection I decided they are only 7 and 5 years-old and I???m not sure I???m that keen for them to know yet. That is why I???ve made THE RULE.
THE RULE is that my boys won???t watch any Star Wars movie until they are 10 years-old. And, when they do I will be watching it with them. I???ve told them this. I???ve explained that it is a special movie and that when they see it conditions have to be perfect.
I held out for a while, with the same notion that Star Wars is a special thing and the moment of introduction should be perfect. But at some point it became clear that they were learning so much from other kids at school and day care, right and wrong in about equal measures, that my saving The Big Event for another year was doing them a disservice. Instead, we impressed upon them that Star Wars is a Big Deal and a Special Film, set aside the time one weekend, and showed them Episodes IV, V and VI.
The kids were 5 and 8 (and 6 months, but she probably missed most of it!). We couldn’t show it to the older one without including the younger, and I didn’t think we should delay the Big Event any longer for the 8 y.o., so the 5 y.o. was along for the ride.
Some time later we showed them the newer episodes but with admitedly less fanfare. And I only showed Episode III to the 8 y.o. — it sounded too heavy for the 5 y.o.
How did it work out? They definitely understood that Star Wars is different from the usual kids movies. I don’t think the movies were too violent for the kids. It may have stretched what they had been exposed to, but it wasn’t too much for them to handle — the violence in Star Wars is pretty cartoonish anyhow, so not as challenging for them as something set in, say, 21st Century Earth, or even in the Harry Potter books.
As for the “blurring of black and white, the complexity of good versus evil”, my older one definitely got that, and more. A couple of months later, we were on a road trip and I was listening to the Radio Lab podcast episode called “The Ring and I” about Wagner’s Ring Cycle (brilliant, btw). I didn’t realize he was listening, but after a bit he started pointing out the imperfect but undeniable parallels to Star Wars — the king of gods building the ultimate fortress, his twin son and daughter separated at birth but meeting later and teaming up, the final destruction of the fortress… He was more tuned in to the literary themes than I gave him credit for.
Now they kids are 6 and 9 (and almost 1!) and my wife rented Star Trek. It turns out, this is a much harder franchise to introduce the kids to than Star Wars was. Do we have to show them episodes of the the original series before we can show them the movies? Or the Next Generation? We decided to go ahead with the new Star Trek movie and see what happens. They loved that movie, so we showed them the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” the next night, and they are totally hooked. The first movie introduced them to the characters, and the Voyage Home was funny, easy to digest and non-violent, but included all the salient memes of the ST franchise. How to introduce the rest of the ST universe, I’m not so sure, but we may start with TNG episodes.