By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I was nine when I first saw “Star Wars.” I saw it in the theater with my parents and my brother. Afterwards, we went to the Royal Fork Buffet restaurant where I ate a giant square of white cake with chocolate icing and then we went to a playground where my brother and I spent an hour on the merry-go-round pretending to be Luke and Han Solo.
This day was awesome for many reasons. The movie, of course was amazing, plus we got to have white cake. (In the seventies in my house, cake was rarely made without zucchini.) For a mountain kid, a real “city” park was its own kind of wonderland. I loved the lush, green grass and the defined cement paths, so different from our own pine needle-scattered back yard. It was especially wonderful to see the whole park blur into an emerald swath when we got the squeaky, metal merry-go-round up to full speed.
My son saw “Star Wars” on television when he was five. We held off as long as we could, but the whole neighborhood was watching it and he was beginning to be out of the pop culture loop. Plus, we were excited to share it with him. It wasn’t too long before we’d shown him all three of the original (and, as far as I’m concerned, only) Star Wars movies. He loved them. But he didn’t internalize them the way the kids of my generation did. His need for Star Wars Lego sets is based more on his love of Legos than on his obsession with Luke and Han.
And that was okay with me. I had made a kind of peace with the fact that the stuff I found incredibly cool (ZOOM, The Muppet Show, Sigmund the Sea Monster, rainbow suspenders) was probably not going to be seen in the same light by my kids. After all, how many times did I play with my mom’s Esther Williams paper dolls?
But recently, I’ve realized that in showing “Star Wars” to my boy early, I missed out on an incredible teaching opportunity. The conflict between The Force and The Dark Side is almost exactly what goes on inside the mind and body of an eight-year-old boy every day. How great it would be now to have the short hand of “Hey, are you going to the Dark Side?” How useful it would be to reference Luke and his own struggles to be good when confronting my son who has just socked his sister in the jaw for the umpteenth time.
My boy (like all kids) is on his own hero’s journey. Of course, he’s got Harry Potter for company, but I’m thinking about reintroducing Luke Skywalker – he’s such a petulant hero – so much a whining child that he seems more knowable than the always-honorable Harry. When Luke changes his attitude, great things happen and that, I think, is worth a second chance.