There aren’t many things I won’t second-guess myself about. Particularly when it comes to parenting, I’m more than happy to indulge thoughts that involve “I shouldn’t have said that” or “What the hell was I thinking?”
But I will not be baited by the Star Wars scare-droids. You know: those people who tell you that your 2-year-old should not watch Star Wars. From a recent Babble post, which consulted Barnard College psychologist Tovah Klein about the issue:
Star Wars was intended for an older audience. (It is rated PG, after all.) Because it’s not geared towards little kids, it’s hard for them to make sense of it. Not just plot turns involving the defense of Aldreon [sic: that’s Alderaan], but the adult “conflict, tension and aggression.” When little kids watch this “tension” they may become noticeably “frightened” or “aroused” — and by aroused, Dr. Klein was not talking plain old excitement. She was describing a kind of confused, brain-scrambled state. “Violence without meaning is frightening,” she says. “When children can’t make sense of what they see on screen, they don’t know what to do with what they feel.”
But what about the seemingly inexhaustible interest many boys show in good guys and bad guys? Doesn’t Star Wars fit in with this sort of inherent preoccupation? Dr. Klein pointed out that while four-year-old play often revolves around good vs evil — this is the age where they begin to discover that both impulses reside within their own Pre-K souls — it’s best if the content of that play comes from their own imaginations. It doesn’t matter what kids use to work this stuff out — action figures, dress-ups, superheroes, whatever — what’s more important is that the ideas come from them. When young kids see a movie like Star Wars the ideas are being “put to them.”
Now, I am not a psychologist. I’m not even particularly thoughtful. But with my kids, both of whom moved directly from breast milk to Star Wars Episode IV, I’ve seen that it’s precisely because they don’t understand most of it that their imagination can move in.
My children live out their lives in the Star Wars universe. Dalia, my now-5-year-old daughter, knew from early on that the Vader form of cunning and power was what she aspired to. Nico, my 2-year-old son, blessed by his Mexican and Japanese heritage with not being too unbearably tall, decided early on that his way of dealing with shortness, however lasting it may be, was to be Yoda.
This is, to my mind, incredibly positive. Now, I’m not about to go thanking George Lucas for giving my children imagination. But he did create an alluring set of archetypes that are so immediately recognizable that kids can immediately pick a character to inhabit—the swashbuckling smuggler, the earnest hero, the fearless princess, the conniving overlord, even, if you’re into that kind of thing, the furry ammo-rack. If anything, I think Star Wars helps my kids instead of hurting them.
Which is why I was so disappointed to see that the 6-year-old star of the Most Awesome Superbowl Commercial in Years has never even seen Star Wars. That is a form of stage-mom child abuse so heinous that it would make Dina Lohan blush. Watch the interview yourself. And remember, breastfeed your babies if you can; give them a warm, loving home; and put on Episode IV just as soon as they can hold their own necks up.