It started innocently enough. I introduced my five-year-old daughter to Star Wars Legos on the Wii. I figured that it would be a fun activity we could share, and for a video game, it actually does a good job of promoting teamwork and problem solving. She loved it, and by the third level, she wanted to watch the movies. I initially hesitated; the violence of the movies is far more intense than seeing Lego characters disassemble when hit with a light saber. I relented, however, once I remembered that when I was her age, I saw “Empire Strikes Back” in the theater, and suffered no ill effects.
Now we have a problem. It’s not that “laser”, “shoot” and “kill” have been introduced to her vocabulary, although my wife is less than thrilled about that. The problem is that I’ve created a monster: she has become obsessed with Star Wars. I can’t go five minutes without being asked a Star Wars question: “Daddy, what color light saber does Ben Kenobi use? If Yoda taught everyone else to be a Jedi, who taught him? Why did Princess Leia call Han Solo a nerf herder? What’s a nerf herder?” She wants to watch the movies over and over again. She wants to watch all the bonus behind-the-scenes documentaries. Today at the zoo I heard her humming “The Imperial March” to herself.
I am finding numerous benefits to this pre-occupation with Star Wars, however. You have to know my daughter to truly appreciate the situation. She is not a tomboy by any stretch of the imagination. She loves the color pink, wearing nail polish, and anything that has to do with Disney Princesses. So I like that her fascination with Princess Leia and Queen Amidala, strong female characters that stand up for themselves and make their own decisions, provide a counterbalance to Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Tonight she wanted to know why there weren’t more female Jedi Knights in the movies.*
Besides adding a new dimension to our father-daughter bond, Star Wars provides an avenue for rather important conversations. When she asks how the Emperor could be bad when he seemed so nice in the first two episodes, I’m able to work in a discussion about avoiding strangers, no matter how friendly they might seem at first. Darth Vader saving Luke Skywalker at the end of “Return of the Jedi” led to a talk about how bad people can realize their mistakes and try to be good again. Not everyday you can have a conversation with your five-year-old about redemption, but if she can grasp that concept, then forgiving her little brothers will be that much easier as she gets older.
The obsession goes beyond the characters and the story. Half of her questions are about how the movies are made from a technical standpoint. “In that scene, is R2-D2 played by a little person or a robot? How do they make Jabba the Hut move?” You can imagine how excited she got when I told her that Yoda’s puppeteer also did Grover from Sesame Street. Last week a question about Queen Amidala led me once again to Wikipedia for the answer, and the article showed how her costumes were based on a picture of a 19th century Mongolian princess. She asked about the picture, and I attempted to explain “inspiration” and “influence”. She interjected, “Like how George Lucas saw that Japanese movie?” I was floored. She was referring to a brief clip of Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress” she saw during a documentary on the creation of Star Wars.
I know that all too soon she will outgrow this fascination with Star Wars. My hope is that it will grow into a larger interest in mythology, religion, politics, storytelling, and the human condition. If she enjoys discussing and dissecting the complicated web of characters, relationships and backstories that George Lucas has created, perhaps doing the same with the works of Homer, Shakespeare and Dickens will be just as interesting for her.
* If you have a similarly obsessed child whose questions go far beyond your circa 1983 knowledge of the Star Wars universe, I have found this website helpful: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page