My daughter was 4 years old when she saw the Star Wars films for the first time. I jumped at the chance to take her to see A New Hope on the big screen, which is how it was meant to be seen. And watching an original 35mm print in a darkened theater surrounded by several hundred other fans was enough to make me feel 4 years old again, too.
Soon enough, she could narrate the entire original trilogy. She played with my vast collection of toys, and she discovered her own newer action figures. She listened to the NPR dramatization on an endless loop. She dueled with Darth Vader at Walt Disney World.
When my son came along, his first contact was also with the original trilogy, but at home on a Blu-ray version. He was also immediately captivated.
Everyone has their own unique journey to discovering Star Wars. The galaxy and the franchise have become so massive that there are countless points of entry. But there is always an entryway — a point of first contact, if you will. For many people, it’s one of the films. For others, it might be one of the animated series, a book, or a comic.
Whatever it is, when you sit down to watch or read a story set in that galaxy far, far away, something in it resonates. Something clicks. Something grabs ahold of your imagination and won’t let go. Suddenly, you’re a Star Wars fan.
Fans of a certain age (i.e., those of us who are first-generation fans) discovered the original trilogy at the beginning. Our journey involved darkened theaters, shocking revelations of parenthood by Darth Vader, Kenner toys, and goofy picture books. Brilliant.
A second generation of fans came of age when the prequel trilogy took the country by storm. For many of them, The Phantom Menace was their first exposure and how they discovered Star Wars. Their entryway was populated by young Anakin, Padmé, Darth Sidious, and more Jedi than you could shake a stick at. Wonderful.
Today, another generation is discovering and growing up with Star Wars through the sequel trilogy and beyond. There have never been more points of entry. And many of the fans who made up those previous generations now have kids of our own — and we’re bringing them along with us for the ride.
Nevertheless, one thing remains true: Every fan has his or her own unique journey to discovering Star Wars, even with an established fan acting as a guide and teacher. Today, the characters and stories that we grew up with are not only still popular, but also very much alive and actively growing.
Our kids grow up on a steady diet of Star Wars books, toys, lunchboxes, and games. And in many cases they have all of these things, and an understanding of key characters, before they even see the movies.
My children have found their way through the galaxy together. The films played a huge role in that, sure, but they also forged their own path through Star Wars Rebels, LEGO Star Wars, the Origami Yoda books, Forces of Destiny, and on and on and on.
Their journey to becoming fans has been so different from my own. And I love that. I love that we all have different experiences and find different things to love. I love that Star Wars continues to tell stories for all types of fans of all ages.
Being a parent is a constant balancing act. We want to share the things we love, but we also want our kids to come to the story in their own way, on their own terms, and seen through their own eyes. Hopefully, our kids will care enough about the story to make sure their own children discover it (in ways we can’t even imagine).
My kids love Star Wars because of their own experiences with it. They have their own favorite characters and scenes, and there are stories that speak directly to them. And that’s that’s how it should be.
There are so many ways to discover and experience the saga. It doesn’t really matter if you start with The Phantom Menace or A New Hope, The Force Awakens or Galaxy of Adventures, Star Wars Rebels or Star Wars Resistance.
And it doesn’t really matter where you go from there.
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).