When it comes to Star Wars, passing on what you have learned can be more complicated than one might think.
“My kids (twin boys) have never really liked Star Wars. They pretty much see it as something dad likes and is boring. They show zero interest in the films or any of the other toys. They just don't care.” [Editor's note: all quotes in this article from actual parents dealing with this very issue!]
Does this sound familiar?
You’ve tried and you’ve tried, but despite all of your best efforts, your kids just don’t like Star Wars. Now what?
Let’s get something clear right off the bat: this is far from the most serious issue you’ll have to deal with as a parent. I understand this. Having a kid who won’t watch The Empire Strikes Back is emphatically not the same thing as having to deal with a food allergy, life-threatening illness, bullying, or peer pressure. I get it.
But when you’re a fan, your own child’s refusal to share in the joy of the Star Wars universe can feel like a sucker punch to the gut. For many of us, Star Wars was transformative. It’s what (forgive me) awakened our nerd sensibilities and led us down the geeky path. It expanded our horizons. Many can even point to Star Wars as their professional inspiration for becoming writers, artists, and filmmakers.
My own kids naturally gravitated to Star Wars. I like to say that they became fans without any influence from me, but I have to admit that’s only partially true. I may not have actively pushed the movies and stories on them, but I have a lot of toys, books, and “stuff” around the house that formed a regular part of their landscape and played a role (however minor) in their daily lives. It was always there, sitting on the shelves, hanging on the walls, or adorning my T-shirts.
“My daughter loves to read so I subtly bought her a Jedi Academy book. She loved it. Next step: Origami Yoda. Again, she loved it. She’s still not super into Star Wars, but she is starting to appreciate it. Because the world is so big, there can be an entry point anywhere: books, animated shows, toys, etc.”
I jumped at the chance to take my daughter, when she was only four, to see A New Hope for the first time on the big screen, which is how it was meant to be seen. Watching an original 35mm print in a darkened theater surrounded by several hundred other fans was enough to make me feel four years old again. Her little mind was blown.
But I recognize that not all kids come to the saga so voluntarily or so easily.
“It took multiple viewing of the original trilogy to get my seven-year-old twins into it, but they finally took to it and LOVE The Force Awakens.”
If you’re really looking to introduce and get your kid hooked on Star Wars in 2016, I think there are two almost surefire routes to success. Neither should come as a surprise, though the first might seem like an odd place to begin, seeing as it’s the seventh film in the series. Nevertheless, of all of the films, The Force Awakens is the only one made with the modern audience in mind. In my discussions with other parents, it was clear that even those kids who didn’t express interest in any of the six previous films were completely taken by The Force Awakens. To be sure, there’s a lot to love in that film, and -- as they say in comics -- it’s a great jumping-on point. You don’t really need to have seen anything else to understand and enjoy it.
The other route I’d recommend is Star Wars Rebels. If you’ve been watching the show, I don’t think I need to explain why. It’s a phenomenal entry point to the Star Wars universe that’s not overly hung up on decades of canon. It doesn’t come with any prerequisites. Kids can tune in, watch a half-hour episode, understand what’s happening, and become totally immersed. Dave Filoni and his team have quietly and consistently been turning out one of the best animated shows of all time. If your kids aren’t Star Wars fans after two episodes of Star Wars Rebels, then they might never be fans.
And you know what? That’s totally OK.
Think about it. When you were a kid, did you like everything your parents liked? I’d wager good money that you actively disliked whatever Mom and Dad preferred and put in front of you. That’s just how kids operate. It’s their default setting. Whatever mom and dad like is inherently uncool.
The more we shout, “Hey, you should really watch this! It’s crazy awesome!” the more they’ll push back. You can promise wampas and rancor monsters all day long, but kids are notoriously stubborn. If they’ve decided that Star Wars isn’t for them, then no amount of lightsaber duels will bring them around. Forcing kids to like or do something never ends well.
We’re actually at a unique point in the history of popular culture. Characters, properties, and franchises we grew up with are not only still popular but also still very much alive and actively growing. I’d venture to say that my generation is the first to really share common interests with their kids. Maybe the reason Younger Me in the early '80s never liked Westerns (which my dad adored) was because it felt so anachronistic. Westerns, as a genre, seemed like something out of the '50s. In short, it was what “old people” liked. I had no common ground with my parents.
Today, it seems like it’s all common ground. So many properties from the '70s, '80s, and '90s are still just as vibrant and popular as ever. These stories have become trans-generational, and parents and kids often share favorite characters and bond over their mutual love of a particular story. In that respect, we’re incredibly lucky.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. He has things he loves, and I try and enjoy them with him.”
If you don’t share Star Wars with your kids, odds are that you share something else. It doesn’t really matter. Love what you love, and let them do the same. Be thankful for the common ground you have; don’t dwell on the one that wasn’t meant to be.
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).