Time to Play: Star Wars as a Mom

You made it into motherhood without knowing very much about George Lucas’ epic saga Star Wars, the stories from “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” But lately, you may find it harder to hold conversations, follow analogies, or grasp what junior is going on about. So, here is a FAQ of what you need to know about Star Wars.

1. Is Star Wars the one with the TV show back in the ’60s?

Nope, that’s Star Trek. Based on old “wagon train” serials, Trek is where the military are good guys (“Star Fleet”). Tip: the creator was in the Air Force. “Live long and prosper.”

Meanwhile, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, grew up near the groovy California Bay Area and based his movies on old science-fiction serials. So, here, the military are bad guys (the evil “Empire”).

Also: Star Wars is considerably more swashbuckling (think: lightsabers) than Star Trek (think: staff meetings). So try not to mix them up—a water cooler conversation killer, right there. Nerdy condescension may follow.

2. So which are the Star Wars films? It’s mostly movies, right?

Right. The Star Wars movies were a beloved, global sensation from day one (Freddie Mercury excepted). Here’s the breakdown:

Star Wars. The 1977 original. Whiny teen Luke Skywalker meets an older, reclusive man and runs away with him. Unlike Twilight, no one wonders if this is a bad example for children. Later numbered Episode 4.

The Empire Strikes Back. Episode 5. Luke goes to jungle, meets Yoda (a small green Jedi) who talks like Sesame Street’s Grover, only backwards. Ends with greatest movie reveal since Rosebud. “Noooooo!”

Return of the Jedi. Episode 6. A redwood forest with Ewoks, which are kind of like living teddy bears. With spears.

The Phantom Menace. Episode 1. A prequel made 20 years later. The “most anticipated film of all time.” Also, the most disappointing film of all time, due to a comparative dearth of swashbuckling and/or Harrison Ford. We visit an underwater city and Italianate palaces and meet a blonde little boy and a teen princess with crazy makeup and surprisingly capable servants.

Attack of the Clones. Episode 2. The now-teen boy reunites with the girl (now with no makeup). Bug people and disapproving elders try to break them up. War ensues.

Revenge of the Sith. Episode 3. The now-adult (?) boy has a very bad day. “Noooooo!”

3. Okay, lotsa movies. Should I see these?

Yes. A cultural touchstone, Star Wars allowed post-modern relativists to observe bad people have “gone to the Dark Side” in polite company.

Many fans recommend seeing the movies in this order: First, episodes 4 and 5. Then 1, 2, and 3. Finally, 6—big finish, jazz hands, dancing Ewoks.

4. So there’s more to Star Wars, right?

Yes. George Lucas was granted all ancillary marketing and licensing rights back in the day (ka-ching). Star Wars‘ “expanded universe” includes TV shows, novels, picture books, and an entire aisle in the toy section. You may have noticed.

5. So, is this aggressive marketing something I should protect my kids from?

Well, no. Because: (1) You gotta buy something for your kids, and books = reading, and toys = imaginative play. And (2) the themes are unusually uplifting and thought-provoking. Lucas was creating a modern mythology, and young people learn a lot from these wise Jedi, such as, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

6. But the movies are over, right? This will all fizzle out . . . soon?

Sorry. Disney, home of Star Wars theme park rides, just bought all of Star Wars for a tidy sum. And now the same guy who led the Star Trek reboot films (2009 and 2013) is going to direct a new Star Wars film, Episode 7. Many spin-offs will soon follow. (Pro-tip: The original cast is signing up for the sequels; darkness looms, and tragic vainglory is likely to follow.)

Plus, there are things such as The Clone Wars animated TV show, the Mad Men for the kid-at-heart set. (TTP note: Video game editor Jeff McKinney wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about the possible series end of The Clone Wars.) And there are the video games, like the LEGO Star Wars series, which are a fun/safe gift for any video game player.

But darkness looms, and Disney is cutting ties to old Star Wars employees, licensees, and broadcasters in order to . . . What?!? What will happen next?!

And that, right there—what will happen next—is the basis of the on-going appeal of that engaging galaxy far, far away.

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