Luke, I Am Your...Welllll, Let's Just Say We've Met Before
June 13, 2013 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Reading the Star Wars 1970s trilogy to my young kids, should I spoil it? (There is a spoiler inside if you haven't see The Empire Strikes Back.)

I have two children, 4 and 6 years old. They have both been exposed to the culture of Star Wars fandom, through SW-themed friends' clothing, lego sets, stickers, and other incidental merch. Because they are pretty easily frightened when it comes to movies (the younger one can barely tolerate Finding Nemo, Cars, or Toy Story and we have to fast forward a lot of them all), it will be a long time before I'd think they could handle the (original) Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. However, they both ask a lot of questions about Luke, Obi Wan, Yoda, and Vader, and the younger one recently selected a Larry Weinberg book from the library, a children's book that is basically an 80-page overview of the movie with movie stills. I read it to them and they both really enjoyed it, fell in love with R2D2, and we soon returned to the library to get The Empire Strikes Back.

My husband, however, thinks I shouldn't spoil the "Luke, I Am Your Father" moment and suggested I skip over it. I wondered if someone else might tell them anyway but he claims it's a kind of as-sacred-as-Santa secret that other kids will respect. His idea is that they should wait until they see the movie for that classic reveal.

So now I'm hesitating - should I skip over it? Is reading about that moment in a book just too lame for words? Should we read the book up to that part and then show them a clip of that part of the movie? (But the hand-chopping off part in that scene makes that dicey.) Seriously, they will have nightmares just by seeing some of the characters from that movie, so viewing the movie in its entirety is really not an option.

Though I welcome any opinions (respecting that many opinions will be "who cares" or "you're overthinking this"), I'm especially interested in hearing from parents of 6-, 7-, 8year olds and their reaction to the Big Reveal - it is not such a big deal as it was back in the 70s? Or is it?
posted by dreamphone to Media & Arts (22 answers total)
 
dreamphone: My husband, however, thinks I shouldn't spoil the "Luke, I Am Your Father" moment and suggested I skip over it. I wondered if someone else might tell them anyway but he claims it's a kind of as-sacred-as-Santa secret that other kids will respect.

No. It's more in the category of "so completely spoiled for all of humanity that I was kind of amused that you put a spoiler warning in your post". No one thinks twice about mentioning that Vader is Luke's father. Besides, it comes up repeatedly in Return of the Jedi, so you are going to have to do some creative editing all through that book if you carry on with the series.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


As a oldschool SW fan, I sorta suspect that your husband is over-estimating the Santa-secret level of the Father scene. I'd vote, go ahead and read it to them. At least they wont sound surprised/silly/ have it spoiled in the playground when they talk about it.
posted by Jacen at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2013


Unless you do an exceptionally good job of shielding your kids from popular media, Vader-is-Luke's-Dad pops up everywhere: sitcoms, children's shows, commercials, magazines, comics. As far as spoilers go, its got the cultural saturation of "it was the sled," or "he was dead the whole time" or "it was earth all along."

If the kids can't watch the movie yet, read it to them and try to make it as dramatic as you can. Better you than an off-hand joke in an episode the Simpsons you were channel-surfing through with the kids in the room.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can you possibly miss out on the opportunity to go "Luke, *I* am your father" with full-on scenery-chewing over acting?
posted by pharm at 7:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [23 favorites]


I apparently saw all the Star Wars movies as a tiny kid. I had no real memory of the plot elements from those viewings at all. I remembered R2D2 and Chewbacca, the ewoks, Hoth, and maybe Jabba the Hutt. I knew the music and who Luke and Leia and Darth Vader were.

When I was about 12 I re-watched the whole series on my own, and suddenly the plot actually made sense and affected me. I didn't feel "spoiled" on anything and was just as surprised by the various story turns as a person who'd never seen it would be. I didn't even remember huge aspects of all three movies, and when I saw a part that was familiar, I felt more like, "Oh, so this is what Hoth is about! Man, I was so afraid of that monster when I was little!" and less like "Yes, yes, Hoth, seen this before..."

I don't think little kids have the same capacity for plot and suspense that more mature people do. I wouldn't worry too much about this. It's just a movie, after all.

(Also, I highly doubt that 4 and 6 year olds are going to be talking about who Luke Skywalker's father is on the playground, or that, if it were to come up, there would be any "respect" for the secret. They're little kids.)
posted by Sara C. at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


but he claims it's a kind of as-sacred-as-Santa secret that other kids will respect.

It really isn't, at least in my experience. My daughter knew who was father to whom by the time she was four, thanks to friends at daycare who had watched all the movies already. She didn't see the movies until a few years later. It didn't seem to bother her, and she loves the movies. I think it might just be one of those things that is out in the culture so pervasively that it will get spoiled before they see the films, particularly if they aren't going to be up to see them for a while. I don't think you're going to wreck it by reading to them.

The other question you'll have to consider is, when they eventually see the movies, what order are you going to watch them in? (We did it chronologically, IV, V, VI, then, grudgingly I, II, III, which is clearly the only way.)

(Also, kids totally rat Santa out to each other all the time.)
posted by looli at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am in your husband's camp. I introduced Star Wars to my younger sister and my son (who is a few years old that your older) protecting the spoiler. I thought it was great to be there for the reveal. They both asked, twenty years apart, "is that true?!" So yes, it is possible to do to a young boy even though he has the benefit of growing up in a post-Revenge of the Sith world. I felt quite a bit of accomplishment.

If your children want Star Wars books, use Clone Wars books. There are many, many books in that series geared towards young children.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


looli: The other question you'll have to consider is, when they eventually see the movies, what order are you going to watch them in? (We did it chronologically, IV, V, VI, then, grudgingly I, II, III, which is clearly the only way.)

Machete Order is the best.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


My son (4) has been into Star Wars obsessively ever since we showed him all of the movies (old and new) as well as having a few 501st members (including Vader) at his bday. I say show him. It's not a Santa thing. It's a story and with the new movies coming out, it tells the story even further. I say go for it.
posted by stormpooper at 7:16 AM on June 13, 2013


I am the approximate age of The Empire Strikes Back, and I remember Star Wars being omnipresent in pop culture when I was little. I don't remember actually learning that Vader was Luke's father; I don't think I realized it until I was a teenager, and by then it was just a thing that everyone knew rather than some shocker.

The Star Wars experience for little kids isn't particularly plot-based. It's more "Look, lightsabers! VWOOM VWOOM VWOOM! Look, droids! BLOOPY BLEEG BOOP! Look, Vader! HCCSSSSH KSSSH. Look, Chewbacca! GRWOOOARGH OOORGGH!" Star Wars for me was stuff like R2-D2 falling in love with a fire hydrant on Sesame Street.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


They're experiencing the series for the first time in book form--this is their movie for them. Don't spoil the books by leaving out an important chunk of the narrative for purity's sake.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not a parent, but:

Either read them the book or don't read them the book. But don't lie to them about major plot points in the story by skipping that bit and "creatively editing" the rest. All you're doing then is setting them up for confusion and disappointment when they go to the playground and talk about Star Wars because they think they know the story and why do these other kids have a different story?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's a not-insignificant amount of ROTJ that won't make as much emotional sense without the reveal in TESB.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2013


I haven't seen anything bar Episode 1, and I could probably recite chunks of the dialogue at this point. I agree with those who say it's been spoilered all the way into pop culture.

They may come to think of the movies as adaptations of the books, in a way. Their experiences of the films will be different, but the same, in much the same way LOTR fans found when the trilogy was made. I think it's fine to read it as is.
posted by mippy at 7:31 AM on June 13, 2013


Thank you all so much for your thoughtful answers. To be fair, I think my husband's actual preference was not to read and omit, but to not read the books at all (thereby not spoiling it at all). So there's that.
posted by dreamphone at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2013


To be fair, I think my husband's actual preference was not to read and omit, but to not read the books at all (thereby not spoiling it at all).

As people have noted, your kids will find out. If you or your husband wants to be there when they find out (and who wouldn't want to? That YouTube of the kids seeing that scene for the first time is beautiful), then go ahead and read the books and play up that scene just like they play it up in the movie.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, we'll go for it, for all of the reasons above. Maybe we'll read it first and then show just the clip so they can see the dramatic effect. (And go spoil it for everyone else on the playground, I kid!!) Just wanted to be sure that I wasn't going to get a massive shout-down out there. May the Force be with you all.
posted by dreamphone at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2013


Sort of a different tack but from conversations I have with my various nephews I get the distinct impression that spoilers don't matter to them they way they do to, say, people of my generation. They'll watch movies like the Star Wars ones over and over and over and don't seem to care they already know the plot points by heart, and are still thrilled every time.

Honestly, I think some people (not to cast aspersions on your husband specifically) fetishize spoiler-vulnerable details a bit too much these days.

Also, if I remember back to my own teen years when the movie TESB came out, it seems like if you were paying attention at all you probably already had a pretty strong suspicion that revelation was coming.

Which I guess puts me in the "just read them the unabridged book" camp.
posted by aught at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you do the movies, I highly suggest watching them in this order: IV, V, II, III, VI. It focuses on Luke at first, then flashes back to Vader when the father reveal happens, and then flashes forward after the brother/sister reveal happens in episode III. Plus, since Episode I is pretty much pointless, it skips that one completely!
posted by markblasco at 9:20 AM on June 13, 2013


I see you've made your decision, but if there is a chance they might forget this plot point, you might be lucky enough to get a reaction like this in the coming years.

Good luck!
posted by Tanizaki at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2013


But... but... but... THIS! :-)
posted by timpollard at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a perfect world they could see ESB spoiler free. As many have mentioned could be spoiled by pop culture at any time. If they enjoy the story just give it to them straight. There are plenty of other fun surprises in life. Maybe one day they can enjoy Keyser Soze, Momento, Tyler Durden, sister, father, sister, father, or whatever, whatever.

Or you can pretend ESB doesn't exist and wait until they are ready for the films and reintroduce them to the story at that time. As far as they know Star Wars is a free standing story, no? Maybe they get spoiled somewhere else, maybe not.

Regardless, your concern is heartfelt. I think they will be OK with whatever manner in which they learn the big reveal.
posted by Che boludo! at 8:27 PM on June 13, 2013


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