This post has MASSIVE SPOILERS if you haven’t yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So if you haven’t seen it yet, and you read this post, don’t come complaining to me that you cannot organise a simple trip to the cinema. Go out and see it, come back having enjoyed it, and then read this post.
I’m becoming increasingly pleased with Alice’s geek tendencies. Some parents wouldn’t be. I was at a school reunion-thing last year (short version: everybody is skinnier, less grey, and more successful than me, unless they diet, dye, and lie) and I got chatting to an old and dear friend whom I haven’t seen in too long. She asked after Alice, and I said that Alice was fine and she was currently into Star Wars.
Yeah, I thought it was time to show it to her. I wanted to know if she’d like it, and luckily for me she does!
“You showed her all of the films?”
Yeah, the original trilogy first, I’m not an idiot, then the prequels. We’ll probably do Harry Potter next. Lord of the Rings when she’s 10 or so.
“You’ve planned this??”
She was horrified: “Dan, you’re going to turn her into a geek!
(I was genuinely stumped by this)
Well… yeah, I said. You have met me before, haven’t you?
I really like that Alice has enthusiastically consumed some significant genre works (Star Wars and Potter being the prime examples. She has thus far rejected Doctor Who, hates Roald Dahl, but has expressed an interest in Star Trek, and the Marvel films due to some classmates having Iron Man backpacks that have piqued her curiosity). OK, sometimes Alice isn’t aware of her audience, and might give lengthy discourses on Harry Potter to adults she has only just met, but she’s an enthusiastic girl with interests. Who am I to stop her? Besides, I pretty much do the same thing.
And there are downsides. She loves the Star Wars films, but her favourite one is Attack of the Clones because it’s “romantic”. She finds The Empire Strikes Back a bit too dark. She’ll come round eventually. I have faith in my daughter.
Of course we went to see The Force Awakens when it came out. Of course I took Alice with me (plus her best friend, plus her best friend’s brother, plus friend’s daddy as well). I know Alice is only six, and the film is rated a 12A in the UK, but that doesn’t bother me. For two reasons:
a) She’s seen all the other films, and she would have sulked for a million years if I didn’t take her. Besides, I pinky-promised I’d take her when it came out, and you don’t renege on a pinky-promise with a six-year-old.
b) The ‘A’ is advisory. I figured that I know Star Wars, and I know that there is an expectation of the level of violence. As this is not heavily billed as a dark episode where people murder children and burn themselves in lava, I figured she’d be OK. If there was any material that would upset her, then I would just have to take responsibility for any trauma caused.
It’s worth noting that the PG-certificate movies of the 1980s were way more violent and gory than they are now. By the age of seven, I had already seen all of the Star Wars films, plus the Indiana Joneses, and that was considered fine and dandy at the time. Incidentally, I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark last year to check to see if it was appropriate viewing (any excuse) for my daughter. Times have changed. Short answer: NO. People being shot in the face, being run over by trucks, being sliced up by aeroplane propellers, skewered on booby traps and poison arrows, blood, skelingtons, snakes, snakes coming out of skelington’s mouths, melty faces, explodey heads, wrath of God, and questionable relationships with suspiciously young daughters of university professors/mentors. I’ll leave it until Alice is eight or nine, I reckon.
Becoming a father has slightly altered Star Wars for me, because I’m now watching it from the perspective of being a parent. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing. I wish I could watch it as a six-year-old again, which is why I love that Alice enjoys the films, and I get a vicarious thrill from watching the films with her, and see her play imaginative games with the toys. OK, I could do without her fidgeting and chatting when watching films in the cinema, so when I go back to see The Force Awakens for the third time, I’m going with adults who respect the RULES and don’t yelp out “CHOP HIS HAND OFF” during the climactic lightsabre duel (although I do award massive geek bonus points to Alice for recognising one of the great Star Wars tropes).
I told Alice this yesterday, and she’s cross that I’m not taking her for viewing #3. I’m secretly a bit pleased that she’s cross, because:
a) She really wants to watch Star Wars with me – according to her, Star Wars is always better when it is watched with Daddy.
b) She really wants to watch Star Wars films. My work is done.
One thing I realised upon watching The Force Awakens (and all the other films in the saga) is that, in amongst all the pew-pew stuff, the Star Wars story arc is full of parents and in loco parentis role models who are all inadequate. Considering this is a saga concerned with the parentage of key characters, you would’ve thought that good parenting would play a part, right? Bollocks it does. Consider the following:
Has some form of parthenogenesis-sex with millions of tiny microscopic organisms and falls pregnant whilst hardly in a responsible economically viable position. She allows her son to take part in astonishingly dangerous races with aggressive aliens, all of whom try to kill him. Then, after he’s won a race after a series of failures, encourages him to go off – aged nine!! – with a mysterious adult male they only met the previous day, who has a habit of making some pretty rash, dodgy, and irresponsible decisions (including taking him straight from the safest capital city planet in the galaxy, to the middle of a war zone). Later on, waits until the very moment that her now near-adult son rescues her from Space-Injuns, before dying without saying “I love you”; instead she wastes breath on saying “Gosh, you’re handsome!”. Wrong on every level. He then flips out and murders entire families of Space-Injuns and then whine-brags about it.
Shmi’s illegitimate son. Child-murdering, Space-Injun slaughtering, treacherous psychopath – and that’s before he became a father – whose sole parental act is to chop his son’s hand off in order to make a point. Strangles his heavily-pregnant wife, and then abandons her (although does later show guilt at doing so by shouting NOOO, much to the internet’s derision). Mostly absent from his children’s lives throughout their childhood and adolescence, attempts to kill both son and daughter several times, and he barely acknowledges his daughter, in fact he arranges to have her tortured on two occasions.
His relationship with his son is perhaps more structured, and does at least give positive reinforcement to his son (“Impressive…Most impressive!” is as close to a touching father-son moment as they get, pretty much) concerning his Jedi abilities.
After having all sorts of high-falutin’ ideas about giving birth in Naboo’s lake country, and being badass in the first two films, she suddenly becomes lame, and cannot actually be bothered to be a mother to her newly born twins all because the father is an abusive control freak. Too fucked off with everything to give a monkey’s, and she effectively sulks throughout the birth. Refuses to accept that parenting two awesome babies could give her a reason to live. Shuffles off the mortal coil without even holding the kids, thus causing the children to be separated at birth, and brought up by either the royalty of a rebellious doomed planet, or by people she barely knows, who farm water on a desert planet and are so backward and poor they don’t have a translator droid who can speak Bocce until nearly twenty years later. Shite mother. Really, really shite mother.
Grumpy old grizzler who is determined to stomp on nephew’s dreams. Makes classic adoptive-parent error by lying to kid about things, and refusing to let his “nephew” do anything fun; about dad not being Jedi and being a navigator on a spice freighter, won’t let him waste time with his friends at Tosche station until his chores are done, won’t let him transmit his application to the academy this year, refusing to let him hang out with local wizard, and is scared of the amount of father in Luke. All this over-protective adoptive parenting completely has opposite effect on Luke. Luke runs off with the wizard he’s forbidden to hang out with, and results in Owen becoming a side-order of barbecue spare ribs.
Makes blue milk, chops up cabbagey/Pak Choi thing and puts it in a blender, reminds Luke to tell Uncle to get a Bocce-speaking robot, mildly bollocks Uncle Owen when he demands that Luke sticks around dead-end bullshit homestead for one more season. Frankly, she’s the BEST PARENT OF THE WHOLE SAGA because she does some responsible parenting. And what does she get? She’s the barbecue main course.
Bail Organa (and wife-who-we-never-really-see)
Leia’s adoptive parents. They rather blatantly join a rebellion, provoke the Emperor somewhat, thus causing the Empire to blow them, and all of Leia’s adoptive family and childhood friends and fellow Alderaanians, to smithereens. Not great. 4/10.
Avuncular wise sage-type mentor to Luke. Tatooine’s answer to that-strange-old-man-from-down-the-road. Warned off by Uncle Owen, Luke nevertheless greets him as an old mate. Said old mate drops a truth bomb about Luke’s dad within 20 minutes of Space-Injun rescue, and then – in practically the same breath – lies through his teeth about Luke’s Dad’s fate, and then barely 30-seconds later, the fucker emotionally blackmails Luke into flying to some planet Luke has never fucking heard of called Alderaan (“You must do what you feel is right, of course”).
When Luke returns from discovering his Aunt and Uncle’s charred corpses, he effectively says “told you so”. He then takes Luke to a scummy dive (responsible mentor behaviour, apparently), allows Luke to get in a bar fight, hooks up with shifty space trucker and his space-chess-cheatin’ Wookie. Gets them all in the shit by insisting they fly straight at something that really isn’t a moon. Once they land, he fucks off and leaves the inexperienced youngsters to rescue some bird Luke has only glimpsed in some crummy space-CCTV footage (and has regrettably fallen for, which Obi Wan could have prevented if he’d been a bit honest), while Ol’ Ben monkeys about above a chasm flipping an ‘off’ switch to a tractor beam.
And less than 24 hours after meeting Luke, he makes sure Luke watches him die at the hands of Luke’s (then unknown to be) father, thus causing a desire in Luke for revenge (so not in keeping with Jedi philosophy, not that Obi Wan cares much of a fuck about at that point).
And then Ol’ Ben only admits he lied massively when Luke meets him being a ghost, calls him out on the whole shit, and Obi Wan lamely plays the “Ah, but it depends on your point of view. Aaaaah…” card. What. A. Prick.
Not exactly affectionate or prone to giving much praise, is he? I mean, he’s more teacher than parent figure, but still, Luke clutches at any father-figure straws presented to him. Still, Yoda berates him, sends him off into an evil tree, casts doubts on his ability on a regular basis (not exactly using positive reinforcement as a teaching aid), and then criticises Luke’s noble intentions to rescue his friends.
Sends original son/apprentice (Darth Maul) off to do his dirty work, and allows him to get chopped in half. Relationship with Count Dooku more of a bromance. Grooms Anakin by being all fatherly and watching his career with great interest. Emotionally blackmails Anakin for twenty years, until crunch time where Anakin has to choose between two father figures (although Mace Windu represents a more institutional father figure, rather than being much of a father figure himself). Anakin opts for the creepy guy with lightning pouring from his hands, which shows his crappy lack of judgement (what do you expect when your mother effectively shoves you out before your tenth birthday?).
Immediately, the manipulation continues. Anakin goes from “Aaargh, what have I done?” to “Kill children? Yes sir!!” within the hour (although to be fair, when Anakin loses arms, legs, skin and hair, Palpatine does make sure he receives first-class medical attention, so he’s not all bad as father-figures go).
Then, some twenty years later, Anakin introduces his own son to Palpatine, Palpy immediately responds by trying to goad Anakin’s son into killing Anakin right in front of Anakin. Who does that sort of thing to his adoptive son and heir presumptive? A massive arsehole, that’s who.
Shoots people first, he’s that kind of guy, which we love and respect him for, but not exactly ace fathering qualification. Woos future mother-of-child in quite a creepy way. Seriously, if you tried the moves he puts on Leia in The Empire Strikes Back on any female in your workplace, you’d get royally done for sexual harassment. Not exactly a great role-model for his son, who he later abandons when son goes through a teenage rebellion of sorts when left to learn from his Uncle Luke. Openly admits his disappointment in Papa Solo, shortly before stabbing him with a vaguely Freudian glowing red plot-device.
At least she openly regrets letting her presumably by now, quite traumatised brother (what with fancying her, discovering she’s actually his sister, discovering their father is a genocidal cyborg, fought him on her behalf, and then watched him die just as he redeemed himself, and then burned the corpse) take her only son off to Jedi camp, only to have the son go the full rage-massacre, change his name, venerate his abusive grandfather, wear an emo-mask and hair, and slaughter innocent villagers and millions of people (as well as smash up his room on a regular basis). You know what? Leia probably should have spent a bit more time parenting than all that time Rebellioning and Resistancing.
So there you have it. There’s definitely a pattern going on here. All the parents in Star Wars are pretty shit, and while they are role models for my daughter, they aren’t role models for me, for the first time in my life. It’s worth remembering that, according to Peter Biskind’s excellent book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, George Lucas did not get on with his father at all.
Nevertheless, I cannot wait until Episode VIII. Cannot. Fucking. Wait.
And neither can Alice. HOORAY! I HAVE A CINEMA BUDDY FOR A DAUGHTER!