Holly Swanson: Falling for Star Wars
Without looking any of it up on Wookieepedia, I can tell you the name of Princess Leia’s home planet (Alderaan), who ran Cloud City (Lando Calrissian, played by the lovely Billy Dee Williams), and what happened on Mustafar (bad things).
I’m not really proud of this knowledge. It snuck into my head accidentally during the last 18 months as I helped my then 6-year-old develop better movie habits (meaning that his choices didn’t bore me to tears).
Technically, I know we are not supposed to admit that young children watch television and movies. We should be helping them with science experiments or turning them into early readers.
But in my house, we spent several years with Finding Nemo, Cars, and Blues Clues. When I could no longer stand animation and the rhyming songs that go along with it, I turned to Star Wars.
I had no intention of becoming a Star Wars fan myself. I remember that it was a big deal during my childhood and I was excited the first time it aired on network television, but that was the extent of my Star Wars interest. Truthfully, I thought the merchandising and fan devotion was completely overblown.
But that was before I realized how long summer vacation could be. With no neighborhood kids to play with and a temporary medical issue that left me mostly couch-bound, there was going to be way too much SpongeBob SquarePants and Wii on my television.
So on the last day of school, I picked up the DVD of Return of the Jedi. The special effects are poor compared to today's movies, but who doesn’t love Ewoks?
Fast-forward to the end of the summer. I was, by then, a full-fledged Star Wars fan. My son and I had all six movies, about a dozen books, vintage-looking T-shirts (for both of us), pajamas (for him) and countless Star Wars Legos sets that were mostly his but that I got to help with.
What wasn't to like about Star Wars for a grown woman? There was the complex though-often-redundant plot, a light romance, lots of bad acting to make fun of, and Han Solo. The storyline reminded me of the ancient mythology classes I took in college and my son was intrigued by the science of space exploration and, yes, the fighting.
As a parenting bonus, the movies are filled with ethical dilemmas. The struggle between good and evil and the examples of how the characters have to live with their choices, whether right or wrong, is like 10 years of parenting lessons wrapped into a DVD box set.
But then something happened. My Padawan began drifting away from Star Wars. He stopped paying attention during the Clone Wars television show, which was once our standing Friday night ritual. He didn't laugh when I quoted Yoda or did a Chewbacca impression (maybe he never laughed at that). He wasn’t very excited about the Darth Vader bobblehead I ordered.
Worse, he started to ask questions about Harry Potter.
And then, last summer, there was Star Wars night at the State College Spikes game. I was very excited. My son? Not so much. State College was in the midst of a heat wave and I was eight months pregnant, but I still made us go to the stadium.
I stood in line to meet the characters. He played in the bounce house. I got my picture taken with an Imperial Guard (see above). He barely looked at them.
In the past few months, my son has moved on to the Avengers and other superhero/wizard/ninja type stories. He’ll still talk Star Wars with me, but he’s clearly just humoring me.
I’ve invested too much of my brain space, though, and can’t just turn my attention to another imaginary world so quickly. I remain committed to the Force, even if my son is on the other side of it.