It's not often in excretera that I get to leave the obnoxious stench of my anger and bask in sweetly-fragranced joy, but yesterday was one of those days. For those of you that saw my Facebook update the other day, I've spent the last 72 hours happily reflecting on watching Star Wars with my sons for the first time.
(For those of you for whom that means nothing, or, instead of joining in my jubilation would see this as another reason to pour scorn, can I kindly ask you not to piss on my parade, just this once? Please...)
If, on the other hand you are a man of a certain age, you'll appreciate where I'm coming from. As I sat there on a very small couch with one arm each boy (Will 4, Jonah nearly 3, for those of you keeping score) I definitely had one of those 'Yes, these most certainly are my progeny' moments. They were completely and impressively committed to the cause. (And I say that even though Jonah fell asleep somewhere soon after Ben rescues Luke from the Sandpeople, and waking up just as Ben is confronting Vader. But when he was awake, there was nothing less that 100% commitment. Read on.)
I shouldn't be too surprised that they were prepared to get right into it. Heeding the dire warnings of a friend (thanks Nathan!) whose son's first attempted indoctrination was greeted with almost total indifference, I was determined to approach the problem strategically, carefully building a solid foundation that could only ever lead to success. Weaning Will from firemen last year, I planted an interest in knights, and fed this with regular visits to castles and a medieval tournament recreation. Once that had nicely blossomed, I trimmed and tweaked its development, and introduced plenty of space games and images, culminating in a visit to the Space Age exhibit at the Weston Park Museum. And this week I harvested the fruit of my hard work. And it was yummy.
(Jonah? He's at that stage where I have no influence on him whatsoever. Only Will has any say over that boy now, so that wasn't really a problem. Note to Freudians: only the eldest son, it seems, has an Oedipal conflict with the father. The next son's drama is with the first. I'm scouring Greek literature to find a suitable metaphor. Watch this space.)
I had to decide which Star Wars film, of course, now that there are 6 to choose from, and though many purists will castigate me for even considering showing him anything other than Episode IV, please consider: there are plenty of four-year-old-friendly moments in The Phantom Menace (pod races, lots more lightsaber action). Plus, Will is very interested in origins -- he is the target audience for prequels. And consider kids today, growing up on Toy Story and effects-laden real action films, would they be at all impressed with the simplicity of IV - VI? Also on my mind was that there are also some not-so four-year-old-friendly moments (Anakin leaving mummy, Qui-Gon Ginn getting sliced in two), so I went with IV. A wise choice, in the end, I think.
Will never stopped asking questions which constantly tested the limits of my knowledge -- do you know what planet the band from the Mos Eisley canteen are from? Well then... (In brushing up on my Star Wars knowledge, so I can be the all-knowing Daddy my sons think I am, for this week anyway, I discovered this: Wookieepedia! Awesome. So now I know that the Modal Nodes are Bith from the planet Clak'dor VII. Thank you Wookieepedia! you've managed to prolong the illusion of paternal omnipotence for a few more days.)
Jonah can be counted on to scream 'Look! Daddy! Robot! Look! Two robots!' or 'Look! Daddy! Dark Vater!' When Vader is standing with Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), Jonah screamed 'Look! Daddy! Dark Vater! Look! Daddy! Two Dark Vaters!' There was no way I could convince him otherwise.
Both Will and Jonah have an annoying habit of calling Darth Vader 'Dark Vater', which I actually figured out is not some cute childish mispronunciation but their damning assessment of my accent: in Toronto, all ts are pronounced as ds in the middle of words -- Beddy boughd some budder, etc., etc. --and so the little so-and-sos call him 'Dark Vater' because they are actually correcting what they assume to be my mispronunciation. Kids, eh?
A bit of a rationale: I was thinking the other day, being peppered with questions from Will about 'right' and 'wrong', 'good' and 'bad', how he isn't getting from me a Grand Narrative that explains all these things (No! let's blame culture and all it's post-modern, politically correct... no. On second thought, let's not). I knew, growing up, 'right' from 'wrong' in large part because of the way I was plugged into that whole God-thing. I knew that right was whatever someone told me would make Jesus happy, and anything else would condemn me to Eternal Damnation, etc.. So there were consequences. Now, obviously I don't want to burden my sons with that particular mythology (just look what it did to me!), so this seems like a good alternative. I'll let you know how it goes.
Putting him to bed that night, after talking a lot not just about lightsabers and Jedi Knights but also why nobody loves Darth Vader and it was wrong to blow up Alderaan, Will said, 'But it's just a story, right Daddy?' Lesson learned, job done, without forcing him to believe in any silly religious melodrama. (I much prefer this one...)
It's official: I am incapable of writing a short post.