Why TPM Is Important For Children

Most people of my generation were brought up with the Prequels and most (but not all) find them perfectly okay.  Maybe not as great as the OT, but still worthy of watching.  However, I think the general consensus is that the Prequels should be held off for a while and you should have your children watch the OT for the first few rounds of Star Wars.

I have mentioned before that while I love and enjoy The Phantom Menace, it’s hard for children to watch because of the amount of talking anakin-and-kitsterand politics that are involved.  This came from an experience I had watching it with a 5 year old Star Wars fan.  He enjoyed the movie but got insanely distracted and bored during any of the senate scenes, or really…any scene that had a lot of talking which is quite a lot in TPM.

Yet I was thinking about TPM a few weeks ago and realized something that has been so obvious from the beginning: TPM is the only Star Wars movie that has a child in a leading role. Not only does it have a child in a leading role, it also has a cast of much younger characters than any of the other movies.

TPM boasts a cast of children that we see in multiple scenes, namely Anakin Skywalker.  On top of that, we have all of Anakin’s friends who show up when he is working on his podracer and his best friend Kitster also appears in many scenes, showing us that Anakin is quite a normal young child, despite his abilities.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Timothy 4:12,

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Though this was in reference to an early (“young”) church, many people use it when teaching children in Sunday School.  It shows children that they too can be an example to others, even though they are so young.

The importance of children in TPM cannot be overlooked.  It is similar to the Bible verse in that when you show TPM to a child, you are showing that this galaxy far, far away has children who went on to do an extraordinary things.  Not teenagers, not adults, but children.  Of course, I’m talking about TPM only and not the rest of the Prequels/OT because I’m not sure little Ani’s Jedi wipeout is considered “extraordinary”.

padme-tpmThough I would not label Padmé as a child, I think she is still an important figure for children to see in the movie because she is the next step up.  We see such broad age ranges of people in TPM that it doesn’t take much for children to make a leap from Anakin, to Padmé, and then to Obi-Wan.

With Anakin, we see a young boy who can create and repair giant podracers.  He then makes the hard decision to leave his mother, whom he may never see again, to go on a different life path.  At the end of the movie, he saves the day by blowing up the Trade Federation Battleship.

Padmé is fourteen in TPM, a young teenager, and we see that she rules an entire planet as its queen.  She also disguises herself and goes along with the Jedi on Tatootine so that she can know exactly what is going on with the mission.  Towards the end of the movie, she makes the brave decision to return home to her planet against advice and enlist the help of an alienated race.

Obi-Wan is in his twenties in TPM and you get to see how even though he’s in his 20s, he’s not quite old enough to be independent.  He still needs to follow the rules set out for him by older Jedi until he passes his training.  This shows younger children that there are still limits that you have to work around even when you are older.

Realizing this made me rethink my decision on waiting until ARM is older for her to watch the Prequels.  Perhaps it would be smarter to introduce TPM when she is younger, maybe as soon as she can understand plot flows and larger concepts.  I don’t think the ages of characters is something that will be obvious to her, but perhaps subliminally it will be a good message.



9 thoughts on “Why TPM Is Important For Children

  1. I wish anti-prequel derangement syndrome didn’t have us all thinking we need to start every discussion of the prequels with an apology for liking them 😦 Roger Ebert considered Episode I a masterpiece, and the prequels are in many ways far better films in a technical sense than the original three. At least people should be willing to remove nostalgia goggles and admit that all six have the same types of flaws (weak dialogue, uneven pacing, and the kind of massive continuity blundering that requires a rich and full expanded universe to compensate).

    Now on to the more relevant response 🙂 I know that was only marginally related, sorry! I’ve always been against letting children — that is, the preteen crowd — see Star Wars. It has a reputation for being a “kids’ film” which I think detracts from its cultural value; I was 11 the first time I saw it, and within a year I was sick of everyone I knew dismissing me for liking a “movie for little boys.” Of course, at age 11, my definition of “children” meant “anyone under 10.” At age 31, my definition of “children” has become “anyone under 19,” so I have to specify that Star Wars is for older children, not younger ones. And E1 is the first of the six that George Lucas actually made *for* children, for his own children. So I do agree completely.

    I think that all six films should be introduced as a unit. Separating them just encourages galactic newcomers to think of them separately. I saw the trilogy, read my first EU books, and learned of the soon-to-be-released prequels all within ten months, and therefore I always saw all three categories of the canon as created equal. I think it’s a disservice to anyone you hope will love Star Wars to introduce any part of it apologetically. When I first introduced it to my 11-year-old niece, we watched all six and I gave her the juvenile novelization of “Shadows of the Empire” all within a few months, so that she, too, would see Star Wars the way I did: one canonical whole, a trinity made up of the PT, the OT, and the EU, all different but equal. My new recommendation is always flashback order: whenever you introduce Star Wars to someone, watch A New Hope, followed by Empire Strikes Back, *then* do the prequel trilogy and finish with Return of the Jedi. It solves every difficulty!

    (Oh! And by the way, the verse in 1 Timothy *does* refer to a youthful person. Timothy was quite a young man, and Paul’s letter to him is meant to encourage a young pastor in an established church 🙂 So you’re even more on point with the comparison than you thought!)

      1. It really does! It preserves the “I am your father” shock while keeping the “Sidious/Palpatine??” shock a secret. And drawing out the tension of “what happened to Han?!” through three more films is a big bonus.

        It does shatter the “Leia is my sister” reveal, but that seems pretty minor to me — in fact, I think “she’s carrying twins” would blow a newcomer’s mind *way* more O:)

        1. Did it seem like I was apologizing for liking the Prequels? I’m sorry if it did! I was trying to remain so neutral on that too, while emphasizing how much I love TPM with no shame. I think maybe the third sentence sounded like that though I was just trying to point out my generation as a “whole”, not me specifically. My reasons for not starting with TPM was listed in the next paragraph (though I kind of find that with the Prequels as a whole – TPM has a lot of politics talking, AOTC has a lot of romance/talking but does slightly pick up the action, and ROTS might be too scary for some children).

          Actually – I think your post and mention about TPM being Lucas’ first movie made specifically for children is why my mind went down the rabbit hole on this subject. I then realized that TPM was the only movie with a big cast of children and I was thought that was interesting.

          I do like the machete theory but am still back and forth on whether or not I can do that with my children primarily for this reason: they are being brought up in a big Star Wars household. They will grow up knowing and understanding Star Wars from as soon as they can understand the world. So a lot of the shock of the “I am your Father” and other revelations just may not be possible to hold back. I have to see how it goes. If my daughter is asking questions like, “Who is Luke’s father” or “How does Obi-Wan know…” etc, and we are NOT watching the movies, then I might answer her truthfully. Though this is all TBD, I guess. I think the machete theory would work wonderfully on someone who has never seen Star Wars before, but I just don’t know if that’s possible in this Jedi household.

          Again, we’ll have to see what happens, right? I’m flying by the seat of my pants with this parenting thing.

          And thank you for pointing that out about Timothy! I learned in Bible class that there was some debate on that but maybe it is young pastor + young church. I do love that verse and have always loved that verse.

  2. What an appropriate post for the first day of Lent! I don’t hate the prequels per se, I just think they could have been so much better. Lucas should have really mapped out what he wanted at the high level and then put his ego in a drawer and let real writers mash out a 3 movie storyline that told the tale of Luke Skywalker’s origin.

    To use a real life analogy, the ACA could be so much better if everyone had worked together instead of fighting, stalling and compromising just to get it passed. And that’s not to bash a particular side. Dems, Reps, and the insurance and healthcare industrial are all culpable in that one.

    By the time my kids are old enough to watch PT and OT, the final trilogy should be finished. It’s gonna be a great weekend watching all that.

    1. Oh man, a whole weekend of Star Wars! How fun. Yeah, I was just replying to Megan above that I have no idea how I’m going to show the Star Wars series to my kids since they will grow up with it alllll around them alllll the time.

      I think the Prequels have more faults than the OT but overall I think they are quite good (barring AOTC, but even that has it’s pros). And I love, love, love TPM. As I get older, I do see that Jar Jar is annoying but he doesn’t bother me as he bothers other people. I also really like ROTS but it is quite dark.

  3. I think young kids today (gosh I sound old) might actually be introduced to Star Wars not through the movies, but through the TV shows like Rebels (and whatever comes after it, because I’m sure they’ll do another cartoon). Ezra is older than Anakin in EpI, but he’s definitely still a kid. Same with Ahsoka.

    1. Yes yes! They definitely are. The 5 year old I mentioned was actually a big fan of TCW. He hadn’t seen many of the movies. But I want to introduce my children to the movies before the TV shows (that’s probably the only thing I’m set on) so looking at the cast of TPM, I’m becoming inclined to throw it in the mix earlier than I originally thought I would.

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