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.

tpm-anakin-skywalker

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Code of Conduct

Sometimes, fans piss me off.  They really do.  And to me, there is nothing worse than judgment from within the Star Wars community.  So-and-so thinks they’re a better fan because they’ve read every single EU book, so-and-so thinks they’re the biggest fan because they have the most Star Wars costumes, so-and-so thinks they’re the best fan because they listen to podcasts, read every Star Wars blog, etc., etc.  But lately – what’s been pissing me off the most – are the people who want to shove their opinion down my throat on why the Prequels suck.

I guess, in a way, I get angry at people who refuse to acknowledge the Prequels because it’s still part of Star Wars.  Like any relationship, there are parts about it that you love, and parts that you can’t stand.  All six movies came from George Lucas, so let’s embrace it as a whole story, as opposed to separate chunks.

I’m not trying to rant here.  I love that people have different opinions, and everyone knows that I really can’t stand AOTC, but I feel like when I’m talking to another fan – please show respect.  I, for one, love TPM and it’s the whole reason I have an Old Republic Jedi Costume.

While mulling this in my head yesterday while stuck in a ridiculous amount of traffic, I created a code of conduct (though the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules) for all Star Wars fans.  Yes, ALL.  So you must ALL follow what I say, OKAY?!

The Do’s and Don’ts When Talking with Prequel Fans

Don’t judge people who like the Prequels or try to “convert” them to the Original Trilogy.  Yes, there are those out there who actually like the Prequels.  We should try to look at the Star Wars saga as a “whole”, as opposed to two separate trilogies.  There’s always someone in the family that you’re a little ashamed of and don’t want to be seen in public with, but they’re blood and you still love them.  Same thing goes for the Prequels.  I also know many children who adore the Prequels.  These younglings look at the Original Trilogy as outdated, but love the flash and glitz of the Prequels.  And don’t forget, the Prequels are a precursor to The Clone Wars, which for many of them, is why they were drawn into the Star Wars universe to begin with.  When you try to change someone’s mind about the movies they like, you only end up coming off as condescending.  No one wants that.

jedi training academy disneyworld

Don’t blame everything on Jar Jar Binks.  He was only prominent in one movie.  Most people view Jar Jar with hatred through adult eyes.  I remember being a child when TPM first came out and didn’t mind Jar Jar.  In fact, I didn’t like or dislike him, he was just another character that was in the movie.  I feel that so many adults hated his childish ways and discounted the fact that a lot of children enjoyed his presence in the movie.  Lucas has said, “the movies are for children but they don’t want to admit that… There is a small group of fans that do not like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like The Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike.”  What we forget as adults is how bogged down TPM gets with politics and dialogue and so much of it goes way over the head of young children.  Having Jar Jar there as a distraction keeps the children slightly more engaged through the dialogue-ridden scenes.  And without Jar Jar, we wouldn’t have my FAVORITE spoof of all time from Robot Chicken:

Don’t blame George Lucas for ruining Star Wars.  We all wanted the movies.  For years, fans wanted Episodes I-III.  And we begged, clamored, and speculated as to if these movies were ever going to come to fruition.  And guess what?  Lucas decided, “Hey, I think it’s time to tell Anakin’s complete story”.  He proceeded to make TPM…and everyone hated him.  It’s sad, because the expectations were SO HIGH.  We wanted the Original Trilogy back.  But technology had changed, Hollywood had changed, and Lucas had changed.  We forget how much he pushed the envelopes with technology during the Prequels.  When you look at the CGI, Jar Jar was seamlessly blended into the movies, and you forget that he is completely computer generated, along with Dexter Jettster, the Kaminoans, Grievous, etc.  Lucas pushed the boundaries and made these characters that only existed onscreen believable.

george lucas filming

 

Do find good things to say about the Prequels.  There are so many reasons, and I’ve just listed a few above.  When you show that you are open to accepting the Prequels as part of the Star Wars saga, you end up being more welcoming to different kinds of Star Wars fans.  Encourage people to talk about their love of the Prequels, and don’t mention how much you hate them until you get to know them better.  Treat the Prequels like you would treat politics: sensitively, and not trying to push your opinion down anyone’s throat.  There are valid points for liking the prequels, and remember that it can be very subjective.

Everyone likes happy Star Wars fans

Everyone likes happy Star Wars fans

 

Now, let’s all make this fandom a better place, right?

Girls and Sci-Fi

Why don’t girls (in general) like sci-fi as much as boys?  I love Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Dune, and more, so I can’t speak for most girls, but I was grumbling to myself the other day about how none of my girlfriends like sci-fi.

Yup.  You got that.  NONE.  None of them even have a shred of understanding about my love/obsession and most have not even seen all six Star Wars movies.  I have one friend who is borderline understanding because she has a twin brother who is really into sci-fi.

So, with my girlfriends, I never talk about anything related to sci-fi.  I have great group of diverse friends and all of us have different interests but occasionally, I would like to have one girlfriend who wants to go to cons with me and encourages/challenges me in my love of sci-fi.

I think one of the main reasons that girls do not like sci-fi, whether they realize this or whether it’s subconscious, is that sci-fi has always been geared towards men.  It’s hard to empathize with the characters in a sci-fi movie when there are not many female characters actually playing a key part.  As a young girl, being brought up to like flowers, pastel colors, and butterflies, it’s hard to see yourself getting dirty and shooting guns.  I am generalizing on all this of course – we all know that – and there are always exceptions, myself being one of them since  I love the thought of running around in unknown landscapes and fighting aliens.

So if you are raised on The Little Mermaid or Barbies (which my mother would not let me own and even returned ones that I got as a birthday present to my dismay and anger…story for another time), and there are few females to relate to in a science fiction movie/TV show, how can you see yourself in that setting?  This is a much more complicated subject than my brief analysis and I’m only speaking from my own point of view.  Simply put, I loved movies and books where I could see myself as the main character.  Don’t get me wrong – gender did matter to me, I always wanted to be a boy when I was growing up and thought they had it so awesome and had it so easy (sometimes I still think that), but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to be the main character just because he was a boy.  I could easily translate that into my head as a girl playing that role instead.

But if gender was a big hindrance for some girls growing up, then perhaps they could not imagine themselves in a sci-fi setting because there were no main roles for girls.  So instead, their parents plop them in front of movies with a female character because they think, “Oh, another girl, so my daughter can relate to her,” and those movies are usually Disney princess movies, Lizzie McGuire/Hannah Montana, My Little Pony, etc.  If that’s what young girls are supposed to relate to, well it’s no wonder they shy away from science fiction.

If directors and story writers took the time to carve out strong, relevant female lead characters in a science fiction narrative, perhaps more girls would be interested in the genre.  There has been a lot of movement in this area with TV shows/movies by Joss Whedon, Disney’s “Brave”, and the “Hunger Games”.  I think the public is recognizing the need to show females in a relatable format on the big screen and in novels, but it will be slow and a long time coming.  And even if something progressive should happen for young girls, like Brave, will there be an attempt to mold her into something our male dominated society is more interested in seeing?  Think of a curvy figure with long flowing hair and see this article.  Thankfully, Disney quickly turned around their decision on that but it still raised a lot of eyebrows and voices against it.  Even Joss Whedon was pulled into the madness of marketing a sexier female on his Avenger movie poster…as if Scarlett Johansson is not sexy enough.

avengers scar jo butt shot

Am I making sense?  This is just a small, minor theory and there are some excellent, more in depth blog posts out on the internet with a better analysis about why sci-fi has not always been female friendly.  (Here are a couple good examples: Lois Lane and the Case for the Female Superhero Movie and Girl Power?)

Based on these musings, I decided to ask around between friends and colleagues to see if I could get any answer on what girls don’t like about the sci-fi genre.  I only asked girls because…well, we’re girls.  I tried to ask a good range of sci-fi fans and non-sci-fi fans, but it was heavily weighted on the non sci fi fan side since my female sci-fi fans are few and far between.

The questions I asked were, “Why do you think girls are not as interested in science fiction as men?” and “Why are you specifically not interested/interested?”

I’m not expecting anything ground breaking here, just something to satisfy my own curiosity because I’ve actually never asked my friends these questions.  It would be interesting to post them and see what the answers are and if my small theory is at all correct.

Stay tuned!

Big Smile

There are two random things of note that made my happy bubble expand.

First – Last week, someone brought their two boys into our office.  I love little boys, I really do.  They are so full of energy and just adorable when they are younger.  And, of course, they are the perfect candidate to talk about Star Wars with since most boys today know about the Clone Wars and that’s how they got into Star Wars.  (However, I have met a few that know nothing about the saga, and only the Clone Wars, which leaves me with conflicting feelings, but that is something for another time)

I was in the kitchen grabbing a bagel while my colleague was introducing his children and wife to others.  The youngest (they must have been around ages 5 and 8) was staring at the bagels longingly and I noticed he had a Yoda t-shirt on.

I immediately told him I loved Star Wars and he just shouts, “Yeah, I love Yoda!”

I said, “You know, I have a Yoda toy at my desk, if you’d like to come look at it.”

The older brother had to pipe in at that point and he says, “Me too, I like Yoda.  I like other Star Wars stuff too.”

They both followed me to my desk and were enthralled with the paraphernalia on my desk.  They talked on and on to me about Star Wars and were able to name everything on my desk.  They played with my R2-D2 action figure, my Yoda plush toy, the Obi-Wan action figure, and had fun naming each of the pictures I had of characters taped in different areas of my desk.  Their parents had to basically pry them away from my little area, but it just made my day.

How cool is it when little younglings have such a strong inclination to the Force?  I mean, these kids just were so excited and I bet you that it was their favorite part of the office.

Second – my little YouTube video that I made on a whim has been making the rounds with friends and family, of course.  I found out this weekend that my in-laws friend’s daughter (talk about a mouthful…let’s just say “family friend”) is 16 years old and has never seen Star Wars.  Now, I don’t care about that at all.  If you’ve never seen Star Wars, hate Star Wars, are “too cool” for Star Wars…I don’t care.  But in this instance, a teenage girl who has never seen Star Wars saw my video, enjoyed it, and watched the entire saga in a marathon because she wanted to see what Star Wars was all about.  She loved it and then she did a second saga marathon!  Wow.  I mean, I have not done a Star Wars marathon in years because it is so time-consuming and she has done it twice in a month.

I have literally brought someone to the love of Star Wars.  I am so happy about that because I don’t think it’s ever happened before in my life.

I love just seeing how Star Wars impacts other people.  I try not to be corny about this stuff, but it’s so nice to see how one movie can touch millions of people and bring people together.  How nice that a 25 year old can connect with children under 10.  And I love knowing how different people have fallen in love with Star Wars and one person can say she watched Star Wars because a YouTube video sparked her interest.

Big smile.