We’ve slowly been introducing our two-year-old to Star Wars. He’s got an R2-D2 plush toy. He was an Ewok last year for Halloween. We make all the regulation Star Wars jokes: “That’s no moon.” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” “Waaaaaaaah, I want to go to Tosche Station for power converters.” You know, the usual.
A slight problem has arisen, however. Enter one of the oldest spoilers in pop culture: The Family Skywalker.
(Now would be a good time to stop reading if you somehow haven’t seen The Empire Strikes Back.)
His favorite book is Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. He loves it because it reflects the relationship he has with his own father. He sees a little boy who spends a lot of time with his daddy, and a dad who will give up his own ice cream cone to make his son happy. Also, there are robots.
I was totally cool with all of this, until it dawned on me, one day while I watched him reading it: Hold up. My son’s favorite book is a spoiler.
I’ve been preparing myself for all sorts of parenting challenges since he was in the womb. You know, restricting screen time. Making sure he sees other kids and learns to share. Allowing him to make his own mistakes.
Spoilers in pop culture? I didn’t read any think pieces about this.
My kid is going into the Star Wars universe knowing that Vader is Luke’s dad. Good lord, I thought, in the grips of a small geek tailspin. Is he being robbed of some essential childhood shock?
How different will his experience be from the one I had? What is your perception of A New Hope if you already know that Vader is Luke’s and Leia’s father? (For reference, I was shocked when I watched The Empire Strikes Back. Shocked. I made my dad roll back the VHS so I could watch it again for verification.)
Look. I know this spoiler is old news. I mean, the Star Wars universe I grew up with consisted of three films, some toys, and a bunch of books. Now we’ve got the prequels (which themselves are spoilers) and the new trilogy, and the Clone Wars series, and whatever standalone films will come. I get it. The cat’s been out of the bag long enough to have kittens, and for those kittens to have kittens, and for those kittens to have kittens.
Having kids is weird. You introduce them to all of your favorite things, and you subconsciously expect that their experience of these things will be exactly like your own. This seems to afflict all kinds of parents; look at the generations of people who have made their kids take up baseball or ballet because they enjoyed those things.
But it’s a ridiculous expectation. One of the most delightful things about having a kid is being able to introduce them to the things you love. Trying to guard him from one big open secret, and trying to police his experience of a franchise I love, totally ruins that joy.
So go forth, my child. Know that Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.
And I will be here to talk about it when it turns out that Vader is less about sharing ice cream and more about chopping off hands.