Discuss: What is Star Wars Age?

At what age will you, or did you, show your child the original Star Wars film?

Photo of a cake that strongly resembles an upright R2-D2, although it is red instead of blue.

A couple recent events got my brain churning. First let me say I’m a fan. Been there, done that with action figures, light saber play, even Play Doh character molds.

Yesterday, Thinga-reader My Boaz’s Ruth e-mailed a tip about an intricate R2-D2 cake made for a 4-year-old’s birthday. Cool, huh? But my first thought upon learning the cake was for a toddler was, "A 4-year-old has no business watching Star Wars."

In this case, a party wrap-up explains that the child loves Star Wars from playing a Nintendo Wii Lego Star Wars game. For me, that opens a separate can of worms about when to introduce video games, particularly ones that include sword and gun play. (I love video games, particularly first person shooters, but not for my young children.)

Last week I learned that my daughter’s 3.5-year-old friend wants to be a Jedi. He’s been listening to recordings of a National Public Radio Star Wars dramatization produced in the early 1980s. My 9-year-old mind recalls it being quite cool.

How much a toddler absorbs from a radio serial is up for debate, but he can hum the theme music like a champ.

Another layer to this issue could be the nature of the violence.
Maybe you’re opposed to, say, any killing, or maybe you draw a
distinction if no blood is shown. Death is quite sanitary in the Star
Wars universe. Even severed hands don’t bleed. Does that matter?

Consider a more graphically violent film such as Spider-Man,
which ranked a PG-13 to Star Wars’ PG rating. Spider-Man products have been marketed to toddlers, one would presume, because toddlers know something about the film. I spied some Spider-Man
costumes last October at our preschool.

If it’s not apparent yet, I’m one of those parents who won’t give
his children weapons as playthings. I’m also big on withholding violent
and sexualized media until, well, I’m not sure what age, but I’ll take
a wild guess and say fourth grade for relatively tame fare. I may be
using my own childhood as a gauge.

I vividly remember at age 4 being made to stay home while
my older brothers went to the theatre to watch the PG-rated King Kong
starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. Yet, at age 7, I
thoroughly enjoyed The Muppet Movie in the theatre.

So… what’s my point? I’m in no rush for my kids to enter the world
of grown-up issues. I don’t mean giant apes and light sabers, but the
notion that violence is a normal course of action to resolve conflict.
All that will come soon enough.

Introducing my children to Star Wars will be a true joy for me, but
for the time being I’m looking forward to simpler content. How could I,
for example, even think of showing my daughter The Muppet Movie before
she has seen every episode of The Muppet Show? Seriously, the whole thing is slowly being rolled out on DVD.

Hey, so, I briefly touched upon a lot of issues, and I know many if not a majority of folks may disagree. So, what do you think? How will you handle Star Wars?

Also see previously:


27 Responses to “Discuss: What is Star Wars Age?”

  1. Tracy P says:

    My mum was pregnant with me when she saw the first star wars movie at the cinema, so I was fairly young when I first heard it ;o). I’m sure I had watched it before I was four. At three, my favourite tv star was Spock. I used to wander in and watch tv with my parents. I guess they figured I didn’t understand what was going on. Me and my brother had wooden swords and even my dads old boxing gloves. We watched cartoons before there was no violence. We’re responsible adults without criminal records. *Shrugs* We turned out alright. (Note: I’m not disagreeing with anyones right to choose what their child watches or plays with. Just sharing my own experience)

    PS I was also reading at three, and adult books before I was 10. I liked Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens.

    June 17th, 2008 at 4:33 am

  2. thordora says:

    My oldest is nearly 5, and we watched them a month or so ago on family movie night. She loved them-especially the wookies.

    The 3rd of the new series she isn’t allowed to watch since it’s rather dark, but she enjoyed the first (despite my protests) She really had no issues with the originals-I do believe we kept her from watching the one with Jabba-can’t remember the name.

    We try to place everything in it’s context when watching, but also leave her to just enjoy it. There are many movies I’ve said no to because I don’t want her exposed to that level of adult thinking just yet-Iron Man comes to mind. Problem is, her daddy reads comics and she reads comics, so she’s interested.

    Apparently they did love Kung Fu Panda together however. :)

    June 17th, 2008 at 4:36 am

  3. Sara says:

    Our 2.5 year old knows about star wars characters from Daddy, but has not seen the movies. My hubby taught him to breathe like Darth Vader at, like, 10 months old. Last Halloween he was Darth Vader because we got an adorable costume as a hand-me-down. Of course, Daddy insisted that because he had a costume, he needed his own light saber. And he also has a little set of action figures of Darth and Luke. But they accompany him on various adventures and he imagines all kinds of scenarios for them, way outside the movie plot lines. I feel like it would be a long time before he is ready to watch the movies, but it doesn’t bother me that he recognizes the characters and brings them into his own imaginary life.

    June 17th, 2008 at 4:56 am

  4. Jennifer says:

    Empire Strikes back was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I LOVED Star Wars as a kid, my brother and I played with all the action figures and I definitely remember an R2-D2 cake for one birthday or another. Empire came out in 1980, which would have made me NO MORE than FOUR years old. And today I am not a sociopath, I am an upstanding citizen, do not have tendencies toward violence and appreciate that my parents were not so over-sheltering as to deny me my childhood Star Wars exposure.

    June 17th, 2008 at 5:08 am

  5. Nancy says:

    This is actually very timely for me, as my turning-5-in-a-month son has been playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii with my husband and he loves it. We’ve talked about when to let him watch the movie but haven’t decided yet, we think it will be soon though. I don’t think he even knows there’s a movie, to be honest. We have friends who let their son watch it before he turned 4, and we thought that was too young.

    As for Spider-man, my son was one of 3 in his class last Halloween. He has never seen any of the movies or the TV show. Yet he loves Spidey – he knows how to “web” using his hands, and that the good Spidey is red and the bad one (Venom) is black. Just because kids like the character doesn’t mean their parents have let them watch any of the movies/shows.

    Also, the PG of 1977 is probably comparable to the PG-13 of today. Movies that were made 30-odd years ago that had a PG rating would never get that rating today.

    June 17th, 2008 at 6:14 am

  6. Tiffany says:

    Good question- and one you really have to think about when deciding what movies your child will watch. My son is just over 2, and so far has seen 3 movies total- Cars, Winnie the Pooh, and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie. That’s it. Why? Because, honestly, although I love (and own) just about every Disney movie, I just don’t think the themes are appropriate for a child that young. He’ll see them eventually, but for now, simple concepts of friendship and understanding are enough. But someone else brought up a good point as well- what about books? My son already thinks Frog and Toad are the best books ever (by Arnold Lobel, not the Wind and the Willows kind of Toad). He knows all his letters, and is spelling out words when we read. So, pretty much expect an early reader as I was. But how careful should I be of what he reads? My parents pretty much let me read anything (I was reading at 3). When my classmates were reading Beverly Clearly, I was reading Watership Down and the Lord of the Rings (age 7- my parents GAVE IT TO ME FOR CHRISTMAS- can you believe it? A 7-year-old??). The wolves gave me nightmares… but I still love those books. So, how careful should I be of what he reads? Or, should I just let him read, and talk to him about the concepts? I wouldn’t know nearly as much as I do today if my parents hadn’t let me read anything- and, I admit, there were quite a few I had to reread later, since I realized early on I didn’t understand what was going on in the book!

    June 17th, 2008 at 7:14 am

  7. Tim says:

    We’ve been watching movies (mostly Disney) with our son since about age 2.5. At 3, I agree with my wife that he’s not quite ready for Star Wars, but I know for certain that I had seen the original on HBO when I was five. I turned out OK, so I will let that be my guide. In the mean time, the Star Wars saga makes great fodder for bed time stories. You can leave out all the bloody parts. And, if you must show him or her something, look for clips on YouTube. I’ve shown my son some of the space scenes. He thinks the ships are cool, but he doesn’t really get that they are fighting.

    June 17th, 2008 at 7:59 am

  8. Steve says:

    When my son was 2 years old, we were watching the beginning half of the last (episode 3) Star Wars movie (the one where Darth is born) and didn’t even know that he was watching, but he loved it. He saw it and was fine with it. I have kept most violent movies and video games out of eye and earshot as best as I can, but just scanning through the channels at 7pm at night he gets tons of violence without us even realizing it. He’s now 4 years old and loves kids shows and the most violent thing we let him watch is American Gladiators – which he almost shakes with excitement for when he watches it. He’s managed to convince us to get him a squirt gun as a toy (no other gun toys though yet) and he ‘shoots’ us, but it’s not about death or killing, it’s more just to get us wet.

    I think that I was about 10 years old when the original Star Wars came out in theatres. I remember talking about it non-stop until I was 12. :) I was a super-fan and bought all of the toys. I don’t recall enjoying the shooting or the gore, but the space ships, the trash compactor monster, the death star, flying through space at the speed of light and the adventure was what I really remember as the enjoyable part of the Star Wars movies from my childhood.

    June 17th, 2008 at 8:27 am

  9. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    I vividly remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater. Jabba scared the crap out of me. I bolted out of the theater. I gave no warning just stood up an ran for the door. I was 4 years old. I also had nightmares for awhile about being encased in carbonite. So I am thinking I was a little too young for it at that time :)

    As for my son I still don’t know, I think some of it depends on the kid. I know that he is too young now (at 1 and 1/2) and we have been avoiding most TV and movies in general. He watches some random stuff on youtube, mostly so we can show him videos of stuff he is learning words for like trains, bicycles and lions. He also enjoyed the musical bits of the Tony Awards on Sunday before his bedtime came along.

    I do love Star Wars though so I really look forward to introducing it too him some day! This post gave me lots to ponder which is one of the things I like best about this blog!

    June 17th, 2008 at 8:35 am

  10. AJ says:

    AJ here… What I surmise from everyone’s comments is that we have a different basis for our decision.

    I infer that parents ask themselves, “Is my child old enough not to be scared or have nightmares?”

    I’m saying, “Desensitization to violence via mass media is a serious concern. How early do I want her consuming violent media, even media that I personally love to watch?”

    June 17th, 2008 at 9:23 am

  11. Paul says:

    I have vivid memories of seeing Star Wars in the theater as a 5 year old with my family. It was so different than anything I had ever experienced, at least 75% went over my head, I certainly did not comprehend sword and gun play, death, romance or other themes of the movie at that time. All I saw were cool robots and space ships. That being said, I have gotten considerably more conservative now. My 10 year old was allowed to see the original trilogy just earlier this year. He will not be seeing the new trilogy anytime soon due to the increase in graphic violence and sexual themes. BTW he LOVED the original trilogy, and we had a great time as a family sitting and watching them together. We let him watch Raiders of the Lost Ark over the weekend and both my wife and I are sorry we did. Odd, because I saw it in the theater when I was 10 and did not notice the gory deaths, flim shots up a woman’s dress, and several obvious innuendos. My parents were definitely more liberal in what they let me view as a child, and I am trying to be somewhat more protective.

    June 17th, 2008 at 9:28 am

  12. Kelly says:

    I would let my daughter play Lego Star Wars long before I would l let her watch the movies. I personally don’t see 2 Lego guys hitting each other with sticks (the light sabers) causing them to brake into a few pieces all that violent. The game is just silly which is why I love it. No blood or gore just a few lego pieces on the floor.

    I don’t think there is any “right” age. I think every kid is different one maybe ready to watch the movies at 5 and another at 7.

    June 17th, 2008 at 9:47 am

  13. AJ says:

    AJ again… Oof, Paul’s comment got me doing the math. I was 5-years-old when I saw Star Wars in the theatre. Hmm, but a year earlier King Kong was off limits? I’m sure my mother will be e-mailing later today to explain herself.

    So, in some ways, I’m stricter than my mother was with me. Or maybe the issue is one of being strictest with the first child and by the fourth you’ve loosened up, or it’s just easier with four kids if the youngest takes part.

    June 17th, 2008 at 9:57 am

  14. Sara says:

    I think in some ways you have to ask when the child is ready. But I agree that the desensitization to violence is a HUGE issue for me. To me, the issue of television comes into that as well. How much, when, & how to introduce TV? I also wonder about books…yes, I have the Harry Potters, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, etc. books and I know my son will love them…at the right time. And that right time may be different for each kid. I’m not sure if there’s a “set age” when it’s ok. You have to know your kid and make that determination based on that…

    June 17th, 2008 at 9:58 am

  15. Michelle says:

    I’m a pretty conservative mom when it comes to movie watching. I won’t let my daughter (now 4 1/2) watch many Disney movies because of the way the characters talk to one another. Even Toy Story has the characters arguing and calling each other stupid. I don’t want her to think that is the “natural” and ok way to talk to people.

    A couple of weekends ago my husband was up early and was watching Star Wars when my daughter and I woke up and came downstairs. We watched for maybe 10 minutes or so and she has not stopped asking about Chewbacca (sorry if misspelled, I, obviously, was not a fan!) She was fascinated with his “language”. I did have my husband turn it off after a few minutes because of the fighting. Again, I don’t want her to see fighting as the natural option when you disagree. We try to reinforce talking as the first option!

    Good Post, AJ, I think I will email it to my husband.

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:35 am

  16. CanCan says:

    I watched Return of the Jedi when I was 4. I loved it! But I’m the kind of mom who probably wouldn’t let my preschooler watch it. Maybe I was a “mature” 4.

    June 17th, 2008 at 10:41 am

  17. Jed G says:

    I was 6 1/2 when I saw Star Wars. Bluntly, Darth Vader scared the crap out of me, and I spent a part of the rest of the movie peeking out from underneath my jacket. I think a child’s responses to a movie will depend on previous media exposure and also the situation – if I’d seen it at home I’d probably not have been as scared (plus we could have paused the movie).

    So far for us it’s a moot point as we don’t watch TV when our 1.5 yo is awake [too busy chasing him :) ] I think I’m more in line with Paul – watching a cool trilogy as a family with an older child – but perhaps vetting them before we sit down together. We’re still struggling with the question of how soon do we start with specific toy lines/movie or TV tie-ins/etc. Even the Muppets are commercialized now. I think we’ll stick with generic Halloween costumes for a while, even though we’ll have to make them ourselves. [Of course, I was a 6-year-old Jawa in 1977.]

    June 17th, 2008 at 11:32 am

  18. Jennifer says:

    The decision is based on how well you know your child. You know what she can handle. Does she have an understanding of real versus fiction? From reading past posts (I’m thinking of the pirate talks) she may have a good handle of this.
    It’s also going to depend on how much violence in a fiction scenario she can handle. I’ve known children who were 4 or 5 who could easily handle these movies and other children who were 10 and couldn’t handle it.

    June 17th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  19. phyllis says:

    this is such a point of contention between my husband and I. He always wants to introduce things far before I think we should. My now 6.5 y.o. has seen all three of the “original” Star Wars and the first of the new set. The others are, I feel, too dark — and I’m standing my ground here!

    But the biggest issue is my son’s desire to “belong” — not only to what his friends are doing and seeing (i.e. he hadn’t seen Spiderman until just last week when he watched it at a playdate with a same-aged friend), but also what we, his parents, are interested in. We eagerly awaited the arrival of Book 7 of Harry Potter last summer and he was dying to see the movies, which I insisted had to come after reading the books. So he’s now read Books 1 and 2…and I’m holding off on Book 3 until he turns 8. It’s hard for me to hold out but I really firmly believe that some things are best kept until older!

    Then again, my husband decided that the kiddo was old enough for The Karate Kid this weekend. That was our rainy Father’s Day morning activity…watching the movie.

    Here’s my issue: we have been (up til now, I suppose) incredibly strict about these things with #1. What about #2, and #3…they see things that I consider to be already far beyond their years just because of their big brother! What do you do about that….!?

    P.S. Last thought: We actually debated whether or not to introduce Star Wars as Ep 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3…or 1,2,3,4,5,6….we never really made a decision since we decided he couldn’t see 2, 3 until older. The debates of Fan Parents.

    June 17th, 2008 at 7:39 pm

  20. Fran says:

    I was in junior high school when Star Wars came out and for some reason, the entire 8th grade was taken on a field trip to watch it one day. I think that was a perfect age to watch it for the first time.

    June 18th, 2008 at 12:15 am

  21. brettdl says:

    Considering the Curious George movie seriously scared my almost 6-year-old, we’re going to have to wait a bit. He might be ready around 16 or so.

    June 18th, 2008 at 5:08 am

  22. Pippin says:

    Not sure when I’ll let the one year old see Star Wars.

    We do have the Electric Company DVD’s. She’s too little to understand (and I don’t let her see much TV), but I’ve seriously enjoyed watching the DVDs and reliving my childhood.

    There are segments of Electric Company that have Spiderman. That’s how, at 5,6,7, I knew who he was- I had no siblings, and I didn’t read any comics other than Archie and Richie Rich.

    I knew all about Spidey though.

    June 18th, 2008 at 11:11 am

  23. AJ says:

    Jed, my solution to commercialized characters is to not buy branded products. I can think of only two times I’ve strayed:

    1. We have Winnie the Pooh books, but only one plush Pooh.
    2. We have a wooden Thomas the Train railway set, but have never watched the TV show.

    The Muppet Movie and Star Wars will have their day, and hopefully I won’t be buying any action figures or plush Muppets.

    June 19th, 2008 at 10:35 am

  24. Andrea says:

    We come from a Star Wars obsessed family.

    My kids are one and two, but my husband and I had this discussion a couple of years ago when my brother-in-law showed the movie to my then three and four-year-olds niece and nephew. They loved it then and love it now, but we will NOT show our kids Star Wars until they are MUCH older.

    Why would you want to turn Star Wars into a “little kid” movie by showing it to them before they can appreciate it? The fact that nearly everything will go over their heads is not an excuse to let them watch it, but a reason to wait. You risk turning it into “a movie for babies” that your kids will not want to watch when they reach an age where it is appropriate.

    June 19th, 2008 at 8:44 pm

  25. AJ says:

    Ahh, good point. How special you perceive a movie to be has a lot to do with the circumstances of its first viewing.

    Take Paul’s example of showing Star Wars to his 10-year-old. I bet a few years from now the film will still be special… but if he had shown the film at age 4 or 5, an age at which you retain very few memories, I bet by age 10 Star Wars would have been “just another film.”

    June 19th, 2008 at 8:51 pm

  26. Noreen says:

    on the disk of the final movie made, episode III they have a mini movie wrap up. One covers anakin (SP?) and the other Luke skywalker. My husband plays it for our 5 year old and she loves it, as it is not as dark or scary as the full movies. She hums all the music and loves play the lego starwars game on DS. She also plays with some of her daddy’s starwars figurines.

    June 19th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

  27. Deb says:

    I’m glad to read many of the above comments. Guess I was looking for confirmation that my 6 yr. old doesn’t need to be exposed to Star Wars yet in spite of the fact that most of his friends have seen the movies. BOLT kept him wide awake the evening after he saw it, so that is a good indicator that the more serious stuff is still too scary.

    November 30th, 2008 at 7:46 am

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