Saturday, May 14, 2005
  Laugh It Up, Fuzzball

For the past three months or so, all I have heard from my son's mouth are two words: "May 19th." I have come to think that those words have multiple meanings. I think I have even heard him mutter those words in his sleep. You see my son loves Star Wars. In fact, he has never seen any of the Star Wars movies in the theaters before because he is only 5 (he’ll be 6 in June). Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith would have been his first and only chance to witness the joy of it all on the big screen.

Then George Lucas ruined that dream for my son. You see, he decided that Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was not kid friendly, and rated it PG-13. Now, I have taken my kids to plenty of PG-13 movies before, so the rating doesn’t scare me away. What scares me away is the fact that George Lucas keeps saying that this movie is not appropriate for children.

If it really isn’t appropriate for children, then I really wish that he would stop marketing it to the people it isn’t appropriate for. You can’t go into Wal-Mart (or any store for that matter) and not find Star Wars toys, Star Wars children’s clothing, free light saber spoons in your kid’s favorite breakfast cereals, and to top it all off commercials for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith during your children’s favorite cartoons. If the movie isn’t for children, then why on earth is he marketing it for children.

This morning the kids were watching the cartoon One Piece. We were sitting and watching it with them. A block of commercials came on. The first commercial was for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that was airing in a little bit. It showed the turtles fighting bad guys, jumping around, and having a jolly good time. The next commercial was for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It was almost identical in style to the previous commercial. It showed only scenes from the movies that involved light sabers and jumping around with light sabers. And while all this was happening there was voice over by a nice, middle-aged man who spoke in a very calming, pleasant voice. After the preview went off the boys were talking about how they couldn’t wait until May 19th. We decided we needed to talk to them about the possibility about them not being able to see it at all. We turned the TV off.

We told them that they might not be able to see the new Star Wars movie because the director is saying it’s too scary for kids. My stepson immediately said that the preview he had just seen didn’t look scary at all. We explained that the preview he had just seen was probably made just for kids. And that it was just thirty seconds of a movie that will be well over two hours. The boys were upset. They really want to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. And I want them to be able to.

But I have a personal dilemma. If I don’t take them, then I feel like a bad parent for making them miss out on one of the biggest events in cinematic history. However, if we take them, and it’s too scary then we’ll feel like bad parents for taking them. We are going to try and research as much as possible before we make the final decision as to whether the kids go or not. I am just mad at George Lucas for making me have to go through this dilemma. I understand that the story is too scary for kids. Then make the movie you want, and stop selling it to kids. Stop making toys, and children’s clothing. Or you suck it up and cut it to make it PG. I know that idea sucks, but that way he’d not break the hearts of kids everywhere who are sitting at home playing with their toy of some character from the movie that they want to see, but can’t Instead, they are stuck at home with Vicky. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
I think 5 or 6 is a little young for any of the Star Wars movies. I was 9 when my folks took me to see my first one in the theater, Return of the Jedi. Sure the movies have cornball humor and muppets and effeminate british droids running around, but people forget the other things. Limbs being sliced off. Animals being cut open. And everything from the Hoth Wampa to the Rancor to the Sarlac pit trying to eat our heroes. Even at 9 the Rancor had me cringing, though now it looks like bad Harryhausen stop motion to me. It's hard to look at things through a child's eyes.

As far as the PG-13 goes, I think Lucas pushed that a little because it would draw in more moviegoers(which yeah, corporate greed is screwing anyone who's a parent). I suspect two moments in the movie that give it this rating, but they're spoilers for anyone who doesn't more or less know what's going to happen, or haven't been able to intuit it from what's gone on thus far.

Let me know if you want to know what I think those two moments are. It does suck that the kids will be too young but if it's any consolation, maybe they'll be on the bigscreen again in 20 years as special editions; that's how I finally saw the first two in theaters for the first time.
I was six months old when my parents went to the first Star Wars flick. Back then, there were still baby booths in theaters, so I went too. Notably, there aren't any now, and so I'm not going to get to see this last one until it hits DVD. But of all the weird, damaging stuff my parents didn't bother to filter out when I was a kid, Star Wars wasn't that bad. Sure, MCF is right about the Rancor and the Sarlac, but unfortunately, I saw way worse and nobody bothered to explain it to me.

So guys, kudos to you for having that conversation with your kids. It will be a tough decision, but the fact that you care enough to make it thoughtfully makes you really good parents.

Cinematic history or not, you always have the option to go see it without the kids, and if you think they could deal, take them a week or so after it comes out. If you go and see it and come back with concrete reasons why it won't work for them, that might be a whole lot more believable than if they've just seen a made-for-kids trailer. Good luck.
I would tend to agree with Meepers: it is a good plan to go ahead and scout out the movie, then make your call for the kids as to whether or not they can see it. Having read the novelisation (spoilers don't really bother me) I do concede that the movie will have strong moments, but nothing all that much stronger than the previous 5 put together, but that is my own opinion I admit.

As for the scary monsters etc, I think kids are a lot more attuned to that sort of thing nowadays than they were when we were young. What's that old toy industry cliche - KAGOY, Kids Are Getting Older Younger. They've grown up in an age of halfway convincing CGI and increasingly adult themes in cartoons (something you covered in your blog a couple of days ago, MCF) so I think the Star Wars films now rate as "kinda tame" on the modern kids scale.

Kudos to you for being concerned and wanting to make the right call for your kids. If you want any more info I'm happy to provide it (albeit with the warning that there will probably be spoilers in my answers).

Btw, I totally agree with your central point - if the film isn't suitable for kids, fine - then don't market it to children and stop sticking Darth Vader faces on everything from packets of crisps to cereals to lollipops. George, you can have a movie for adults only, or one for adults and kids, make the call.
MCF, Fawndoo, as far as spoilers for SW:RotS, my attitude is, spoil away. Feel free to post any comments you want about the content of the movie. It's a shame that Lucas has put parents in this position, but he has. Besides, in a way, the first three movies are already the ultimate spoiler for this one. Anyway, if you want to post spoilers here, feel free to do so with a big SPOILERS! heading that nobody can miss, or just e-mail them to Wendy and I if you want to be discreet.
Make arrangements to watch the movie first & then decide what's best for your kids.Don't go by crazy critics. Judge for yourself.

Besides that way, you get to see it twice.
Darrell, I have to take one small, respectful exception to something you said. "It's a shame that Lucas has put parents in this position..." Parents should always be in this position, regardless of the rating of a film or reviews of it. It is one of a parents responsibilities to be aware of the content of anything their kids are going to watch/listen to/play. Recently my 13 year old daughter told me her mother rented for and let her watch Saw. To say that I was appalled would be an understatement. With a few minutes research online a parent nowadays can be armed with all sorts of information on any move/tv show/cd/game and be able to decide what they feel is right for their kids to be exposed to. My next point in the following comment.
wendy, from the recent interviews that I have seen with Mr. Lucas he has only stated that their may be material in this film that is pretty extreme for young children to see. That and the poilical and arbritrary nature of the American ratings board leads me to the conclusion that, as I said above, it is up to the parents what they let their children see as it always should be.

I definitely agree, though, that the marketing to the young children is very inappropriate.
Joe said: "Parents should always be in this position, regardless of the rating of a film or reviews of it."

Joe, you're absolutely right. My bad. It's not up to Lucas, it's up to me. Thanks for the heads up on that one.
Darrell, please take what I said with the greatest respect and with no intended offense. I would almost bet you are already on that wavelength anyway. I just see time and time again parents getting angry about situations such as this, and justly so, and being distracted from the fact that they are already probably doing a great job of being aware of what their kids are up to. Keep being the best parents you can be and things like this will be minor annoyances.
No worries, Joe. It's all good. I see where you were coming from and I appreciate it and agree with you. Cheers!
I've dashed off an email to the addres you gave, covering what I think are the stronger parts of the movie, but let me know if you need anything else.
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