Saturday, May 3, 2014

The force is weak with this one.

There are certain things we wish for our children. Health. Enough intelligence, initiative, and ambition to place them on a solid-enough career path to allow them to eventually move out of our basements and feed and clothe themselves. Self-esteem. Not necessarily beauty, but at least straight teeth. Braces, they be expensive.

Sometimes we want them simply to be a little like us. To share a common passion, to have our same sense of humor, to be good at something we're also good at. It helps assure us that while we can't be immortal in our own bodies, we can live on through passed-down traits from generation to generation.

Which is why it pains me deeply to say this today, on the eve of  May the fourth: my daughter hates Star Wars. Each word a dagger to my nerdy heart. Hates. It.

I have to believe that this hate has more to do with taking a stubborn stand against something the yucky-blucky boys in her class love than with the movies themselves. After all, we can't even get her to sit down to watch the first one. (And, to be clear, by "first one" I mean "Episode IV." I am a purist in this regard, and don't you dare try to Jedi-mind-trick me into believing otherwise.) She decided she hated everything pertaining to the Force several years ago before I even had a 31-inch Darth Vader gracing our hearth or displayed my lightsaber over the mantle. She hates it on principle and in theory, not so much in practice.

This gives me hope. A New Hope. A "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" hope. Seriously. She likes Gandalf, she just may like old Ben, too.

She greatly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is suffering, like the rest of us, through The Hobbit (she adores Legolas, so thank God he makes an appearance), so one would think Star Wars would be a natural fit. Her generation is also accustomed to dystopian fantasies and rebellious teens blowing stuff up; they cut their teeth on The Hunger Games. I can't help but think a girl who adores Katniss Everdeen will someday cheer for Luke to get that proton torpedo into a hole roughly the size of a womp rat. Luke and Katniss are cut from the same cloth, really--rural teens who find themselves fighting (and whining about fighting) against a vast and oppressive regime using skills they didn't know they had until called upon to save the world as they know it. Katniss even sports a very Padawan-esque over-the-shoulder braid. Ainsley has to at least feel some cathartic teen angst when watching these movies, right?

I plan to find out. I have been over the moon (I mean Death Star; that's no moon) ever since the fuzzy black-and-white picture of the cast of the new film was released this week. There's Carrie! And Mark! And Harrison! And the impossibly tall guy that plays Chewie! And OMG Andy-freaking-Serkis. My two geek worlds collide in that picture and I can hardly see straight.

So a proclamation went out last night over dinner. As a family, over the course of the next year, we will watch the original trilogy. Multiple times, if necessary. If we have to, we will watch the prequels. But only if we have to. I may not be able to make her love it, but I want her to at least be able to tolerate it. For we have a date. We will go, as the family unit we are, to the opening of the new film when it finally arrives in theaters. We will do this because the best memories from my childhood revolve around seeing various trilogy films for the first time--I saw Episode IV the night it premiered on HBO, I watched The Empire Strikes Back at a midnight showing with my Dad the weekend it came out, and my sister and brother-in-law waited in line for hours to get three tickets to take me to Return of the Jedi on opening night. I have to see this new movie. And whether she knows it yet or not, so does my daughter. If she's going to use her hate, she needs to know what it is she hates. And maybe, just maybe, there's more than a Sand Person's chance in Hoth of her letting her guard down and her prejudices go and liking this epic story of good and evil.

I can't just let her go to the dark side. The dark side being, of course, teen vampire romance movies.

I don't want to force my kid to be someone she's not or like something she doesn't simply because her mother loves it. But the cultural impact of these movies can't be denied, and I want her to at least know about them and make an informed decision. Then, if she doesn't like them, I will accept it. I won't like it, and I'd be lying if I said my feelings wouldn't be a little hurt. These movies were a huge part of my childhood and loving them is a part of my identity and embedded into my DNA. Not my midichlorians, George Lucas. My DNA. Leave the Force the mystery and ancient power it's supposed to be and quit explaining stuff you don't need to explain.

Wait, what? Where was I?

I would imagine that someday my daughter will have children of her own. And she will pass on to them some of her childhood loves--Phineas and Ferb, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent. They will either like it or they won't, and she will have to cope with that. If I am lucky enough to still be on this planet and not be a shadow-y, see-through apparition appearing at Ewok celebrations, I'd like my grandkids to ask their mother why Mamaw has a big robot-looking guy dressed in a black cape on display in the basement right next to a weird light-up sword (and, if dreams come true, an R2-D2 keggerator.) And I'd like my daughter to answer that question with something other than, "Because your Mamaw is a weirdo."

Ideally, her answer to why Mamaw has all these strange things in the basement would begin thus:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away...

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