This past weekend, I showed my four-year-old son Star Wars for the first time. It felt like an important moment. Seeing George Lucas’s film was a seminal event in my early years. I would’ve been six-and-a-half years old when I saw the movie in theaters and like every other kid I was captivated by it.
A year-and-half ago a couple of cousins of his gave us their old Star War toys and when we pull them out I list the names–Luke Skywalker, Han Solo–like they are characters out of the Bible. Still, I’ve hesitated to show him the movie. Entering the Star Wars world seems like a huge decision. It’s not just a series of films, it’s almost a way of life with its promulgation of a moral system–“Luke, the force…”–and so on.
Then there’s the attendant merchandise. I was obsessed with the Star Wars action figures the first time around and there’s so many more toys today. We have been wrapped up in the Marvel world for almost two years now, our house overflows with not only action figures but comic and coloring books, as well as the Super Hero Squaddies and Squinkies. The amount of times I’ve had to sit with B and watch the Avengers animated show is incredibly mind-numbing. While Star Wars and its spinoffs might be a nice change I’m not sure I can handle another franchise so soon.
Also, as much as I love the first original two movies (what are known officially as episodes IV and V) and parts of the third, I dread having to watch the newer installments. Plus, I fear that my son will like these movies and their simplified characters most of all, particularly Jar-Jar Binks. I don’t think I can handle that.
Despite these concerns, I showed him Star Wars this weekend and B dug it. He asked me questions throughout the whole thing. Why is Luke doing that? Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi, often garbling their names. C3PO became CP30, for example. When the movie ended, B wanted to dig out all the toys and I thought a fascination with this new world had begun. So I rented Empire–which he mistakenly called The Vampire Strikes Back–but halfway through he wanted to turn it off. Days later he has mostly lost interest and has said no when I’ve asked him if he wants to watch the rest of Empire. The Star Wars toys are being neglected and the Marvel ones are back to their prominence. I’m saved for now.
I was seven-years-old when Star Wars came out and it was great to experience firsthand, especially in the form of the accompanying action figures. I loved the Luke Skywalker figure with the oscillating light saber that was attached but was also removable. I removed it so that Luke could play quarterback and throw an imaginary deep ball to a streaking Storm Trooper while eluding the rush of Chewbacca. I don’t know why I liked to have them play imaginary sports contests–perhaps because I played sports so much myself, but I never really liked to play with them as they were intended.
That year, my parents gave me my first sibling and after that one every other year for the next six years. All that procreation ruined my monopoly on my parents but it also meant that I was surrounded by toys, so even though I was technically too old to have the 3.75″ G.I. Joes that Hasbro put out in 1982–I loved the 12 inch bearded version I had as three or four-year-old–there were lots around for me to play with, characters like Snake Eyes and Destro. I loved to play imaginary football games with them, too (especially when Hasbro produced a limited edition figure of the actual NFL player, William “the Refrigerator” Perry).
Even when I went off to college, I would play with my brothers’ toys when I returned home for break. I knew I was too old to play with action figures but as long as nobody made a point of it, why not, I was having fun. But then my brothers all grew up, their toys were gone, so I had to move on and put away childish things.
A decade or more went by with no toys to play with, then along came my first son. Sometime in the Fall of 2010 he got his first action figure, a 3.75″ Iron Man. He loved it, so did I. Thereafter ensued a frenzied acquisition of much of the Iron Man line of action figures, like Suitcase Armor, Deep Sea Diver, and Iron Monger. There were so many.
It was logical to then pursue the Marvel line of action figures which we have ever since. Spider-Man was our first I believe, maybe Wolverine, but they were followed by Silver Surfer, Captain America, Hobgoblin, and Falcon, among lesser known ones like Absorbing Man. Most nights around here end up at some point with me upstairs with my son playing with his “mens.” While he is having them jump around and fight each other I grab the ones he’s not interested in and recreate a gridiron battle. Captain America is a great quarterback, for instance, who can throw a bullet to a streaking Silver Surfer who is crushed by the fierce safety, one of our many Iron Mans.
My wife watches all of this in amusement, her three-year-old son and 41-year-old husband playing with the same toys. Sometimes I catch her smirking at me but just shrug it off and turn back to my imaginary game where Silver Surfer has just dived into the end zone. Touchdown!