Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What a wookiee

When in doubt, or when the blog seems in danger of going dormant, just babble randomly about Star Wars, I always say.

The other evening, while my wife was experimenting with the possibility of giving the little girl and the baby a shared bath (an experiment not to be repeated, since the baby is an unrepentant hair-puller and we really frown on horseplay, rough or otherwise, in the tub), I was hanging out with the little guy and we got to talking about names. He was outlining for me his working theory that if he were to meet someone from a non-English speaking culture he would not be able to understand that person's name due to the language barrier. And I was trying to explain to him that names more or less transcend specific languages. You don't have to grasp the meaning of a name in order to use it to refer to someone (especially if you believe, Butch Coolidge-style, that names have no special meaning beyond the person they identify anyway) and you don't have to be fluent in a language to pronounce one name from it. I was trying to think of extreme examples of this that the little guy would already be familiar with from stories, like Japanese names of fictional characters, but the only one I could think of was Shu Todoroki from Cars 2, and of course "Shu" sounds so much like the English word "shoe" that it doesn't really nail the point.

And then I brought up Chewbacca.

Who is certainly from a non-English speaking culture, and has a name with no apparent meaningful transliteration, and yet I have bandied that name about on so many occasions in my lifetime it strikes me as almost ordinary. My son, though, had only one response to this invocation: "Who's Chewbacca?"

It's not exactly that I forget sometimes that the little guy has never seen Star Wars; that's just not the kind of thing that would slip my mind. I look forward to someday sharing the movies with my kids, and I talk to other parents with similar fandom for Lucas's films about when and how to introduce little ones to them basically every chance I get. I still keep hoping on some level, I suppose, that some other kid at school will be a massive Clone Wars cartoon fan and talk it up to my little guy, and he'll come home and start asking questions about it, and I'll be able to very smoothly enlighten him to the fact that I know all about Obi-Wan Kenobi's mad lightsaber skillz, in a way that supplies something he's looking for rather than cramming down his throat what I'm into. That day may never come, and certainly hasn't yet, and apparently not even a rudimentary familiarity with these iconic characters has registered with him yet. Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, even Spider-Man, these are dudes the little guy can hold up his end of a conversation about. Chewbacca? Nothing but blank stares.

So I opened the browser on my phone and did an image search for Chewbacca and showed the little guy who I was talking about. I explained that he was an alien from some movies that I really liked. And the little guy asked me, with no small amount of skepticism, if they were movies for kids. His tone suggested that he knew what aliens were (see: Buzz Lightyear's associates) and could comprehend a children's movie about aliens, but at the same time this Chewbacca fellow I was avowing to be a fan of looked fearsome enough that maybe it wasn't on his level after all.

The thing is, Star Wars is for kids, 100%. For all that GenXers are now middle-aged, and full of woe because Jar Jar Binks was such ill-conceived pandering to five-year-olds, and convinced that the true legacy of the saga should be how fully realized the expanded universe has become and how awesomely badass various bounty hunters and smugglers and Sith Lords are, from the very first appearance of "Long ago in a galaxy far, far away" Star Wars has been conceived and created as children's entertainment. It's a fairy tale with lasers and spaceships and robots. It's just as well that Disney took ownership of it, because Lucas always thought of it as basically based on the Disney template, right down to his predictions as to how much box office it would make. (Turned out he lowballed it by that accounting, but still, he expected it to sell the same number of tickets to the same audience as an animated Alice in Wonderland or Robin Hood.)

So I told the little guy it was for kids, while also allowing that it was kind of intense, like How to Train Your Dragon intense. And I told him we had the movies in the house; previously he had asked me if there were any kids' movies in the house that he hadn't seen and didn't know about, which struck me as odd seeing as how he loves watching the same things over and over again, but still, it's cool, he's allowed to change and seek out new things and so on. And that's about as far as the conversation went, before it was time for his bath and the rest of his bedtime preparations. Another step closer to the premiere of Episode IV: A New Hope as one of the little guy's Saturday Night Movie Night Movies? Perhaps, perhaps.

1 comment:

  1. He's probably ready now. My older girl learned about "Star Wars" through boy classmates at preschool and found the idea of "Space Princess Having Adventures" an irresistible lure. We watched "Star Wars" when she was five, I think, and she did enjoy it quite a bit, even if she wasn't always clear on what was happening. It didn't become part of the regular rotation, but it was a minor hit with her. Also, Vader's scary but not too scary, and he's not on-screen that much.

    A more recent nerdy event turned big hit with the girl is the comic "Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade." Comixology has it, $0.99 per issue, six issues. Raging success.

    The littler one has become obsessed with "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," but that's a story for another time.