Star Wars: A Message Lost

Like most Americans, I was standing in line recently to see “Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith”. Just ahead of me was a man with three young boys between the ages of 6 and 12. They were playing “Jedi” games, pretending to cut off each other’s limbs with their imaginary light sabers, and squealing with delight about how “cool” it was to cut off arms, legs, and heads.

The father played along and encouraged it. He promised them that there would be some really good bloody scenes in the movie we were about to see.

There was no discussion of good vs. evil, of the Jedi practice of using violence only as a last resort in defense against the evil empire. No, as the children were playing, it seemed that there was only the simple delight in violence for its own sake, because cutting off limbs with light sabers is “cool”. The bloodier the better. That, it seems, is entertainment.

Boys will be boys, and childhood war games are considered normal and acceptable in numerous cultures across this planet. It’s a testosterone thing, I suppose. But if we are going to glamorize the violence, shouldn’t we at least put it into a proper context, and (unlike our Star Wars dad) teach our children a bit about the moral and ethical aspects of violence and war?

If we fail to do so, and go on glamorizing violence and encouraging mock violence in play because killing and maiming seem so cool in the movies, do we risk the possibility of raising a generation of potential sociopaths?

Does this lead to the kind of adult personality that signs up for the military so that he can go to Iraq and “kill some towelheads”?

Does it foster the kind of mindset that led American soldiers to make necklaces from the ears of slain civilians during the Vietnam War?

Does it therefore become that much easier to justify killing, or even to enjoy it?

I don’t know for sure the answer to any of these questions. But I do know that, if I were the parent of a young boy, I wouldn’t want to take that chance.

Not even Darth Vader would kill for the glamour of it. When he fought and killed, he did so on principle, however dark and misguided his principles may have been. He didn’t draw his light saber against Obi-Wan in order to be “cool”.

I encourage all parents to take their children to see the new “Star Wars” film, if they believe their children are mature enough to handle the graphic violence in it. But please don’t glorify the violence for its own sake. Use the film as an opportunity to teach them the principles of right vs. wrong, and the consequences that lay along the path to the “dark side”.

As Yoda once said, “Ohhh. Great warrior. Wars not make one great.”

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