When I was 12, my parents had a conversation:
"Do you think Andy would enjoy seeing Star Wars?"
"Maybe. If he gets scared, you can always leave early."
It was 1997, and the entire original Star Wars trilogy was being re-released to theaters. At that point, I'd never seen the films, although I was vaguely aware of some of the elements. My father took me to the local theater, where I was affixed to the screen for the entire screening. Needless to say, we were back at the theaters in the following weeks, to see The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with my younger brother in tow.
My story is just one of millions out there: Star Wars has had this effect on moviegoers since it was first released to theaters, and with the upcoming Force Awakens arriving to theaters this week, a whole new generation is going to be introduced to the world of lightsabers, X-Wing fighters and droids. The new film offers a bit of a conundrum: How do you introduce your kids to Star Wars? When?
There's one line of reasoning that the films should be introduced at the right age: 10-12. That's been said as the perfect age to see the films for the first time, understand them and to be completely wrapped up in the sense of adventure and action that happens throughout the films. The problem there is that if your child was born in 2010, it wouldn't be until 2020 that they'd see it. My own son was born in 2013, and it would be 2023 before he'd be able to take it in. By that point, the entire new trilogy and stand-alone films would be on their own re-release schedule.
That said, Star Wars isn't without its scarier parts, especially for youngsters. Darth Vader is particularly impressive, as well as the Sand people, Mynoks and Emperor Palpatine. Watch the films too early, and you run the risk of turning them off of the films for years to come. When I dressed up as a Stormtrooper, my son didn't want anything to do with me: he literally ran in the other direction and refused to look in my direction. Six months later, he was totally fine with it. He's asked to play 'Star Wars' which involves him dressing up in his Halloween costume (Jedi), and chasing me around the yard dressed up as a Stormtrooper.
My son is just over two and a half at the present, and has been exposed to quite a bit of Star Wars content: toys, action figures (the new 12-inch figures are fantastic - they're durable and easy for him to hold on to) and the animated television series on Netflix (not to mention me, who regularly dresses up as a Stormtrooper for the 501st Legion). Already, he's been exposed to a whole host of Star Wars things. The thing that clinched it for me was when we watched Titan A.E. as a family. The animated science fiction film held his attention for quite a while.
That next weekend was the moment of truth. I popped in our DVD of A New Hope, and sat him in my lap. The yellow introduction scrolled past the screen and that first shot of the Star Destroyer rolled past. I waited to hear what his reaction would be.
Star Wars has passed to another generation.