For those who have followed this page for a while, I posted several months ago about rewatching Star Wars Rebels and inviting my 6 and 4-year old kids to watch it for the first time. You can go back and check out that post here. In that post I promised to come back after we had finished watching the show and post some wrap up thoughts from both myself and my kids.
So here we are, on Thanksgiving night, two months removed from actually finishing the show, and ready to fire off some thoughts about all four seasons of Star Wars Rebels.
Disclaimers: 1) There will be spoilers for events at the end of the show in this post. Stop now and go watch the show before you continue further. 2) If you are one of those Star Wars fans who rides their high and mighty horse of only wanting Star Wars that is dark, gritty, cynical, and adult, step down off that high horse and go watch this show, or any kid-friendly show for that matter. It will do your heart some good. On to Star Wars Rebels.
When we first finished the show, I had three questions for both of my kids: What did you think? Who were your favorite characters? What story arc did you like best? I worded that last one slightly differently for them, but that was the gist.
6-year-old son's response: It was good. I liked it. Ezra, Chopper, and Zeb. The one where Ezra goes on a mission.
4-year-old daughter's response: It was good. I liked it (she likes to parrot her brother). The girls. When the one girl flies her ship.
Honestly, I was hoping for a little more to go on than the answers they gave, and I would probably say I was a little disappointed by their answers. I was hoping for something really cool or blogworthy to come out of their mouths, but the above answers were all I got. Disappointed, I moved on to whatever they wanted to do next, but the back of my mind kept chewing on their answers. Later that evening, it hit me. Their answers perfectly reflected the success and power of the show. My 6-year-old son, who is very 6-year-old boy right now, latched onto the characters who were aimed at young boys. Fart jokes, slapstick humor, and cheap laughs. My daughter latched onto the female characters, who were clearly aimed toward the female audience of the show and were written to be strong, independent and well-rounded women. I would be proud for my daughter to claim Sabine or Hera as a role model. Thank you to the creators of Rebels for two excellent female characters!
The simple answers that my kids nonchalantly tossed out helped me realize the simple premise of the show and why it works. The Ghost crew contains characters who represent all ages, genders, and phases of life and connects with them at their level. My kids are not going to grasp the bigger themes of the show, but they know the characters are entertaining and fun to watch and maybe even a little like them sometimes.
Which leads me to my own final thoughts. Perhaps my initial disappointment with my kids' answers came from my hope that they would have a deep connection to the themes and the mythology of the show, just as I do. This rewatch experience solidified what the show really means to me. Rebels is about family. Perhaps no character better illustrates that for me than the Jedi Kanan Jarrus. When I first watched the show as it aired, I had lost three of my grandparents in the span of three years and Kanan's death near the end of Season 4 hit me hard. I remember sitting in the basement of my house and bawling over the death of an animated character, yet knowing it was somehow connected to the grief of losing my grandparents. This time around, the same scene hit me no less hard but in a different way. As I watched Kanan sacrifice himself again, my thoughts turned to my own role as a more experienced father who would do anything for my children and the tears started to flow again. Same scene, two different times, two different family-based reactions. I don't know how this show could connect with me any more directly.
It took me a few words to get there, but I think I'm ready to answer my own questions about Star Wars Rebels:
I loved it and will always love it. Kanan. The one where Kanan dies, even though it hurts me every time.
Remember Micro Machines? Of course you do, if you were a kid in the late 80s and early 90s. I had a pretty massive collection and some pretty amazing playsets that I often set up with my HO train set (we can just ignore the obvious scale issues there). How about Star Wars Micro Machines? Remember those? For a while, I was relentlessly visiting Walmart and Toys R Us to find the latest vehicle set, or even better, saving some money for one of the convertible helmets or character heads that would turn into a scene from one of the movies. Kind of like this old commercial.
I also still remember how I would set up the different locations based on which movie they were in, and I would display the little figurines in mid scene on my nicely manicured bedroom shelves. Then, I went to college and got married, and all of my Micro Machine sets were relegated to a box in my parents basement until they finally handed them over and essentially said "we're done, these are your problem now."
They were never really a problem, though. I mean, a storage problem maybe, but I kept them because I loved those Star Wars Micro Machines perhaps more than any other toys I owned. Countless hours of my childhood can be attributed to those tiny starships and the even tinier figures that went with them. I did not keep those toys just because I loved them, however. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking about the future and how one day I would have children of my own who would maybe, probably, really love playing with these toys too.
Enter my own children. Within the past year or so, I have busted all of the Star Wars Micro Machines out of their dusty storage bin and lugged them up to my son's room. He was thrilled. Actually, thrilled might be an understatement. The kid was doing dances around our storage room and shouting "yippee" like a young Anakin Skywalker. And he has loved those Micro Machines (as has our dog, unfortunately...). In fact, my son, and now my daughter too, have loved these toys so much that they get pulled in and out of their storage drawer multiple times a week, with the result that the collection now sits haphazardly throughout their rooms or in a drawer. Kind of like the picture below.
Here begins, however, a disconnect that my pre-children, young adult brain never even conceived. My son and daughter don't play with my Micro Machines like I played with them. How dare they, right? How dare my son pile all of these playsets and vehicles and figures in a random disrespectful heap? Are you telling me that Endor Leia on a Speeder Bike is flying around the Dune Sea near Jabba's Palace? Never! Please don't tell me that some of the sets have broken or lost pieces or are completely irreparable? Sorry friend, it's true and it hurts.
I tried for a while. I tried to keep things in their proper spot or keep sets thematically together, or any number of ridiculous and futile attempts to micromanage my kids with my own preferences. Eventually, I had to give up. What is the purpose of sharing something I love with my children if I am just going to tell them how to love it? I so badly wanted to manage their play and to relive the way I liked to have everything neatly and thematically displayed that I ignored their joy for far too long.
And what happened the moment I let go? Joy for me too. Joy at watching both of the kids use their imagination to create new scenes and new stories. Just the other day, I was playing with them on the Stormtrooper set that transforms into the trash compactor scene on the Death Star. Who showed up to save Luke, Leia, and Han from certain doom? Young Lando Calrissian of course! Not only do I get the joy of watching my kids create their own stories, but I also now experience the joy of claiming something I loved as their own, without my stuffy rules or micromanaged scenarios. In the end, we all play happier, and I have a healthier attitude about parenting and micromanaging beyond the micro machines.
I admit that I do still cringe every time I open that drawer though...
Any self-respecting parent knows what a wasteland the world of children's television programming is. If you do not have some sort of Disney Jr. theme song running through your head at any given moment, you are probably not a parent. I can only take a few seconds of Cocomelon on Youtube or Morphle on Netflix before I run out of the room with rumblings of pure disgust threatening to overtake my good health.
Enter Star Wars Rebels. Rebels is not a new show so I am not breaking any new ground. It ran four seasons back in the mid-2010s and is easily accessible on Disney+ now. I watched the show as it aired and enjoyed it a lot. So, why bother talking about it now?
There are a couple reasons I decided to pull up Rebels for a rewatch. First, the Star Wars Podcast I listen to (Jabba the Pod from Syfy Wire) is doing a rewatch and discussing the episodes every week. It does not take a lot of pressure to encourage me to watch anything Star Wars, so this was the only real reason I needed. Second, however, my kids are 6 and 4 years old, and now felt like the right time to watch a whole show together. I tried Clone Wars before, but there are too many episodes and it turns violent pretty quickly, whereas Rebels is a short four seasons and stays pretty kid-friendly throughout.
We have now watched the first season and a couple episodes into the second season, and I am seriously enjoying the (re)ride. My son has seen all of the original movies, plus Episodes 1 and 2, but this show has brought out more excitement in him than most of the movies. He already knows the full names of the main cast of characters and is actively making predictions and asking questions during the show that reflect full engagement in the content. His engagement got me thinking about why this show works regardless of age (him-6, me-37), and here are a few reasons I think it works so well:
Whether you are 6 or 56, Star Wars Rebels is a compelling show with great characters and great storytelling. After we finish the whole show, I will come back with a new post and some of both of my kids' thoughts about the whole story. For right now, I am just enjoying the shared experience of something I love and something new and exciting for them.
I love my family and this is the place to find all of the adventures we experience.