For the past couple of months, my youngest son has been bugging me to draw him a picture of Darth Maul, and last night, I finally did. When I showed my son this drawing, I asked him why he likes Darth Maul so much. He said, “Because he’s red and black, and he has spikes on his head.”
I said, “I know what he looks like, but why do you like him?”
He responded, “Because he’s cool! And he has a double light-saber!”
I wasn’t a big fan of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, but I admit, I too thought Darth Maul was cool, and I was disappointed when Obi Wan defeated him. It’s not that I wanted Darth Maul to beat Obi Wan, but it would have been nice if Darth Maul had escaped and lasted for at least one more movie.
Star Wars is as popular today as it was 30 years ago because George Lucas created compelling characters to depict the external and internal battle between good and evil. Part of the genius of Star Wars is how it presents evil. Darth Maul is bad, but he has moves unlike any other Jedi, and he does have the best weapon. Darth Vader is maniacal, but his strength and power are alluring. George Lucas recognized that evil resides inside all of us, and he uses Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and Luke to illustrate how we may be tempted by the Dark Side. By introducing bad guys who we partially like, George Lucas also forces us to participate in this struggle.
My wife and I try to teach our boys right from wrong, and we believe the lessons they learn on Sunday morning will slowly sink in. But I also think stories, like those told in Star Wars, help kids frame good and evil. Andrew may think Darth Maul is cool, but he also knows that good always triumphs over evil.
P.S. My prayers are with all those who are suffering as a result of the tragedy in Colorado. Given the shootings last week, I was reluctant to publish this post. I don’t mean to be uncompassionate to the families of the victims by addressing evil in the world through fictional characters (particularly since a similar analogy could be made using Batman and The Joker). But my five year old is slowly learning about good and evil, and I shouldn’t have to tell him about what happened in Colorado. Frankly, the violence James Holmes committed is a form of evil that I can’t comprehend nor explain. Until my son is older, Star Wars is one lense through which he can see and understand evil.