Watch 'Empire Strikes Back' with a 10-year-old and tell me how to explain that kiss

features@beaufortgazette.comMarch 23, 2014 

Leia and Luke in less sister-brother smoochy times.


What did you guys do this weekend? Did you sleep in, relax, maybe lounge about on the porch? Did you get some sun, go golfing, head out for a leisurely bike ride? Me? Oh thanks for asking, I had to explain to a fourth-grader why a sister passionately kissing her brother is weird.

Anyone within a certain age (30-50), gender (dudes) and personality type (not rugby players) knows that sentence means one thing: "The Empire Strikes Back," which the little man and I watched this weekend. We did this for two reasons: First, he's 10, and it is a crucial plateau in the emotional education of a 10-year-old to watch "The Empire Strikes Back" -- all the pediatricians say so. (Sure, not any I could find around here, but I'm sure that underneath their responses of "What are you talking about?" and "Are you being serious right now? and "Mr. Vrabel, this is the third time we've had to tell you, please stop calling our office," they were secretly agreeing with me.)

Second, I was prepared to do anything short of sabotaging the house's power grid to ensure that we didn't watch "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" or "Despicable Me 2" or "Frozen" again. My son watches "Cloudy 2" as though the continued operation of his arms depends on it, enough that I've started to look forward to parts of it. You've no idea how weird that feels. We haven't even had "Frozen" that long, but we're already at a point where the 2-year-old is bopping around the house identifying himself as a "happy snowman." I don't want to regard "Frozen" the way I've come to regard "Cloudy 2."

So I laid a ground rule that everyone had to agree on the movie, which, of course, is code for "I get to agree on the movie." Of course, my 10-year-old, like all 10-year-olds, is starting to easily see through such fragile displays of parental empowerment. "You just mean you get to pick the movie," he sighed, in that voice that suggests the world shall not know a greater injustice this week. Sadly for him, I'm prepared to wield dictatorial control about movies because I am the dad and, more importantly, I know how to work the Apple TV.

Anyway, "Empire." If you're for some reason not a nerd, "Empire" is the best of the series, and arguing otherwise will get you run out of a "Star Wars" convention, although not very fast because most of those people are not in shape. But it contains a scene in which Leia, in order to make Han jealous, lays a fairly passionate kiss on her brother. They don't know they're related yet, but someone knew, like oh say, I don't know, THE GUY WHO WROTE THE MOVIES. Anyway, it's weird, weird enough that the 10-year-old turned to me after. "Um," he nervously offered, which is how he usually prefaces a Very Important Question, "That's a brother-and-sister kiss?" I'll spare you my fumbling clumsy response, but man was that an uncomfortable discussion.

But I discovered something else: The 10-year-old does not approve of films that end with questionable resolutions. If you'll remember (SPOILER ALERT if you just got here from 1981), "Empire" ends with a treasury of very bad things: Darth Vader slicing off Luke's hand, then telling him he's his dad; Han Solo being frozen and captured; Lando Calrissian wearing polyester pants; C-3P0 in pieces. It's hard to remember, but when you are a kid, "Star Wars" is a wide-open adventure; "Empire" is an early indication that the world sort of sucks. "Dad," he said, after the credits rolled, "I'm not sure I liked that one very much." (This is the opposite of what happened when we walked out of "Frozen," FYI.)

This makes sense. "Despicable Me 2" has an ending. "Frozen" has an ending. Everything Else He's Ever Dealt With has a definitive, closure-filled, probably Very Happy Resolution. "Empire" ends with an unsettled feeling. It's a lot to take in when you were looking for explosions. Luckily, there's a whole other movie that comes after this one. Even more luckily, we can start it right now. (I know where to find it on Apple TV.)

Jeff Vrabel is strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark. Follow him at and read more at


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