Explaining the Empire

The other day I watched Star Wars IV with Alex. I guess I was about his age when I first saw it.

It was really funny to get his take on things. He asked a bunch of questions and about 30 minutes in he decided Star Wars was about C3PO and R2D2 getting separated and then finding each other again. Your basic buddy flick.

I've been watching these movies for almost 30 years and my 4 year old is pointing out things I never noticed! Kids have amazing perspective...

The one part of the movie we struggled with was "Who is the Empire?" I eventually got across the point that the Empire was an entity and not a person, but that was where my success ended.

I tried every analogy I could think of to describe the Empire to Alex but he kept responding "I don't get it." Nothing I said made sense to him.

How do you explain this to a 4 year old?
  • Corrupt government disassembled under guise of military security (Episode II)
  • Power-hungry, isolated, self-appointed dictator (Emperor)
  • Creepy half human second in command (Darth Vader)
  • Tortures people in secret (Han Solo Episode V)
  • Uses fear as a governance tool (Episode IV)
  • Fighting rebels (Episode IV-VI)

Then just as the R2D2 was taking off (with the X-Wings) to attack the Death Star/defend the rebel base, Alex asked again. "Daddy, what is the Empire?" Frustrated and tired of answering the same question over and over I went with a blunt answer that I figured would be over his head.

"The Empire is basically the Bush Administration." It hung there in the air while he thought about it... And then I saw the light go on and heard it in his voice. "Oh! Ok." He got it.

And I got a little sad and a little scared. Kids have amazing perspective...

* Photo Credit: Star Wars Storm Troopers, a fan-based group known as the "501st Legion" from 22 different countries and 26 US states, march down Colorado Boulevard in the 118th Rose Parade. Photo: AP