'Star Wars: The Clone Wars', R2-D2 and a Teachable Moment

As a long-time geek, I’ve never been surprised by the fact that my 7-year-old daughter asks me to watch weekly episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars with her. The Cartoon Network series has been surprisingly good, offering up far more depth and character development than the three famously lackluster Star Wars prequels. But during the recent premiere episode of the show’s second season, I found myself wishing she’d never heard the name Skywalker. In this episode of Clone Wars, a heroic character, one of the Jedi knights, was captured and tortured to death.

It wasn’t so much the guy’s death that bothered me—characters have died on the show before—it was the torture. I didn’t expect to see the good guy writhing in pain while the villain demanded he turn over secret information. Since when did Star Wars become 24?

Torture is such a horrific concept, and one that I hoped to put off having to explain to my daughter until she was about 20. This has been no easy task, considering how often torture has been in the news as a source of public debate in the last five or six years. I barely avoided the conversation a few months earlier, when we watched The Princess Bride on DVD. I’d forgotten about the scene where Westley is tortured and almost killed, only to be revived later on by true love. Somehow I got my daughter to believe that his screams of agony were the result of a tummy ache.

But I suppose that, just like war, abuse, poverty, and all sorts of other tough topics, torture is a subject that needs to be broached sooner rather than later. So I turned it into a teachable moment, and figured that the next time my daughter saw the word “torture” in a news headline, she’d have a basis of knowledge to digest the information. In the end, being forced to talk about it with her was probably a good thing. I just never expected that particular talk to involve R2-D2.

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