I was 11 and in the sixth grade in 1983, and I vividly recall May 25 of that year. Unfortunately, not for the reasons I should remember it. It was, of course, the day The Return of the Jedi was released. My dad went early in the morning to the big theater in downtown Denver with the 70mm projection to stand in line. My sister and I went to school as usual, and my mom picked us up to go down and join my dad in line so that we could see Jedi that night. There was only one problem: before I sat down in the theater, before I even had lunch that day, I knew that Leia was Luke’s sister, because some brat on the playground spoiled it for me.
To this day, I have no idea how he knew, and honestly I don’t even remember the kid’s name, but I do remember the glee in his eye when he blurted out the Big Secret.
Thursday night, I took my son to see The Force Awakens, and immediately afterward, before we even left the theater, he said something that triggered that memory for me. And so I had a quick talk with him, and it’s a talk I’d like to urge all of you to have with your kids as well: “please don’t spoil the movie for your friends. Remember how you felt watching it, not knowing what was going to happen? Be a good friend and let them have the same experience. If you want to talk about the movie, make sure they’ve seen it before you say anything. And until they do, you can talk to me.”
Unfortunately, I know that it’s already too late for his class. When I took him to school the next morning, there was another kid there in line who was telling anyone and everyone within earshot about what happens in The Force Awakens. I said something to him, but I doubt it’ll make a difference, and it certainly won’t unspoil the movie for all of those kids who are going that evening or over the weekend. And honestly, that makes me a bit sad.
Look, I get that it’s cool to have a piece of information others have. I get that it’s even cooler when you’re a kid. I also get the desire to talk about what you saw with people; you want to share your experiences, and particularly when it’s something that plays as important a role in your life and identity as Star Wars does for many of us, we want to talk. We want to share.
So I get that. What I don’t get is the desire by people to be, quite frankly, jerks about it. A co-worker told me that his daughter posted a tweet that she had just sat down in the theater to watch it, and when she took her phone back out of her pocket at the end of the movie, she discovered that someone had responded to her tweet almost immediately with all of the movie’s secrets. Thankfully, he is raising his daughter right in that he taught her to put her phone away during the movie. But just think about that for a second: what would lead someone to see that a person they don’t even know is about the see the movie, and think, “Hah! I’m going to ruin it for her!” That’s gross. And that was clearly a kid who never learned how to co-exist with others in society.
As parents, we of course want to keep our kids healthy and safe. But hopefully we want to also raise them to be decent human beings. I know that some will say that it’s just a silly movie, and that revealing a plot point or two isn’t exactly a capital crime. And they’re right. But it’s also undeniably rude. And surely we can agree that teaching common courtesy is important.
So please: have the talk with your kids. Help them to understand that they should let other people experience the movie they way they did. Help them to understand that being rude isn’t funny or cool. It’s just being rude.