Star Wars Rebels and Thomas the Train

Last year sometime my three year old son decided he didn’t like the TV. I’m not exactly sure why. I think something scared him but I can’t really say for sure. He used to enjoy watching Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger, not exactly scary shows. At one point we showed him Star Wars and I’m pretty sure something in there scared him (probably Darth Vader) but that was after he had already been against us ever turning the TV on.

Now, we weren’t exactly upset by this. Having a small child not obsessed with watching TV isn’t really a problem. While it was nice getting a short break every afternoon from running around playing the same game for the hundredth time not having him beg to watch “just one more episode” was worth it. Though, when we took a 20hr car drive we would have really liked to be able to put a movie on to distract him for awhile.

Anyways, he eventually got into watching YouTube videos. First of construction trucks and trains and eventually Thomas the Train videos. He is still against the TV itself being on but does want to watch these on “his phone”, ie our old one we kept around. I’ve been mixed on these as, on one hand, it is nice to have a small break again and it’s easier to let him “watch just one more” when many videos are under 5min long. On the other, I can’t stand Thomas the Train.

In most ways they are innocuous videos of anthropomorphic trains doing train things. No real harm. And many of the videos aren’t any different than any kids show. But some of them, the underlying message is really ugly. The trains, the characters and heroes of the show, live at the beck and call of a fat, rich white guy. They want nothing more than to please him and be Really Useful. Anything that’s not Useful is scandalous. On top of that, the “steamie” engines are wonderful but the dirty “diesels” are clearly an inferior race. It’s such casual train racism that is never viewed as a negative on the ship that just feels creepy.

So what does all of this have to do with Star Wars Rebels, as the title hints? Well, the other day I decided to finally go watch the show. I’d heard a lot of good things from people about it. I mostly enjoyed the Clone Wars even if I never found it spectacular. Rebels premise sounded a lot more appealing and from what I heard from people it seemed to really find that balance between Star Wars and kids show.

I wanted to watch Rebels with my son as it sounded like the perfect thing we could enjoy together. Despite possibly being scared of Darth Vader, Vader often shows up as a “Bad Guy” in our games and he loves R2-D2. He doesn’t really know what a gun is but has an inflatable lightsaber he got from some kids party and he make “pew-pew” noises with it and then I have to fall down. Not sure how I feel about that honestly but it’s still kind of hilariously cute.

Anyways, so while he’s watching his train videos, I pull Rebels up on the tablet (after having to go through some hoops to get Amazon videos to work on it). I just start playing it. It opens, as Star Wars should, with a Star Destroyer flying past the screen. Darth Vader appears and he’s interested. The train video runs but is ignored.

We watch the first episode and he barely looks at his trains. I found it pretty enjoyable with more developed characters and plot than I got from Clone Wars. It’s still Star Wars and a kids show as things are way to easy for the characters to pull off (boarding a Star Destroyer like it ain’t no thing).

I ask him if he enjoyed it and he’s noncommittal. But we do have to then go play get the bad guys.

Next day, he asks to watch train videos again. I ask if he wants to watch Star Wars and he says no. I tell him I’m going to watch it and proceed to turn the next episode on again. And train video is again ignored. He gets really excited when R2-D2 shows up in the episode (here’s hoping there’s more Artoo). By the end of the show, again an enjoyable episode, he says he’s done with train videos and wants to watch another Star Wars video.

For geeky Dad like me, that’s a parenting win for the day.

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