A long time ago in a village far, far away, a young boy really wanted to see Star Wars. He was the only child at school not to have seen it, and as such faced constant ridicule from his peers. Eventually persuading his father to take him to the local picture house for the big event, he was horrified to discover that Star Wars was not being shown, but had been replaced by a bingo night, a fatal mix-up that would heap more derision upon him, and tarnish his relationship with the film forever. That boy grew up to be an embittered journalist who once attended a party with Luke Skywalker, and watched the celebrated Jedi Knight awkwardly negotiate a meat platter.
Twenty years after the bingo fiasco, by way of misplaced redemption, he kindly took his father to a multiplex to see the remastered film. The key differences were that it was actually on, and that he was self-medicating beforehand.
We didn't know it at the time, but Star Wars has become so ingrained in popular culture that watching it with your children for the first time is now a cherished rite of passage. The experience is particularly intensified by the whole father/son narrative, so I was looking forward to one day sitting down with my own young Padawan (not his real name), and watching the wonder fill his innocent heart. Sadly, this privilege was stolen from me at a fourth birthday party in south-east London when I discovered my son bathed in the glow of a 50" TV, caked in popcorn, gleefully giggling at the robot dumpster scene with a number of other children, many of them in a state of undress.
I'm not sure what I had planned, but it definitely wasn't this. Whisking him into the car, I attempted to erase his memory with a Jedi mind trick, but the damage was done. As the saying goes, you can't put toothpaste back in the tube (God only knows, I've tried.) The incessant pestering began immediately, and eventually I had to dust off the box set and do it properly, plastic "light-saver" in hand, cut-price Skywalker figurine perched dead-eyed on the coffee table. Naturally, the boy fell asleep before the end - it is, after all, a long, boring film.
Carelessly, on the second viewing, I forgot to divert his attention from the incongruous close-up of the scorched remains of Luke's Aunt and Uncle.
"What's that?" he asked, quizzically.
"It's the only family he's ever known, charred beyond recognition by the forces of evil," I didn't reply.
The Empire Strikes Back swiftly followed, and the key moment of the entire trilogy passed without comment. In fact, I had to pause the DVD and explain [SPOILER] that Darth cocking Vader is Luke's cocking Dad.
"How odd," the boy replied, understandably.
The Return of the Jedi (aka "Turn of the Jedix") is now established as a firm favourite. I recently discovered him in his room watching the entire thing on YouTube, only emerging to inform me: "Luke said 'I know you still have good in your heart' but Darth Vader was still cross," and that, "Queen Lillipos has got some of the force, but not as much as Darth Vader."
Further analysis continues on a daily basis, and the main issue seems to be why Vader joined the dark side. Current theories include, "Maybe because they had more people and a bigger ship," and, "Because he put the mask on."
The boy has also shrewdly interpreted the subtleties of the film's title: "I know why it's called Star Wars - because there's stars and wars." Mark Kermode, eat your heart out.
For obvious reasons, I won't have the prequels in the house. Their existence is currently a well-kept secret, although now school has started it can be only a matter of time before some little scrote spills the beans and I am subjected to that fresh hell. The boy is aware of "the Christmas one," presumably referring to the forthcoming Episode VII as opposed to the much-maligned 1978 Holiday Special.
By his own admission, he "can't stop thinking about Star Wars," and apropos of nothing will shout from the back of the car such insights as: "We thought Darth Vader killed Luke's father, but he was Luke's father." And of course there are the spontaneous bursts of song: "Star Wars, wonderful Star Wars, der der der der..."
It's becoming an obsession, and frankly it's exhausting. On the up side, one press of a remote control buys several hours of low-level parenting: I Am Your Father, and I'm pissing off upstairs for a long bath while you watch this guff again.
Plus, it has set an unexpected benchmark for paternal affection. The other day, in a rare moment of clarity, the boy turned to me, eyes twinkling like a Tatooine sunset, and said, "Daddy, I love you more than Star Wars." Bingo...