There’s a retail chain for educational toys in the UK called “The Early Learning Centre” which I pronounce “sent-ray” while drinking Earl Gray with my pinky out because I’m fancy/illiterate. Game developer Ross Mills wrote an awesomely geeky letter to the chain about their marketing of Anakin Skywalker toys. The full letter (and their equally hilarious and well-reasoned response) are after the jump but here’s the short version: Mills thought Anakin shouldn’t be portrayed in a positive light in their toy advertising and wrote a tongue-in-cheek email explaining Anakin’s many crimes. A representative from The Early Learning Centre wrote back an equally light-hearted but well-researched rebuttal. And thus we felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in bemusement and were suddenly guffawing.
First, the letter Mills sent to the company:
From: Ross Mills
To those responsible for choosing the toys they wish to sell at the Early Learning Centre, as well as in-store advertising.
I was recently walking past the Dundee Early Learning Centre, and was shocked and disgusted to see an advert for Star Wars toys, prominently featuring the characters Yoda and Anakin Skywalker as positive figures.
Personally, I could not be more shocked. I thought the Early Learning Centre was a place for positive reinforcement of positive actions for children, but yet, here it was, actively promoting one of the most evil characters in the Star Wars universe. Anakin Skywalker.
Now, I am aware that Anakin was not always evil, and was in-fact an innocent in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, however, I wish to press on you the severity of his actions starting upon joining the Jedi Order as a Padawan:
* Consistent and flagrantly ignoring the rules, orders and limits set on him by his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
* Killing an entire tribe of sand-people on Tatooine
* Killing the unarmed Count Dooku
* Cutting the arm off a Jedi Knight, Mace Windu. (Need I remind you that the Jedi
Knights are the PROTECTORS of peace and justice throughout the Star Wars saga?)
* Pledging himself to the Dark Side of the force, an organisation based on the teachings of the Sith, involving Brutality, Fear, Anger, and Hatred, including severe humanistic racism when they came into power forming the Empire
* Acted as the right-hand of the Sith Emperor
* Choked his wife using the power of the Force, nearly killing her and undeniably an act which eventually led to her death.
* Attempted killing of Jedi Knight and Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
And, last of all, and the most important
* The massacre of an entire school of young Jedi Children.
Now, I ask you, how can you sell such toys, promoting such individuals, in your establishment?
Sincerely, Ross Mills
Kudos on your mad nerd skills to pay the bills, Mr. Mills.
And now, the corporate response:
Dear Mr Mills
As an avid Star Wars fan myself I can relate to your points below and see the perspective that Anakin Skywalker (in his teenage years onwards) is by no means a ‘positive’ role model, nor is he intended to be represented as such.
We sell a wide range of characters from the Star Wars universe, including stormtroopers, scout troopers, Commander Cody and so forth. With particular reference to the two former characters both are generally considered to be ‘bad’ and unlike Anakin have had no periods of being ‘good’ or ‘redemption’ and are provided to give the ‘good guys’ someone to triumph over. While ideally the Jedi Council would have no enemies and would sit in their chambers sipping Bothan rum, it’s not particularly interesting for a small child (unless of course they wish to populate their ‘tea parties’ with Star Wars characters in which case we fully endorse this!)
For a child to fully immerse themselves in the Star Wars products we sell I would hesitate a guess that said child is a fan of the Clone Wars cartoon series (the prequels and sequels being of an age most would agree is unsuitable for the age range we cater for). In this series Anakin is very much portrayed as a force of good, and our aim is to provide fans of the series with both heroes and villains so they can replay the epic battles of the show in the comfort of their own home.
It’s unlikely that children of that age have seen any of the Star Wars films, however if they have I beg to offer the following counterpoints to ‘the sins of Anakin’
* Anakin loved his mother a great deal and always treated her with respect
* Rescued his master several times from assassins, pit monsters, droid troopers etc.
* Rescued Amidalla from assassin snakes, pit monsters, the Trade Federation and even found time to romance her in the fields of Naboo
* Built C3PO
* Won the Podrace
* Killed the evil emperor to save his son
* I would also argue that if a child has seen all the films they’ll see Anakin as a hero who went wrong but ultimately paid the supreme sacrifice to atone for his sins.
There may be better role models out there for a child, but for the period our toys are aimed at (the Clone Wars), Anakin remains very much ‘hero material’ and is a popular and welcome addition to our range.
Client Support Manager
The Early Learning Centre