Tonawanda News

April 15, 2013

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Good guys, bad guys and all the shades of gray

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

— He comes walking into the living room, the comforter from his brother’s bed draped over his head, dragging behind him and clutched in front.

Such is life right now that I barely do a double take.

“And what are you today, Sam?”

The voice is muffled. “I’m a bad guy, Mommy!”

“Oh. Do bad guys like cookies? Because this batch is cool enough now.”

The comforter is dropped like a hot potato. Bad guys might not like cookies, but 4-year-old boys do, and issues of good vs. evil pale in the face of baked goods.

Five minutes later, he’s bouncing around the house with a lightsaber. It’s a purple one; that signifies he’s a good guy once again.

Whatever that means right now.

We’ve had a certain fixation lately on good vs. bad at our house. It’s no surprise, really, when I consider Sam’s immense fondness for the Star Wars movies and our recent family Disney movie nights. Sith vs. Jedi, Empire vs. Rebellion.Maleficent vs. Sleeping Beauty (or probably more honestly, Prince Phillip). Scar vs. Simba. The “Bad Bear” (in Sam terms) vs. Merida.

It started out simple. The good guys win. Of course, he wanted to be a good guy.

It was an epiphany for him, though, when he realized that his beloved Anakin from Episodes I to III was also really Darth Vader from Episodes IV to VI. We heard about that for days as he processed it. “Anakin turned into a bad guy. He was a good guy, but he turned into a bad guy. Then then he was a good guy again. Luke helped him turn into a good guy. He became a bad guy because he missed Padme.”

(I thought that last item was a pretty good realization for a preschooler, to be honest.)

And then the realization ... sometimes the bad guys are cool. Darth Vader is the epitome of cool when you’re 4. (And often when you’re not.) General Grievous is cool. I mean, he has FOUR ARMS. How cool is that? Sam wants four arms too. It’s tough to bounce around waving four lightsabers, otherwise. And Maleficent is a dragon. That’s ridiculously cool.

That lead to lots of role playing as the bad guy. He quickly discovered that as long as he wasn’t beaning his brother with a lightsaber or roaring in the house, he could be a bad guy all he wanted and then go back to playing the good guy when that got old.

At some point, he apparently realized this extended beyond pretending.

I was strapping him into the car one day when I registered the dramatic frown he was wearing.

“What’s up, buddy?

“I’m a bad guy now, Mommy.”

“Why?”

“Because I am. Because I’m mad at you.”

Ah. He had been reprimanded in the store for running. And it’s OK for bad guys to be mad at their mommies. I could live with that.

I kissed him and told him that I loved him even when he was a bad guy, and by the time we were home, he informed me he was a good guy again.

OK, then.

It’s all black and white when you’re 4. People are good, people are bad. It’s pretty clear who’s who.

There are times that, as a parent, I’m a little uncomfortable with that ... because, of course, reality isn’t so clear. You might consider my dearest hero to be the scum of the earth. I might consider your idol to be misguided and just plain wrong.

It happens in politics all the time. (And sports, too.) When the problems come in is when people simply can’t see the other side ... in real life instead of movies. When we start throwing around the words “good” and “evil” instead of simply realizing we have different points of view.

It hasn’t occurred to Sam yet, butVader, almost certainly, wouldn’t consider himself evil.

And someday, that’s going to register. Good guys. Bad guys. Shades of gray.

We’ll deal with that when the time comes.

In the meantime, even Sith Lords still like cookies.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.