In my last post I noted that the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was about as good an action series as you could find for kids. The females are strong, the storylines are interesting and the characters complex.
I also noted that the violence is an issue. I wrote that “compared to others in the action/adventure genre, the violence in Clone Wars is certainly no worse. It is actually less graphic…this series does not have the knee/fist/foot-to-the-face sequences that characterise shows like Justice League and Spectacular Spider-Man.”
After watching the first two episodes of season 3, I see that I may have spoken too soon. There was a different tone here, with a little more of the gratuitous violence that characterizes other shows. To wit, a former bounty hunter, hired to train clone soldiers, punches a cadet in the stomach, and an old clone soldier, assigned to maintenance duty and not wearing armour, is shot and killed on-screen.
As I admitted in the previous post, I had not seen all of Season 2, so I decided to go back and watch a few episodes to see if this change in tone was apparent there and it was. (Working on the book I was not able to watch as much of this season as I had intended, so I am very late in realizing this. Wired magazine wrote about the change in tone but I somehow missed it. http://bit.ly/ao76BG)
Towards the end of the season, nasty bounty hunter Aurra Sing makes her appearance, along with others that work in the same “field” as her—the criminal underground as they are known. There are scenes of clone soldiers being threatened with guns to the head. A solider is shot off-screen. Aurra slaps one of her hostages in the face and more slaps and punches are heard off-screen. There are dead clone soldiers shown in the wreckage of a crashed space ship.
Those committing the most heinous acts are bounty hunters who, by definition, are selfish, motivated by financial gain, and devoid of compassion. They are held up as the diametric opposite of the noble Jedi. Again, it is a classic good vs. evil storyline, but in these narratives, the violence is more pronounced and more disturbing.
I still stand by this show. Despite the more violent scenes in the Season 2 and 3 episodes, there are many positives. Young Boba Fett, a child consumed with revenge, finds that he is not a bloodthirsty killer. It is noted that the Jedi do not hold grudges or seek revenge themselves—certainly good qualities. R2-D2 uses his “brains”, in so much as a machine can have brains, to get himself and Anakin out of a difficult situation. Jedi master Plo Koon counsels Ahsoka to be patient and less reckless. Jedi master Shaak Ti is patient and forgiving of the cadets that fail their initiation test. Her decision to give them a second chance gives the cadets confidence and leads them to succeed. Overall, the stories are still engaging and the heroes appealing.
But I would like to caution that there are mature themes and sometimes disturbing images. Most reviewers rate this show as acceptable for ages 8 and up. I would say that the books and toys are fine for 8-year-olds, but the show itself if probably more suited to children of an older age, especially when the dangerous bounty hunters are involved.