I Wanna Be Just Like Darth Vader
By David Futrelle

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Don't worry, kids. Kmart wants to help. In a new TV ad for the discount retailer, a scared little boy finds the courage to march off to his first day of school. "I wanted to stay home with Mom," he says. But in the ad, produced by the Campbell Mithun Esty agency, Mom reminds the lad that in his favorite movie, the Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace, little Anakin Skywalker had to leave home and his mom in order to learn the ways of the Force. The logic works on the kid, who says, "If Anakin can do it, I can do it!" and proudly dons his Kmart backpack stamped with a picture of Anakin.

There's just one problem, as anyone remotely familiar with the Star Wars saga knows. Cute mop-topped Anakin grows up to be Darth Vader, the black-caped intergalactic psycho-killer known to destroy entire planets. Is Kmart suggesting Darth as a kiddie role model?

"No, no, we're not," says the slightly exasperated Kmart PR chief, Mary Lorencz. "The ads are basically just tied to this particular Star Wars movie at this point in time. And it really is not meant to stretch that far into the future. Going off to school is hard for kids. It was hard for Anakin to leave home. But Kmart is making it easier by providing all the right things for moms to provide for the kids." Who says America doesn't have enough heroes?

--David Futrelle