By: Craig Zagurski
I am such a big lover of outstanding movies and even collect a decent number of them so that, I guess, I can revisit certain feelings of hyper- or relatable-reality and help keep my imagination a potent resource for fun and adventure. It follows that I cannot WAIT for my own offspring to share in similar experiences. I’ve already done my best to share in great movies with them that are appropriate for young kids and me (or, at least, keep my interest and are enjoyable to listen to repeatedly over several months’ period).
On a side note, can I please, boldly, say that Pixar movies are some of the best products offered and sold in the U.S.? I’m as excited as the kids to see the next one coming…..every time. And that just feels, in my bones, that most or all parents or humans would shout a sincere Amen! to that.
All. Hail. Pixar.
Anyway, back to ME. I have shared great movies with my kids, but there are SO many that I want them to see so badly that I saw when I was younger, or even that I’ve seen recently. Then I’m faced with the question: what is appropriate for them to view at their ages? “Oh, crap. It’s one of those times that I have to pause to look at the bigger picture and think of what’s best for now and the long run……How might this fuck them up?”
I think of what may have affected my daily living as a child after viewing a scary or more grown-up movie. The first thing I think of are dreams. I know, for sure, I had some intense dreams that were because of a movie I’d seen (The 1976 making of King Kong!). I know there were movies that may have influenced the kinds of activities in which I wanted to engage. Another thing I recall from childhood is my mom talking with me during and after a movie to explain certain things or put a perspective on it that it was “only a movie.”
So, I saw Avatar this winter, twice, and 3-D both times. I enjoyed it quite a bit. And I could feel it in my gut that my oldest, at age 8, would very much enjoy experiencing it as well. This film was PG-13. I racked my brain for any content that really felt PG-13, to me, and I could only come up with some of the chase or fight scenes. But they were also so sci-fi.
I decided I was willing to approve this movie for my son to view, with me. My four-year-old would be all too happy to have a night to herself to view princess movies upstairs on Daddy’s bed. I first wanted to ask the Mommy how she felt about this movie being shown to our eight-year-old. She agreed it was acceptable, so we contacted our lawyers and drew up the paperwork that lined out the conditions of this viewing. I’m kidding.
I told my son the news of our plans to watch this Event of a movie. He could not have been more thrilled. He, after all, had seen the posters and the magazine articles and the commercials, and heard the chatter at school about this “cool new movie that’s 3-D.” He knew there was buzz about this particular film.
The night of the movie, I invited him up to my recliner to snuggle close to me while we watched together. His energy was like that of a Birthday or Halloween. He was a Big Boy. And this was a special, rare event he was sharing with his Daddy. And not even his little sister was allowed to be a part of this. He had told his 2nd grade friends at school about his plans that night. Big Boy.
We both remained glued to the T.V. screen as we took in the various eye-candy flowing by. Less than an hour into it, we are interrupted by the four-year-old who comes down the stairs and says (while eyes are GLUED to our T.V. screen, and she shifts back and forth from foot to foot), “I…..ummmm………….I wanna ask……..ummmmm…………uhhhhhhhhhhhh……….can I……..I wanna ask, can I………..uhhhhhhhhhh……..”
“What, [four-year-old]?! What do you want?!”
“Can I have a candy can?” (that’s not a typo.)
“No, you may not have a candy can and please stop looking at this movie that you know I don’t want you to watch.”
“Then can I have some water? Please?” What the hell am I gonna say to that besides yes?
I decide to pause Avatar and get all of us some water and check in with hunger levels and what not. I also check in with my son to see what he thinks of the “event” so far. He is thoroughly impressed. He asks me a couple of questions that are related to the plot and the characters. And they’re GOOD questions. We have a solid, albeit brief, chat in the kitchen and then get back to the recliner to resume the action after re-assigning the little one to her princess chambers. The interruption occurs one more time during the remainder of Avatar (this time for ice cream), and the conversation in the kitchen is similar. My boy is very engaged in the movie and is enthusiastically sharing his favorite parts. I think about how there were so many other sci-fi movies I saw before this one that prepared me for being accustomed to this type of reality. This evening, my son is taking a hefty leap into this realm for his life’s first time. He is being introduced to the notion of life on other planets. He’s witnessing people loving and paying homage to their planet as a means of connecting with a higher power. He’s seeing how greedy and brutal humankind can be, and in dramatic fashion. This film, this evening, could become part of a significant piece of my son’s psyche and influence how he views the world as he ages.
Avatar comes to an end. We share a few more words about the movie, mostly about how amazing it is. He seems very fulfilled from his experience and his mind is asking questions and getting him to think about what he saw, what he experienced. And I couldn’t be more proud.
The next morning, I ask my son if he had any dreams that night. He just says, “Nah. I don’t think I really dream too much anyway.”