Have we got an obligation as movie lovers to make sure that our kids watch certain films as a part of their education?
Are our reasons for using our parental privilege, more or less forcing them to watch our old favourites pure, innocent and altogether altruistic?
Or could there something else at play here – an urge to try to make our children into copies of ourselves or a longing for the power to not only recommend movies to others, but also have them actually watch it?
I came to think of this after listening to the extra material of a recent episode of Filmspotting, where the hosts had a discussion about suitable “father-daughter movies”, movies that they’d like to share with their present or future daughters.
At first I got a bit worked up as I listened to their take. They started out suggesting some old Audrey Hepburn movies to be particularly suitable for this purpose? And I wanted to cry out: why? Would you suggest the same movies to your sons, or would you rather pick a Sylvester Stallone movie for them? It sounded like a view on genders that was outdated already in the 60s and I raged, oh, I raged.
I thought of the move preferences of my own girls. The 18 year old, with her love for action and thrillers and her contempt for anything that breathes of drama, emotions, feel-good or God-forbid – romance. There’s no way I could convince her to come with me to see a movie like Rabbit Hole. She even refused The King’s Speech, to my big dismay. I did persuade her to come and see Dogtooth with me, but Source Code will probably be more to her liking. Typical girlish is the last thing she is.
And then there’s the 17 year old She DOES like some movies that teenage girls are “expected” to like. The Twilight series and that sort of thing. But she also is a huge fan of horror movies, the more blood and gore, the better. The kind of movies I just can’t bear the thought of watching. I remember when she came home and told me about her watching of The Human Centipede. I felt sick for days after it, only from her retelling the plot. But she’s way tougher than I am.
Thinking about all this, I was about to explode at what I thought was a very old-fashioned view on boys and girls. But then all of a sudden, the hosts changed their mind and said that they couldn’t see any difference and that there was no reason to assume that their daughters wouldn’t enjoy movies such as Life of Brian and The Godfather as much as a son would do.
And since this is exactly my point of view, I could finally stop fuming and raging.
Influence our children
But let’s ponder a bit further of the idea of giving your children a movie education. Does it always work out the way we hope? Can we have any kind of influence on their future preferences, or at least help them with some pointers, give the discoveries they might have missed out otherwise?
Perhaps. But my advice for aspiring parents, who plan to raise their future offspring in a spirit of cinephilia, is to have reasonable, realistic expectations. Believe it or not, but for the genetic connection there is, children sometimes come out very, very different from their parents. They deserve to be listened to and accepted for who they are. And movies age, not always with grace. The movie that you still think is excellent, thanks to a shimmer of nostalgia that is invisible to anyone who didn’t see it when it first was released, may in fact be pretty awful, slow and unbearably tedious for someone who is brought up with a completely different pace in their daily media consumption.
Have mercy with the little ones or you might put them off from watching movies altogether! It’s more important that they maintain their lust and curiosity about movies, having an open mind for movies of all sorts, connecting the act of going to a cinema to something positive, than to ensure that they’ve seen all the “must-see” classics.
I was raised in a family of book readers, where the general idea was that it didn’t matter WHAT you read, as long as you read something. There was a place and a reason for all sorts of books. This open attitude was a soil where a genuine interest for literature could flourish. One day I read a light crime novel. The next day I dove into a Russian classic. And neither was ever considered “wrong”. I’d suggest that attitude when it comes to movies as well. Of course you can share recommendations – the enthusiasm my parents showed for Whisky Galore! was contageous. But thread carefully if you want to avoid backlashes.
Nowadays our children are so old, that it’s rare that we get together as a family to see the same movie. But couple of years back we did it regularly.
As the kids grew older we found ourselves spending more and more time arguing about which movie to see next. There were often four different ideas and we never seemed to agree, spending more time arguing and sulking than actually watching the movie. This was until we came up with a solution, which meant that we took turns in the decision making.
One family member at a time was the movie dictator of the night, and the rule was that everyone had to agree to that choice, giving the movie a fair chance. No commenting, sulking, arguing was allowed. However, you only had to stay around for 30 minutes. After that time slot, you were free to leave, if you didn’t like the movie.
It worked as a charm. I think it was within the frames of this system that we introduced them to for instance Woddy Allen’s Match Point, which turned out to be a favourite they even wanted to see again, sharing it with their friends. Oh, the sweet taste of parental victory!
And you know what? In the end it wasn’t just the children who got some movie education thanks to the influence from their wise parents. We too got exposed to some movies we might not else have watched, thanks to our children.
Parent-child movie education goes both ways. It’s easy to forget.
A final word
But hey, Friday night is approaching quickly and I suppose you have plans of your own. You’re probably in a hurry and want to move on rather than listening to my ramblings. If you wonder what I’m up to, I’ll probably sneak out tonight to watch the Canadian movie Incendies, which looks eventful enough to keep me awake, even if it’s more serious than commercial so to say. That’s the plan at least.
If you want to stay for a while longer though, don’t be shy to order a cup of coffee or some stronger drink of your preference. It’s on the house. And yes, we have finally installed a fireplace, so take a seat in front of it if you feel frozen.
I hope you’ll have a wonderful weekend.