Sunday, January 29, 2006


Watching the recent kids flick Zathura on the big screen with an eleven-year old in tow, noting his reactions, I remembered how I used to watch films and TV shows, and how I sometimes still do. Not so much watching as reacting, participating, shifting left and right in anxious anticipation as something bad may or may not happen to the central characters who flicker through the gaps from the projector's indifferent light. Rocking back and forth in the seat. Cringing in embarassment when something humiliating happens to somebody we like. As a child, I used to sometimes turn away from the screen while watching silly shows like Three's Company, because, silly or not, I didn't like to see John Ritter be humiliated; I couldn't stand it when the character not-in-the-know remained not-in-the-know while everybody else knew the real deal. The anticipation of waiting for when the unenlightened one had the light shone on him stressed me out. Or when somebody was about to be told something really, really hurtful, or truthful. (Which are usually the same things.) That was bad, too. 'Bad' meaning good, meaning I was there, in the moment, believing in what I saw. No cynicism, no maturity, no understanding of scripts and directors and actors and audiences. And I remembered, too, telling a four-year old acquaintance of mine, back when I was a wise old sage of thirteen, that Venkman in Ghostbusters II was not Venkman at all, but Bill Murray, an actor, paid to play a part. "No, no, he was Venkman," the kid, Blair was his name, insisted. And he was right. For him he was Venkman, not Murray. He was there, on the screen, and it was happening, to him, as we watched, immobile, inert, and sometimes, occasionally, on my good days, when I feel quite young and new, I can get those feelings back, hold them tight, almost horde them.

1 comment:

Muktuk said...

Some people say Hollywood is raising our children. To that, I might agree. We wouldn't have such strong feelings about these characters on the big screen if they weren't doing battle for good and evil. In a sense, they face the real moral dilemmas with which we can identify with at that age. Whether it's okay to steal cable, give back extra change a cashier gives you, lie to your boss - we can't and don't want to identify with yet.

I still hold true to characters in some of my favorite movies off all time - Star Wars, LOTR, etc. We want to feel better for having watched and feld like we were part of something.