Now that my son, the Juban Princeling, is nearly a year and a half old (he turned 17 months on March 8), his father and I have earnestly started talking about one of the most important milestones in a child's life: his first movie.
Movies are important to me. I've studied them nearly my whole life. I wrote a thesis at NYU about the relationship between American culture and Hollywood movies. Movies are my church and synagogue, my art museum, my laboratory, my meditation and philosophy. I truly believe that film is the art form of the masses and that stories told in cinematic form are part of what unite us across cultures, generations, nationalities, and lifestyles.
So the question of the Princeling's first movie is of utmost importance to me.
My first movie was Star Wars. It was the summer of 1978, I was two years old and my parents went to see it at a drive-in (remember those?) in Miami, with me in the back seat. I have a vague post card-like memory of the opening scene in which C3P0 and R2D2 run from the storm troopers boarding the ship, and then apparently I fell asleep.
As far as I know there are no drive-ins around here, and even if there were, what would we take the Princeling to go see?
For a while last fall we tossed around the idea of taking him to see Where the Wild Things Are in honor of his first birthday, but didn't do it. We hate it when we go to movies that get interrupted by other people's kids, so we don't want to be "those people" with the inconsolable toddler at the movies, even a kid's movie. Plus, movies are loud, and call me overprotective, but I'd rather my son destroy his own hearing with loud music when he's a teenager, rather than beating him to the punch with our local theatre's brain-shattering sound system.
Some local movie theatres have what they call "Cry Baby Matinees," on Wednesday mornings, where they keep the lights dims, the sound low, and let you change your baby's dirty diapers right there in the theatre. Sounds great, but a)that still doesn't help me select the Princeling's first movie, b)whatever movie I did choose would have to be something I want to see, and therefore I don't want to have to deal with a squirmy, chatty, distractable toddler during it, and c)my husband is all, "I want to be there for his first movie, too!" or whatever.
So back to square one. Where is the Star Wars of the new generation? Where are the drive-ins? How will my son grow up if I select the wrong movie for his first movie-going experience? What if he hates the movies - how will I cope with that?
The other day when New York was experiencing Day 502 of what turned out to be 1,000 straight days of snow and ice and freezing rain, I did a very naughty parent thing and let the Princeling watch TV all day. Shhhh! Don't tell the Mommy Police! After even he got tired of watching episode of episode of the infamous "baby crack" show "Yo Gabba Gabba," I looked through my DVDs for something that would entertain him. He seems to like puppets, Muppets, and Muppet-like characters more than live action or animation, but I (for some farkakt reason) don't own any Muppet movies on DVD. So I put on my old-standby: Star Wars. To my delight the Princeling seemed into it! He liked the Jawas and the droids, and I think the action sequences caught his attention.
So there's hope for my son and his taste in movies. As he gets a bit older and more developmentally able to sit still for 2 hours in a dark movie theatre we'll be paying close attention to the movies that come out. Ideally his first movie would be something epic, something he'll be proud to tell people was his first movie, something legendary and historically important, cinematically speaking: I'm thinking Barack Obama as a sci-fi superhero kicking ass and looking good while imparting timeless lessons about self-identity, fighting for what's right, embracing one's destiny, and letting the Force be with you.
...then again, maybe my standards are too high. Anyone know if "Yo Gabba Gabba" plans on making a movie for theatrical release circa 2011?
The Princeling's first encounter with Star Wars is a smashing success!
Image of R2D2 copyright George Lucas, I'm guessing. Please don't sue me!