Growing up at the beginning of the Sci-Fi blockbuster genre, circa 1977, I was completely blown away by Star Wars and Indiana Jones and other fantastic sights on screen. Even as an adult, the sight of a dinosaur in Jurassic Park was magical.
By today’s standards, it barely registers on a movie goers radar, but in 1993, when the best CGI effects were still yet to come, that sight was something that made the movie geek in me squeee nearly out loud.
At the age of two, noticing that my own kid had an affection for dinosaurs, I made the choice to let her watch it. We talked about it, and I made her fully aware that it was not really a dinosaur. Even went as far as to show her the behind the scenes stuff with the models, and green screen, and animatronic characters used in making the film. She accepted it and loved it anyway. We also happened upon Ghostbusters on cable and she ate that up like Slimer in a hot dog cart. Again, I had to explain the ghosts, and the dogs, and Stay Puft. She accepted it, and loved it.
At almost six, she is now quick to point out any scene in a television show or movie that is “not real”. She happened upon me playing Dead Island of all things, and I let her watch me play it, with the subtitles on, so I could cough, clear my throat, or “Hablaedfhaefhah” over the bad language. Now, I could be perceived as the worst parent in the world, here. Dead Island is a far cry from House of the Dead II & III which she saw my father-in-law and I play on many occasions a couple years before. I told her, this could be scary, and if you start to have issues with it, I’m quitting it.
“No, Daddy. It’s not going to give me nightmares.“
“Why do you know that?”
“Because. That’s not real blood. It’s like ketchup or something.”
OK, she hasn’t made the distinction between video games and films being made in different ways, yet. But, she has become quite the backseat gamer.
“Daddy, stop going through all that luggage. The zombie will come get you.”
“Daddy, leave that zombie, over there, alone. It’s not bothering you.” I go and bother the zombie and fifteen more appear out of nowhere and kill me. “See? What did I tell you?”
But I worry. I worry not for the chance that she’s going to grow up with a detached sense of right or wrong or even that she is going to be desensitized to the point of grabbing a high powered rifle and climbing into a clock tower. I’m worried that, as she gets a little older and I can share more films with her that struck a chord in me at that age, she will not be impressed because, “I can see the wires” or “That’s ketchup.” There are so many fantastical movies that are full immersion into a suspended disbelief from my generation. Even today, the adaptations of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit are beautiful in terms of CGI. But, she will just see pick apart the process that created them, because I was worried she’d have nightmares.
She had to accept death at such an early age and we didn’t pull any punches with explaining what happened to her maternal grandmother. They were great friends and she loved her Grammy so much. To see her in a hospital, on life support, after having a brain hemorrhage. To remember the image, and now always recall “Grammy’s Yellow Hair” from the surgery to try and relieve the pressure, kills me. But, we didn’t want to say, “Grammy’s sleeping” and we didn’t want to deemphasize the importance of what has happened, so we gave it to her straight. And now, the kid has more knowledge about life and death than most her age.
She may never develop that “suspension of disbelief” in films because she learned at such an early age to, pay attention to that man behind the curtain.