Monday, November 28, 2005

Reel Education

As our two girls grew up, the movies we exposed them to grew up as well. The Disney classics (Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, Bambi, Dumbo, Pete's Dragon, etc.) were replaced by the newer series of Disney princesses (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Lion King, etc. ) and even these began to take a back seat to more adult fare that was still appropriate for them. Singing in the Rain, Wizard of Oz, and The Princess Bride were viewed and talked about, and in many case, reviewed again and again; such that the two girls can go line by line through the entire dialog of The Princess Bride.

The more recent LOTR series, the continuing Harry Potter series, and recently completed Star Wars trilogy also joined the family viewed list. Although for most of these, Dolores (their mother) declined to take part, so I got the opportunity to take the girls, now young ladies to the movies.

With Comcast OnDemand at home, the number of "free" movies is readily available so the education of the girls, or more specifically Carolyn, as she is the one home now (with her sister Allison away at college). (Yes, that is a whole other aspect of education and worthy of its own posting some time.) Over the past several weeks we have managed to find some family time for a joint viewing of the following older movies that we deemed worthy. Of course, we get to see them again; Carolyn is seeing it for the first time.

For example, Working Girl (with Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver) was released when Carolyn was born (1988). The movie still works as an upbeat and inspirational story. We happened to see it one night before one of the recent cross country meets that Carolyn ran. Carly Simon's voice ran through our heads for some time after. How did Tess make her way? How did Katharine make her way? Who was more honorable Tess or Katharine?

Carolyn enjoyed Tootsie (1982) with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange. When we talked about it with her sister she asked if Carolyn was scared when Dustin changed to a woman? This was due to Robin Williams' performance in Mrs. Doubtfire. The girls and I saw this in the movie theater when it was a new release (1993) and it scared Carolyn. I ended up holding her in the aisle whenever Robin became Mrs. Doubtfire. Fortunately, Carolyn did not have a problem with Dustin's conversion and was able to appreciate it more. Was there a difference between Dustin's and Robin's reasons for dressing as a woman? Was it justifiable for them to do so? What did this cause for their other relationships?

Over the weekend, we got to see The Way We Were (1973) with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. Carolyn was able to connect the House UnAmerican activities covered in the movie to her study of the McCarthy period in American History. I don't think I had seen the movie since it was released and was still surprised to see how tame the scene was when Katie got ready to join the just about passed out Hubble Gardner in bed. The scene still raised discussion points about why she did this? Was this her first time? Did that matter? Other than the physical attraction, what was it that drew Katie to Hubble?

After all this, Carolyn and her friend are watching Armageddon for the umpteenth time when I returned from grocery shopping. I think I have caught enough of this over time to put the whole story line together. What does it hold? It has a strong female role. Values are questioned, the way of life is threatened, and depicts that change is not easy. It has good team work and coordination, bringing a diverse team together to accomplish something that ultimately takes great sacrifice; stuff that qualifies Armageddon as worthy of her attention.

I believe that most movies can provide good discussion points to talk about with your children. Start with the basics: Did you like it? Why? What character did you like? What character didn't you like? Eventually you can move on to topics around the production of the film. Who acted well? Who did not? How important was the setting? How important was the music? Certainly the nature of the conversation changes over time, but there should be a conversation after the movie. It is an opportunity I would not let go to waste.

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