Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Other Side of Macabre...


I have a confession to make. As a child, I was a horrible scaredy cat. I couldn't even watch the preview to a movie that looked like it might be scary. I remember my dad renting Jaws and he had to pause it through the gorier bits because I would have nightmares if I saw them. I remember watching a trailer for a film in which a man sat on top of a giant meat grinder and I had nightmares for weeks. I never saw him jump into the meat grinder. I never saw him even get ground up. Yet, in my mind, he did; I knew what was going to happen and thus, I would lie awake for hours, hiding under the covers, afraid of the dark.

I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of the giant tree outside my window for a while because I saw Poltergeist and there's an evil tree in that movie that reaches through a window and grabs a little boy.

I even used to be afraid of John Wayne because right after he died, I had a dream where he was buried in our garden. I was afraid to walk by the patio area for weeks because the stones looked like gravestones to me and I was convinced John Wayne was buried there.

So, what it comes down to is that I was a child who did enough damage to her sleep patterns with my overactive imagination without needing help from horror movies.

Ironically, nowadays, I'm pretty much the complete opposite. I laugh at horror movies and like that darker side of life, the Dexters, the vampires, the shadows that surround us.

Yet, it doesn't change the fact that I was a bit of a wussy child. My parents were really good about limiting what we were allowed to watch and most of the stuff I saw that gave me nightmares was around a friend's house or with my older brother. Yet, I had enough to contend with by letting my imagination scare me to death. I'd imagine seeing corpses in piles of leaves or hear the cackle of a witch on a cold windy night. Yes, I admit, Captain Monkeypants was a bit macabre, even back then but it was the other side of macabre, the side that was terrified of it, not the side that liked to create it for the slight thrill of otherness it gives me today.

As a child, I knew my limits. I knew there were things I had to wait to see, things that were too old for me, books I would have to wait to read, movies my older brother saw and then told me about. I had to wait until I was older to see and read those things. I'm happy I had to do that; I think that went a long way into helping me embrace the scarier things in life, of learning that thunderstorms were not heart-stopping things of terror but, instead, were a fantastic display of nature at it's angriest. It made me see that Freddy Krueger wasn't some horror creation that should give me nightmares but, instead, was a bit of a laugh and was so ridiculous, it wasn't worth being scared about. It was a progression from the innocence of childhood, the great unknown of being older, of being allowed.

The point is, I needed this natural progression from childhood. It made me appreciate things in due course. I was allowed to be a child for a long time, long enough to help me become a proper adult (or, at least, as much of one as I am today).

Nowadays, I see that happening less and less. I found out that my brother was taking my niece to see the new Harry Potter film on Friday. She's five. As soon as I heard that, I admit I was shocked. I know she loves the franchise; she's been my Harry Potter buddy for a while now. For the longest time, her parents only let her watch the first couple of films, the ones where Harry, Hermione and Ron are still children, where Trolls and Basilisks are the scary parts.

I guess they eventually let her see all of them. I'm not judging my brother and sister-in-law as parents but it does make me sad that they're so willing to let her see these movies.

I know the movie, technically, is rated PG so it's not huge that she's seeing it in a rating sense. But...as a child? That just makes me sad. This movie contains the throes of adolescent hormones, violence, death of a major character, battles, betrayal....all things that a five-year-old, not matter how mature, won't truly be able to get.

I think as a Potter-fan that I'm sad for her on a whole other level. She's missing the chance to truly, slowly discover the series and the pleasure of discovering a new adventure of a character. Instead, she's viewing the movies as a five-year-old, with a five-year-old comprehension; she's never going to have the chance to 'discover' such a wonderful series because she's already 'been there, done that.'

As a reader, I always advocate the book over a movie. I'm hoping when she learns to read, she'll treat the series as a new one but I don't think that's possible. I think that once we see a movie and then read the book on which it was based, it's hard to picture characters in a book as anything other than the actors. I try deliberately not to do that, to treat the book and movie as two seperate entities. I usually succeed because I'm stubborn and I suffer from writer-bias. The characters were created by the writer so he/she should be able to have the final word on how they look. Thus, I'll always believe a writer over a film company who cast actors in the roles unless they match up. The cast of True Blood, for example, couldn't get closer to the pictures in my head for most of the characters if they tried.

Anyway, back to my point about my niece. I'm not her parent and wouldn't dream of telling her parents what to do. Besides, they'd never listen anyway. It just makes me very sad on several levels that they can't say, "Sorry but you're too young. We'll take you to see Ice Age 3 instead." Now there's a movie for kids with talking animals, crazy squirrels and a more child-friendly storyline. I'm not saying that Harry Potter shouldn't be enjoyed by a younger generation but as the storyline progresses, so does the maturity level and the darkness the characters face. I suppose part of me doesn't want her to know about that darkness yet, to enjoy the fact that she's a kid and the hardest part of that should be stopping her younger brother from wearing her play-jewelry.

Yet, I'm not a parent. Maybe this is a way for her not to have nightmares about John Wayne being buried in her garden or imagining trees reaching in and grabbing her when she sleeps. It doesn't change the fact that part of me wants to grab her, sit her down and read her some nice stories that she skipped in her efforts to embrace Hannah Montana and Harry Potter, stories that are sweet, pretty and wrapped in pretty bows. Yet she'd probably scoff at those, wanting to know when the fighting started, when the witch would eat the children.

I think what it comes down to is that children today are in a hurry to grow up and me, in my old fashioned way, thinks they should get to be a kid for just a little while longer before the awkwardness of adolescence attacks. Nowadays it's harder, that line between adolescence and childhood is blurrier by the day.

I want my niece to have a proper respect for scary things and not take them in stride the way she does now. Yes, I suppose it's a sign of maturity but there are some things that should be scary and it worries me that she no longer seems to notice this. Maybe she's just not a scaredy cat the way I used to be.

Or still am...actually. I saw Ronald McDonald on a TV show this morning. I never noticed before but he could inspire terror, even in an adult. I think it's the big clown mouth- I keep expecting him to show a set of teeth or wield a knife. Either way, with his Happy Meals and weird friends, he inspires suspicion. Apparently, you never completely grow out of some things...it seems that I'm still a little macabre.

Thanks for reading. Happy Tuesday.

1 comment:

Ladyaero said...

Danny (8 1/2 yo) is just now reading the first of the Harry Potter books. He wants to see the movie, but I told him he has to finish the book first. I'm hoping to stick with that (book first, then the movie) for the other books too, as they are challenging for him and I think that will slow him down a bit and naturally keep him from seeing the movies before he's ready for them. I admit that Danny has seen a couple of movies before I thought he should (I let him watch the first Indiana Jones movie, which is pretty mild compared to most, when he was about 7 1/2, but was unaware that Daddy then let him watch the other ones while I was out of town), but we started him pretty young on talking about how movies are fake and we say it again before just about everything he watches...takes a bit of the suspension of disbelief away, but leaves him much more peaceful.

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