Okay, I’m never going to the movies with my kids again. It’s always a friggin disaster and I never seem to learn my lesson.
My 6 year old son, Eli, begged me to take him to see Toy Story 3 (or whatever number the new one is). I remembered the horrible scene in the theatre at Karate Kid 4 (or whatever that new one was) when the main guy got chased by a bunch of really mean kids. Then I flashed back to the trauma of “Up” that depressing “kid” flick where the old man mourned the death of his wife in the most lugubrious montage I’ve ever seen on screen. Rationally I knew that going to the movies was not a good idea. But, what is it they say is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? That would be me.
So in spite of the warning bells clamoring in my head, I decided to take the boys to see Toy Story 3. The first time things didn’t go just right for Woody, all hell broke loose. My youngest son is simply not able to differentiate reality from make-believe. Yikes, isn’t that the definition of psychosis?
Anyway, at the first sign of trouble, my boy becomes wild with emotion. “Noooooo!!!!!! He start shrieking, “Get me out of here. I hate this movie. Oh God, noooooo….Woody!!!” Okay, seriously, I’m like , “Eli, come on, cut it out. Woody’s gonna be fine. He really is. I promise.”
“Noooooo,” he continues to cry at a decibel louder than the movie roar. “I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home.”
Now Eli is a tall 6 year old. He looks like he’s at least 7 or 8. So the people around us are more than a little perturbed. I mean, why is a youngster that age behaving like this. I murmer a few embarrassing I’m sorries and they reluctantly go back to the movie, probably assuming some diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or sensory integration disfunction.
“Eli, we are not leaving. The movie just started and I promised your brother he could see it. You begged me to come to this film. I am telling you that Woody is going to make it and be just fine. You have to believe me.”
My reassurances did nothing to convince him of Woody’s certain well being. He screamed incessantly throughout the movie. Sure I thought about taking him home. I thought about wandering the halls of the theatre. But you really can’t leave your other kid alone in a dark movie theatre and feel like you’re being a responsible parent. I mean, what do you say to make sure he’s okay? “Listen, Levi, if a strange man sits down next to you while I’m roaming the halls with your brother, just stand up, start screaming and run wildly out of the theatre.”
So we stayed. It was miserable. Eli sat on my lap, catatonic, while Levi tensely tried to relax and ignore the muffled cries. I wanted to kill myself. This is so not what going to the movies with your kids is supposed to be.
Eli remained petrified throughout the flick, I’ve finally begun to understand why. He’s got what we call the “Nudelman” negativity (NN). It comes from my mother’s side. It’s an innate negativity that causes all of the Nudelman descendants to automatically obsess about what isn’t working and to confidently assume the worst in every situation. In film world, as soon as the good guys run into trouble, the NN warns my son of impending disaster. He then goes berserk, convinced that all is lost and the future of his cellulose universe is doomed forever. No amount of convincing works to ease his misery.
I asked my husband, the pediatrician, if there was some kind of medication for this? “I mean, seriously,” I told him, “he doesn’t understand that bad things have to happen in movies in order for the hero to become the hero. What is wrong with him?”
“Well, first of all, “ my husband began to explain in an annoyingly calm doctor voice, “it’s very normal for children at this age to have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. The movie world can seem completely real to a 6 year old and that can be really scary. Plus you have to factor into the mix that his mother is a total wacko who can’t see movies herself because she gets too involved in them and then can’t function for days afterwards.”
What are you talking about?” I asked indignantly. “I see movies all the time.” “Yeah,” he said, “just the ones I pre-screen for you.” He then went on to list a few of the films we had seen that had sent me into so deep a state of devastation he had to lock up all the prescription medications in the house.
“Remember how you reacted at ‘Forest Gump’? What about ‘Lion King’, when the father died? ‘Pretty Woman’?” he was beginning to piss me off.
“Well, that was only because I thought they weren’t gonna end up together,” I said trying to sound as rational as possible.
“Okay,” he went on, “How about ‘Revolutionary Road,’ that movie about the nice suburban couple?”
“Honey,” I lamented, “I could relate to that movie. She had issues. And she killed herself in the end. That was not an uplifting film.” He went on to site some obvious selections like “Sophie’s Choice,” “Shindler’s List”, “No Country for Old Men.” I stopped trying to defend myself though when he reminded me about how I began to hyperventilate when Yoda died in “Return of the Jedi.” Then he asked me, “Have you ever wondered why that doesn’t happen anymore?”
“No,” I said. “Not until right now.”
“Because I see every movie you want to see first without you.” he confessed.
“You’re joking,” I laughed.
“No, I’m afraid I’m not. And you know those movies I told you we couldn’t get on Netflix. I was lying. I just don’t have the strength to watch you disintegrate after watching them.”
I was stunned and horrified. Could this be true? Was I living in some kind of Tipper Gore world of censorship without even knowing it. I wanted to race out and watch “Seven Pounds,” or “The boy in Striped Pajamas.” But then I realized how much happier I’d been these past few years seeing flicks like “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “The Full Monty.”
Maybe that was it. I needed to screen the movies I take Eli to beforehand. But every kid movie has a villain. Every kid movie has scary obstacles that impede the hero. Every kid movie has one or two dead parents. No. Screening alone cannot protect my young one from the fears inside his hereditarily psychotic brain.
The only answer is a movie moratorium. I’m done with the whole scene (pun intended). No more movie theatres, no more buttered popcorn, no more Screenvision trivia facts, and no more reciting classic movie lines like “Use the Force,” and “Go ahead, make my day.” I want to erase the entire film industry from our psyches. And if you think that’s the coward’s way out, “Frankly, my friends, I don’t give a damn.”