Yesterday was a momentous occasion in our household: we pulled off a movie night! Our friends were making aliyah and gave us a whole bunch of video tapes, since we are probably the last people on Earth to have a functional VCR. One of them was E.T. 3 yo was mildly interested in watching it, and I was feeling under the weather, so this seemed like a perfect way to spend an evening. The boys wanted to watch Pokemon, and even started on it, but, due to some discoveries of broken objects by mommy, they were not allowed to finish. So I started the movie with 3 yo, and then 9 yo came to join us, around the time that Elliot discovers E.T. in the shed.
We did watch the whole movie. I was prepared for kids to be scared, and I was prepared for sadness. I have not watched this movie since the first year I came to the States, so my memory of the story line was fuzzy, and I was discovering it alongside my kids. I was prepared for tears, but I was not prepared for 9 yo asking me repeatedly whether E.T. will live. I was not prepared for the amount of times he asked me about what's going on, who is this, what are the doing, and why. I found myself saying: "Just watch" and "I don't know" probably a dozen times. After the movie was over, 9 yo asked why there isn't a narrator to tell you what's going on.
Right now my boys watch primarily Pokemon. I wrote previously about it, and how I dislike it. One commentator chided me for being too harsh on my kids and that this viewing is harmless. I beg to differ. The simplicity of Pokemon, the non-existence of plot, and the narrator constantly telling you what is going on primes their brains into such a passive state of watching, that they are not accustomed to think about what's on the screen, just sit back and enjoy the show. They expect happy endings; even badly defeated Pokemon will retreat and heal. Despite numerous destructions, Team Rocket is sparkling-new in each episode. Nobody gets hurt badly, and everything is predictable. In fact, it is so simple, that I am afraid they might not be able to handle a real movie plot. They are not ready to watch movie for cues and complexity.
I hope that there is also a matter of a developmental stage: now they like the world to be easily explainable, the good always trumping evil, and not too much pain and suffering along the way. I am hoping that with time they will mature enough to watch more complex plots, and read cues without everything being spelled out.
I also wondered whether our litigious society is contributing to the problem. We all laugh at pool signs which tell us that we can drown in a pool. Last week I went peach picking, and there was a sing warning me that it might be a life-threatening activity. Additionally, I had to sign a release, in case something happened to me while engaging in this agricultural activity. I can look at it, and call is ridiculous. Of course, it is possible to get hurt while peach picking. But what about our kids, who see these signs and think: oh, I did not know that I can die while doing this! Somebody else is telling me it is dangerous, therefore, it must be that I cannot draw this conclusion on my own and access the risks. Somebody always has to tell me what to do. If they are not telling me, I am lost.
Speaking of the risks, how many kids are allowed to come home one hour after sundown, as in E.T.? How many kids would be brave enough to investigate a noise in the shed? If E.T. was set in 2013, it might have been a different movie altogether.