Friday, January 1, 2010


Have you ever watched "The Muppet Movie"? If you've never taken acid, this movie might be a close approximation (although I'm just speculating). We watched "The Muppet Movie" this evening for our family movie night. We often choose older films because they move a little slower than contemporary movies and are easier for Martin to understand. Going for movies from the late 70s and early 80s, however, does not guarantee Martin's comprehension. How is he supposed to know that Steve Martin's waiter costume is hilarious? Why would he be amused by references to Hare Krishnas?

We started to let Martin watched little movies when he was about 18-months-old. He liked one of those Baby Einstein (aka Middle-class Paranoia about Children) movies about farm animals. He also liked a collection of Sesame Street songs. But we never even tried a full-length movie with him. I had heard of other kids, sometimes only 3 or 4, who could sit through "Finding Nemo" and other Disney offerings. I had two reactions to this information. First, I couldn't imagine Martin sitting through a movie that lasted 80 to 90 minutes. Second, I was secretly glad that my kid didn't have an attention span that could be owned by Disney.

But I should have known that something was up. As I've mentioned in a previous post, Martin watched "My Dinner with Andre", practically the whole thing, when he was two. He just watched with a blank expression. I have no idea what he got out of it. Even now, I'm not sure what he gets out of movies. Tonight, he said things like "The dog [Rolf] is playing the piano" and "The frog and the pig are in love." I can't be certain that he followed the dialogue. I think most of his apprehension came from the characters' physical actions.

Watching Martin watching movies makes me wonder what movies (and stories) are for. Is sitting down for an evening with "The Muppet Movie" supposed to be a little acid trip away from from one's regular life? Is it there simply to make no sense and offer us a little silliness? If so, I think Martin gets it and enjoys it. In fact, I know he loves family movie night. But if watching children's movies is supposed to train us to love and understand stories, so that we might devour more of them as adults, I'm not sure it's working with Martin. And even though he sees movies sometimes and reads dozens of books a day, I'm not sure that the thrill and charm of stories has yet to work on him. I have yet to see him get carried away.

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