For those of you who don’t know, I’m a preschool teacher. I get to spend my day making crafts and playing ukulele. Not a bad gig. Except for if you take into account the pay. Then it’s the absolute worst gig.
Anyway, I was checking my phone the other day, when from behind me I heard a little voice say, “Hey, that’s Ghostbusters.”
I turned around to see a little bespectacled girl who had just turned 5. I was surprised to hear that anyone younger than 10 had seen these movies, much less 5. Kid’s movies today are so far removed from the ones of my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Wreck-It Ralph. But when I was growing up, kid’s movies had swears and fucked up monsters. Everything today is so PlaySkool and rounded edges and messages about how everyone is special and all that junk. Sometimes I want a movie with a story, not a message.
I’m in charge of the summer program at this school, too. Which means I have kids from kindergarten through 8th grade all day. A couple years ago, we were talking about movies, and it came out that none of them had even heard of Ghostbusters or Back to the Future. I decided on our next scheduled movie day, I was going to remedy this. Well, about 10 minutes into BttF, he utters the “serious shit” line, and I had to quell a sea of “ummmmm’s” and reactions. Then Marty calls the Libyans bastards and I’m freaking out again, knowing I’ll probably be hearing from some parents now.
I was so bummed out, though. I mean, these movies were pillars for my generation growing up. And now I can’t even show them to kids without fear of getting in trouble? And now here we are seeing Lorraine Baines undress down to her bra and panties while George McFly spies on her from a tree branch. Again, another wave of sniggers and “ooohs.” I turn off the movie. “Fine, go play.”
As I touched on in the first post, as a kid, all you’re focused on is the ghosts and marshmallow men. You even know that Venkman is the funny one, even if you don’t get half of his jokes. Only when you get older do the good jokes really come to the surface. Movies from back then are like infinite wells. They evolve and become more complex and unfold in new ways as your brain develops. There aren’t movies like that for kids anymore. I know Pixar movies come close, but only because their stories and characters are so deep. But even at what I think is Pixar’s best, WALL-E, that same feeling isn’t there. I’ll watch Ghostbusters until the day I die, and hopefully keep finding new things to like and laugh about. But can we say the same about our kids? Will they watch Kung Fu Panda or Despicable Me or Monsters Vs. Aliens as they grow older and have new appreciations for more complex emotions?
I think more movies aught to have things that scare kids. Or at least make them feel something. If The NeverEnding Story was made today, I bet you Artax wouldn’t be fucking dead by the end of that movie. But how many of us can say that that scene was a pivotal emotional moment for us growing up? How many of us are terrified of Hexxus to this day? Hell, I remember being terrified of Vigo at the end of Ghostbusters II. But today, studios don’t really treat kids like they can understand emotions. It’s all fucking goofball stuff with a mild suspenseful threat, all wrapped up with a dance number to a 70’s hit – just to make sure you’re leaving the theatre in a good mood so you’re sure to tell other people you liked it. I want animated movies to challenge kids about what they feel – what they’re okay with. The Secret of NIMH was dark as hell, man. Full of death. But it felt real. You felt good about, well, being good. Without really scary, dark stuff, we don’t know what true good is. Like Walt said:
“Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil, and that is what our pictures attempt to do.”
That’s why I think the greats like Walt Disney and Don Bluth and Jim Henson stand the test of time obviously. Dark Crystal wasn’t afraid to tell us its story, no matter how dark it got before it did. Maybe the closest we’ve got to that stuff today are the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Which almost don’t count being based on something else to begin with. (I know, I know. So was NIMH and NeverEnding Story, but that was back then, and I’m talking about now.) I think if kids are allowed to watch those today, they’ll get even more out of them as adults than if they were just exposed to them when they were older. Good parents let their kids get scared, and then talk to them about why they’re scared or sad or upset. Kids are complex and can handle more than we give them credit for.
So, obviously I had her draw me a Ghostbuster.
There you have it. It’s really gonna be hard to top this one. Here we have all 4 Ghostbusters, standing in the pink slime river. Peter is rolling a purple ghost trap under Slimer, while the other three blast the ghosts with slime. Let’s see any of you other artists match that kind of complexity. Oh and there above Slimer is the Ghostbusters’ logo.
Who’s your favorite Ghostbuster?
The one who says all the funny stuff.