Watching movies with my daughter

I showed Clementine The Wizard of Oz a couple of months ago, soon after she turned five. I thought that she was old enough. We’d already read the book. And I’d already warned her about the flying monkeys. And I’d shown her the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West melts on YouTube. So, we popped a big bowl of popcorn and watched it one Sunday afternoon. It was a great father daughter moment, sitting there on the couch, noting the discrepancies between the movie and the book, and theorizing as to why changes were made. But the reason I mention it here is because of something that she mentioned toward the end, as Dorothy is hugging the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, and telling them goodbye. Clementine looked at me and asked, “Daddy, why is there water on my face?”

I told her that she was crying, but it didn’t seem to make sense to her, as she wasn’t either hurt or angry. I told her that she was probably sad that Dorothy was having to leave her new friends, and it dawned on me that this was likely the first time that she’d ever cried because of something that didn’t impact her directly. Anyway, it seemed like an interesting milestone, and one worth recording here.

And, as long as we’re talking about milestones, we celebrated another one today, when Clementine and I watched The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. After watching the whole thing, she looked at me and noted that I’d shown her her first “killing” movie. And, not counting wicked witches, I guess that it was. It was certainly the first time she’d seen anyone fire a gun at another person. And maybe I’m a bad father for that. But it’s a hell of a movie, and I thought that she was about the right age for a conversation on the nature of greed. So, that’s what we did. We sat there on the couch, shelling peas, and talking about the way money complicates relationships and makes people lose their minds.

Hopefully, I can hold off a few more years on Taxi Driver.

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14 Comments

  1. Oliva
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Notice how certain posts read like there’s not a word out of place?
    What a good post this is. What a moment to notice and record, too, re. the water on Clementine’s face. Seems a rare moment to notice but thinking about it one of the more profound moments in a life.

  2. EGNB
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Wondrous — it never occurred to me that it is a milestone for a child to be moved to tears by something that is not happening directly to her.

    I think the first time that our Clementine cried over something she watched, it was during a YouTube video of Andrea Bocelli singing. It was a version of Time to Say GoodBye, which is admittedly a sad song. Except it was Time to Say Goodnight, sung to Elmo and is about Elmo doing lots of fun things during the day and now he needs some rest. Halfway through the song, she was bawling, and she probably didn’t even know why.

    As for bad parenting, tonight our Clementine was flipping channels and Sweeney Todd came on. I wasn’t paying much attention but seemed innocuous enough — singing, a child, dancing. Looked a little bit dark… and then Johnny Depp plunges a straight razor into Alan Rickman’s throat. Helena Bonham Carter enters the scene, she and Johnny Depp dance around and sing, and then he swings her into a fiery oven and locks the door. Can you imagine how mindblowing that must’ve been for a 4-year-old? As for me, I’m going to parent hell.

  3. Scott K
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    So is Deliverance after Taxi Driver?

  4. STD
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    We should initiate a nationwide Father Daughter “Faces of Death” marathon!

  5. Kevin
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I would vote for “The Shining” is the worst movie to watch with your young child. Especially since it centers on the betrayal of a parent.

    Actually, the thing that scared me the most growing up was an episode of Scooby Doo where they meet a vampire. I had nightmares about that for years, and I couldn’t go to sleep without pulling the sheets over my head. But I had to leave a hole near my mouth or else I would suffocate.

  6. Kim
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Children’s movies are the scariest movies made. Nothing can be scarier than the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. HORRIFYING.

  7. Oliva
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    We (me and my sisters) used to get in our PJs to watch “Lassie.” At the end, with credits rolling, we’d kneel, waving at the TV, and say in unison, “Bye, Lassie, see you next week.” Sometimes we’d get so worked up that we’d cry. My father saw what was happening and decided we couldn’t watch anymore. (He loved Lassie too but didn’t like tears.)

  8. eric
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Be careful when watching your old Jonny Quest episodes. Most of them seemed scary to me when I was a child, but they’re still rather creepy. I had nightmare after nightmare about the sea creature from The Sea Haunt [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBkLuqqWfyk]. I watched it a few years ago online and it didn’t fail to bring back some of the fear from childhood–more through remembering the nightmares than the show itself, of course.

    Although Clementine would probably just weep now at the stereotyping of Hadji.

  9. Joanne
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    “Sierra” is an excellent film. Introduce her to Marx Brothers; “To Kill a Mocking Bird”; “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”; “Casablanca”; oh, the list goes on.

  10. Posted October 13, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    All right, I fully admit to being *very* hormonal right now, with my new babe in arms as I write this….but I totally teared up reading this. How awesome that you were able to witness Clementine making such a profound connection. “Water on my face” would make a very cool title to something, anything.
    In the meantime, hold off on introducing her to dear Travis. Maybe start slow with the Combat Rock album…

  11. Me
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    My parents showed me Psycho when I was about five. They still laugh like hell when they remember my reaction to that old skeleton bitch turning around to face the camera.
    Next was Excalibur at the theatre when I was maybe six or seven. It perplexed me a little to think that a guy would have a child by his sister. But I got over it.
    Then came Travis Bickle at about age seven. I didn’t know what he was talking about when he claimed to “clean the cum off the seats” of his cab. But I knew it was something.
    Yeah. I guess my family fucked me up, but everybody has those little things.
    Mark, you are showing your daughter good movies. I don’t see how it could hurt her.
    Throne of Blood, Blade Runner, A Man for All Seasons, Rashomon. If kids don’t see movies like that, how would they know old people are not just worthless fuckers who don’t think about anything but themselves. I still think the worst thing kids could watch is nightly news.
    One movie I absolutley loved when I was a kid was called “Tommorow” with Robert Duvall. But what a sad fucker of a movie that one is.

  12. Karen
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    You should show her this, perhaps in between viewings of Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d55ICVre3c&feature=related

    I saw it when I was about her age, and to this day I can make myself cry just by thinking of the last minute of the movie (but in a good way).

    (It could also be a good way to teach her about copyright infringement…)

  13. Posted October 23, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I loved this post :) I’m so impressed she watched all of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, that film is great. Have you ever watched There Will Be Blood? The director said he watched that film every single night during filming to help keep him in the right mindset.

    Anyway – I just really liked this post.

  14. Me
    Posted October 24, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    “Aguirre”.
    Now that is a movie for kids.
    And a true story, too.

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