Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks: Nostalgia Is Nontransferable

We had some friends over Saturday night, those with children brought theirs, because when you're my age and you want to interact with your age cohort, it's easier to just throw all the rugrats into a room filled with toys and books and let them Battle Royale it out rather than try to coordinate sitter schedules.

As they're wont to do, the men and women separated to discuss things most important to their respective genders. The ladies talked about schools, mutual friends and jobs. The men stuck with subjects in their comfort zone, namely movies and TV. Specifically, we talked about the best way to engineer in our offspring a love for the formative and influential entertainment of our own youth. I believe specific references were made to Star Wars (original trilogy, bien sûr), Looney Tunes and The Six Million Dollar Man (though I'm probably imagining that one). As the conversation progressed, I realized the discussion was pointless.

Which isn't to say your kids won't develop an affection for the same things you love, just that it'll never be the same for them as it is for you, and you shouldn't try to make it otherwise.

At one end of the spectrum of possibilities is the story I read on another web site about a guy who took his kids to see The Muppets. Now, for the record, I love the Muppets and hold out fervent hope one or all of my daughters will ask for a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem shirt for her birthday. Anyway, this guy apparently took his children to see the new movie, and when the lights came on he turned to them, expecting the same shiny-eyed love and enchantment he himself no doubt felt every Tuesday night when Gonzo blew his bugle.

As I understand it, the children offered polite smiles and shrugs, and Dad was crushed.

It's true, I know children who enjoy some of the same movies and TV shows their parents were into. Or rather, variations of the same. None of the kids that I know of who are quote-unquote "into" Star Wars sit around re-watching original rips of the first three movies. No, they like Clone Wars and Knights of the Old Republic. Like I said, I was a huge Muppet fan, and while my kids have enjoyed their Sesame Street phases (well, really their *Elmo* phases), I realized early on the show was no longer the anomaly it was when I was a child.

Kids these days (I'm going to be saying that a lot for the next 40 years) have a glut of options when it comes to wasting time: half a dozen TV stations devoted to everything from The Wiggles to Generator Rex and a hundred other shows I've never heard of; a resurgent Disney/Pixar producing movies on a regular basis (well do I recall the lean years of Robin Hood and The Shaggy D.A.); and video games to satisfy every craving from innocent virtual go-kart racing to harvesting demon souls.

Normally this is where I'd bitch about being stuck with three channels and Atari 2600 or NES, except that's just how it goes. My kids will complain about how all they had when they were young was the goddamned Xbox 360 and wouldn't we have just killed for neural implants and teleportation. World without end.

To keep going back to one example, Star Wars at the time of its release represented something we'd never seen before. It was groundbreaking and instantly mesmerizing to an eight-year old in 1977. Nowadays, you see better special effects in car commercials. I took my girls to see Puss in Boots a few months back and realized there was no point in trying to duplicate my love of old genre movies with them, because their first movie had a talking, swordfighting cat with various computer-animated fairy-tale characters. And it was in 3D, for Christ's sake. What am I supposed to say after that? "Here, check out this stop-motion ape/guy in lizard suit stomping on a model Tokyo?" Not that they won't be able to develop an appreciation for such things later on, but I've already lost the ability to impress them with the stuff that knocked my younger self on his ass.

Not that I won't try, but the trick with getting kids to do something is to make them believe they have free will. When mine get a little older, I'll start leaving strategically placed copies of The Dark Knight Returns (okay, a lot older) or cue up Kiki's Delivery Service just as they're getting home from school. But the stuff that blows their minds and will form the baseline for future interests (assuming children are capable of focusing on anything for longer than a nanosecond anymore), they'll have to discover that on their own.

That reminds me, I need to go ahead and activate the old parental controls on the Macbook. Lest the stuff that blows their mind comes from rotten.com.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar