I am a very bad Mummy. Today I let my children (Prima, aged 6 and Secundo, aged 5) go to see a movie called Diary of a Wimpy Kid with their grandma. It is the school holidays and they have been asking to see this movie for weeks. The advertisements about it on TV looked fine and they made the children laugh.
When the children returned from the movie today, no one was laughing. Apparently Prima sat on the edge of her seat, tensed up with her hands over her mouth, for much of the movie, and my mother had to repeatedly remind her it was “just a movie”. Secundo’s only comment was “I don’t want to watch it again. And I don’t want to touch the cheese.”
I was so upset that we all needed to watch an episode of Strawberry Shortcake to recover. The children, sensing that I was wracked by guilt but not understanding why, squeezed two more episodes of Scooby Doo out of me. By bedtime, they seemed to have “recovered” and I finally realised I was being played.
Inadvertently mentally traumatising the children by letting them watch an inappropriate movie is still a very bad thing to do. It is worse than that time:
- I took my Ammamma (grandma) and my two great-aunties to see The Piano. Harvey Keitel’s full frontal nudity was quite a confronting experience for all of us. My grandmother and her sisters responded like well-trained blushing Sri Lankan brides. They all immediately averted their eyes and nervously adjusted their saris. My grandma pulled out a piece of betel nut (and a betel nut cracker) she had smuggled in her brazier, and they spent the next 10 minutes cutting and chewing betel nut with downcast eyes.
- My father took my Appappa (grandpa) to see The Gladiator. My grandfather is a very quiet man who spends his days avoiding human company and loud sounds. He watches British comedies such as Dad’s Army and his limit of acceptable violence involves Basil Fawlty hitting Manuel with a frying pan. When Appappa returned from The Gladiator, he hit the Black Label and would not speak to my father for days.
- My cousin took my aunty (his mum) to see the re-release of The Exorcist. This particular aunty is unbelievably sweet-natured and pious. I understand she prayed a lot during the movie and my uncle eventually had to turn her hearing aid off.
Whilst inadvertently mentally traumatising the children by letting them watch an inappropriate movie is still a very bad thing to do, it is not as bad as that time my father took us to see Star Trek 2, The Wrath of Khan. I was 8 and my brother was 4 years old. I am not sure how we even got into the cinema. However, the following scenes have stayed with me forever:
- The Klingon leader Khan puts some creepy alien creatures into the helmets of the captive Starship crew members. The creatures burrow through the ears of the prisoners and into their brains, whilst they scream in agony. My father (a neurosurgeon) leaning over and saying “that is anatomically impossible” did not reassure us at all, and I have a lifelong fear of all burrowing insects.
- Mr Spock, burnt and dying, saying something like “The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the one. Jim, you have been and always will be (cough, cough, death rattle) my friend. Live long and prosper (cough, cough, die).” As Mr Spock was my favourite character I was devastated and only really recovered when Star Trek 3 came out (and Spock was regenerated on Genesis).
My father also took us to see all the Star Wars movies and ET, movies that changed me (in an un-traumatic sort of way), and ones that I can still watch over and over again. Tomorrow I am going to watch Star Wars, Episode IV with the children (again) and probably my father. Hopefully it will help them forget Diary of a Wimpy Kid and give them A New Hope.