Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with a lovely old woman who, well and truly, lived up to the "senior" stereotype. She appeared to be in her mid 80s but was very switched on and chatty. It was a frustrating discussion, however, and one that I was going to keep to myself... but the details of it have stuck with me overnight and I thought that it was an amusing story to tell.
She came into my store just after lunchtime and asked whether I had PETER AND THE WOLF available to hire. There have been various adaptations over the years but there has never been a proper theatrical release. I told her that we didn't stock any versions of the story and that she would be strapped to find any feature-length version of it anywhere. She was disappointed and then asked whether ROBINSON CRUSOE was available. We do have the film, however, it was currently on hire. In her frustration she explained to me that she was looking after her two great-grandchildren (aged 6 and 9) and that she wanted movies that would "truly entertain them". I introduced her to our family section, where we have over 2000 titles in stock. She honestly wasn't interested and told me that "all of these new films are rubbish". I suggested that we browse the titles together and that I could help select some of the wonderful movies amongst them. She humoured me and we had a long discussion. She told me the children's parents let them watch "rubbish". I was curious to what sort of titles she was referring to and she pointed to a few on the shelf. "Oh things like this." and "Things like that". She was pointing to movies like HUGO and TOY STORY. I was a little surprised and told her that I personally considered those to be very good movies for kids. She asked me why and I explained that they are both adventurous, sincere and thought provoking. She didn't seem convinced.
Our conversation lasted for at least thirty minutes and she revealed that she was looking after her grandchildren for two weeks. She wanted to introduce them to movies that she grew up with, which she considered to be wholesome and educational. At one point she mentioned OUR GANG (the original Little Rascals) to which I smiled and commented that OUR GANG was most definitely not wholesome or educational. "Of course it was" she replied. I don't think she was expecting me to even know what OUR GANG was but I reminded her of those child characters being paraded on screen in salacious ways. Little boys pretending to be cigarette-smoking gangsters in gambling dens and little girls pretending to be prostitutes. "It wasn't all pure" I said... but I digressed. I wasn't interested in pissing on this woman's fond memories and so I continued to show her some fabulous and wonderful modern movies. "No no no. I want Peter and the Wolf. And Robinson Crusoe". Hmm. Things were getting frustrating.
I mentioned to her that I was a father and was in a position to lend my own advice. Knowing that I had children changed her attitude and the conversation switched to the type of films I exposed my kids to. She was genuinely curious. I told her that I like to challenge my kids. I am not one to bubble-wrap them and that watching challenging films was an important component to healthy development. I further explained what I meant by that and pointed to films like THE LAST MIMZY, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. "All of these are challenging in their own ways. This is a little bit scary while this one is emotionally charged. All of them have a strong sense of morality and they will take the kids on a wonderful journey". The conversation did go into what is age appropriate and all of that stuff but my point was that there was plenty of modern movies to enjoy.
Unfortunately this old woman, as lovely and well intentioned that she was, was stuck in her mind set. She was adamant that her grandchildren would prefer to watch classics from the 30s through to the 60s. I remaked that I personally can't imagine too many kids gravitating towards that stuff and that most kids don't explore classic cinema until they're much older and interested in historical context... etc.
The conversation was long and extensive. Only a fraction of it found its way into this article and I would be here for hours if I were to include every detail. The discussion was great and we both respected each other's opinions. She ended the conversation by saying that all kids (referring to the age of her grandkids) these days are lazy and lack a sense of adventure. That they've got too much time for computer games and mobile phones and no time for the outdoors. I smiled and said to her "Oh I dont know. I don't think the kids of today are much different to the kids of yesterday. It's the parents who have changed and have a lot to answer for".
She left with ROBINSON CRUSOE on reservation and ignored the rest of the family section. It's a great film and all.... and I'm sure that her 6 year old grandchild is going to just LOVE IT.