Yours, Mine and Ours: Our Emotional Ties To Films
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle tells us that we affect whatever it is that we observe and can never know the extent to which we are part of the outcome. If we adapt this to discussions of film, then it becomes reasonable to accept that we cannot divest ourselves of the intangible associations that a movie has with the people in our lives. It’s a fairly obvious point to make, really, because it seems unavoidable that at least once you’ve discussed movies and called to mind memories of someone else.
My mother took my brother and me to see several movies over the years; more than I had remembered until I sat down and began to try to make a conscious list of my theater-going experiences. Yet there are only a handful of movies that evoke thoughts of her. I remember she took me to see The Transformers: The Movie when it came out in 1986. She cried when Optimus Prime died, and defended her emotional reaction by saying, “They killed my baby’s favorite!” To this day I make fun of my mom for that. Three years later, she took my brother and me to see Batman and she was shocked at how far removed it was from the 1960s version with Adam West that was so familiar to her. I wouldn’t understand how appalled she felt then until I saw the live-action Scooby-Doo in 2002.
When these movies show up in the course of Flickcharting, I don’t always consciously think of those associations. After all, I’ve seen them so many times over the years that I don’t even think about how slavishly in love with them I am and thoughts of my mom are entirely peripheral.
Then there’s my brother. I have fond memories of staying up all night with him watching a Three Stooges marathon on April Fool’s Day, 1995. I cannot think of the Stooges at all without immediately recalling Hold That Lion! and picturing the two of us red from laughter, our insides burning and our eyes wet with tears. Any time I see the Stooges appear in the course of ranking movies, I feel a little Moe Howard on my shoulder, ready to bonk me on the head if I don’t pick their work.
Remember your first movie date? Mine was November 4th, 1995. It was also my first ever movie at the then-new Oldham 8 Theater, which was the first time we had a cinema in my small town. The movie was her pick: Powder. Whenever I think of the movie, I don’t really think about the actual film much. In fact, about all I can recall is the scene of the bird being resurrected. I can’t tell you a single thing about the plot or even the cast. Instead, I recall how anxious I was in the hours before the movie began. Was it really happening that I was going on a date? What was I supposed to do? What was I allowed to do? Would she really show up? I met her the week before at a friend’s Halloween party. I hadn’t anticipated that she would look much the same on our date. Nobody told me I had scored a date with a goth chick.
If you want to talk about Powder with me, I’m afraid that’s the extent of what I can contribute to the conversation. This is what I think about when I’m asked to rank the film. Is it fair to Powder? Probably not. But it’s part of my permanent emotional memory. If we return to Heisenberg, the lesson I believe applicable here is that our feelings about a film are intrinsically linked with elements that are not part of the actual movie. The Three Stooges certainly hadn’t given any consideration to my brother and me when they shot their 100th short film any more than Victor Salva worried about my first date when directing Powder. Yet for me, these are part of the films. Sometimes I feel as though I’m really ranking my brother or that first date (he’s awesome; the date… not so much).
Far and away, though, I was introduced to (or discovered) the most movies with my wife. Our first movie date was to see Head of State. I thought about that a lot in 2008 as we went into our first presidential election as husband and wife with Barack Obama on the ballot. Am I saying that President Obama was elected because we saw Chris Rock play a guy who became our first African-American president? No. (But you’re welcome, Mr. President.)
When I rank Powder vs. Head of State, I know I enjoyed the latter much more than the former but I can’t help feeling what I’m really doing is ranking a mediocre date against the most important relationship of my life.
I could go on, but I think by now you get the point. So the question for you, Dear Reader, is how you feel about these “personalized” movies. Do you try to fight your biases? How do you feel about favoring a weaker movie because of fond memories it evokes? Do you ever punish a movie for reminding you of something that didn’t work out? Or, what’s a movie where you’ve permanently associated it in your mind with someone else? Since a blog community thrives best when readers become contributors to the discourse, don’t be shy about sharing your stories!
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Travis as TravisSMcClain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.