Pushing Pop Culture On My Son: the Hits and Misses

06Aug13

As a concerned, caring parent, I’ve spent the better part of my free time pushing my personal pop culture obsessions onto my son. This feels natural. I’ve had some hits and misses, and here they are:

Hit: “Wall-E.” The initial viewing came when Henry had a fever and got a “full-movie treat.” Rachel picked this one, and the quiet nature of the film settled well with Henry’s preference for quieter things. It’s got space ships, robots and fun chases. We’ve been through it about 40 times with no sign of slowing.

Miss: “Star Wars.” The Mottaz legend of my initial viewing of this film goes: I was three and a half, my dad took me to the theater, where I received a toy catalog and stood on the seat for the entire two hours. It was an easy sell, so I expected an easy time with Henry. But so far, the booming soundtrack has put him on edge. He doesn’t like Darth Vader, and the half-hour we’ve actually gotten through was viewed from the side; he literally sat to the side of the TV, hiding from the viewing. And Henry NEVER misses an opportunity to stare at the TV. Given the boy’s growing obsession with space ships — he even enjoys the docking scene from “2001” for crying out loud — how is he resisting this?

Hit: Tiny Titans. This took two tries, but we are currently deep in the comedic world of Franco-Baltazar’s kid-friendly kid heroes. The easy way in for Henry was the stories centered on Robin, but he has shown an interest in all the characters, major and minor. I never thought I’d have to look up the origin of the TEEN Blue Beetle, but here we are.

Miss: The Fleischer Studios “Superman.” Visual storytelling with dynamic colors and exciting action centered on a recognizable character. What’s not to like? Apparently a lot, because the times I’ve tried to push it, it has met with much resistance. After we get through “Tiny Titans,” which is a gateway to “The Superman Family Adventures” (a line created by the same team), maybe we’ll have better luck. Maybe.

Miss: The Flash. I’ve collected four of the DC Chronicles “Flash” archives, and so far the original adventures of Barry Allen have been met with mild curiosity before being ignored. Henry keeps asking about that cover of the Flash becoming fat, but he just can’t make the leap into the story. However…

Hit: Kid Flash. Maybe it’s residual Robin love, but henry LOVES the Kid Flash stories featured in those Chronicles. Young Wally West — still wearing his original all-red, kid-sized suit — battles such evils as beatnik robbers, carjackers and the like. When compared to the events Barry Allen had to fight (time travel, giants, being made fat through psychic powers), Kid Flash’s battles feel entirely feasible. I think Henry just responds to kid heroes, which mostly makes sense.

Hit: “Batman: The Movie.” This has been covered many times on this site, but it’s worth repeating for the trick I used to hook him: one day, as Henry was napping, I cued up the DVD past the credits to the opening sequence. Then, just as Henry emerged from his room, I hit “play,” and my 2-year-old got a healthy* dose of Batmobile, helicopter and boat. I sheepishly asked this transfixed child, “Do you… do you want to watch this?” He nodded, and here we are.

Miss: “Batman” the TV show. I overplayed my hand. I tried showing him “The Purr-fect Crime/Better Luck Next Time,” aka Julie Newmar’s first episode, aka the best episode of “Batman” they ever made. It’s a little more intense than the movie, what with Batman and Robin facing gassings, spiked walls and man-eating tigers (twice!). I’ve since gotten Henry to watch “Hi Diddle Diddle/Smack in the Middle” (aka the first episode they made), and while he sort of enjoyed it, the death of Molly stayed with him much longer than I would have expected. Here’s hoping that death hasn’t started a weird Jill St. John. It all gives me hesitation for showing him the False Face episode.

Hit: “Sesame Street.” I take almost no credit in this. “Sesame Street” is straight up kid meth. Everyting about it feels designed for them without 100% condescension. It’s nearly perfect.

Miss: The Muppets. Henry enjoys Kermit, has watched the original movie and the recent reboot, but has never shown a bit of interest in the classic “variety show” format. Someday he’ll be interested in the Mark Hamill episode. I can feel it.

Hit: “Looney Toons.” As a good 21st Century Parent, I had a long talk about these being fake, and how hitting people in real life is never funny… before showing Henry clips of Bugs Bunny whacking the Sheriff of Nottingham over the head multiple times. But I want my son to understand and experience truly hilarious things. If he clubs a kid over the head with a scepter, then we’ll talk. That’s called “being responsible.”

Miss: Buster Keaton. I know, I know… it’s a long shot. It had a lot going against it, being silent and in black and white, and just a little sophisticated. But I was optimistic that the very obvious genius and overwhelming charm radiating through every frame of the highlights would win the day. I blame the internet.

 

*As in “very good for you.”

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