My mother did it for me over twenty years ago, and I'm doing it to my kids, with no apologies.
When I was around 10, and lasting for several years thereafter, Mom made a point of renting videos as a means to creating culturally-literate children. The great part was that in addition to getting a great education, we also had a ball seeing terrific classic films together.
Now when I run across fellow Gen-Xers who haven't seen these gems, I have to remind myself that not everyone had such a great learning experience from their parents in their early teens.
I plan to show my kids all the same great shows Mom shared with me, but at this point, my kids are still a little too young to appreciate the likes of Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, or The Philadelphia Story. Ditto with some of the Hitchcock greats (my personal favorites: Charade and Wait until Dark). My son might be able to sit through something along the lines of The Dirty Dozen, being as there's a lot of guns and fighting in it. And I've toyed with showing them Some Like It Hot, since that's downright hysterical. Even the youngest might be able to get some of it.
But until they're mature enough to appreciate the older greats (with a few exceptions, like Mary Poppins and Chitty, Chitty, Bang-Bang), I'm indoctrinating them with the classics from my youth. We've gone with The Private Eyes, an 80s film starring the inimitable Tim Conway and Don Knotts. A few of the others they've watched include blockbusters like E.T., Big, Newsies, and most recently, Footloose.
(Side note on that one: I've known forever that Footloose was filmed in Utah, but now that I'm an adult—and am far more familiar with Utah County than I used to be—it was a ball watching it and recognizing actual locations. It was also fun to see one of "our" missionaries from the time my parents presided over the mission in Finland. He was an extra in the movie before he served. I had to jump off the couch, rewind the DVD, and point out Elder Sperry to the kids. We caught sight of him two or three times.)
Next up is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which I saw over and over again at the Movies 8 dollar theater with my good buddies, twins Denise and Melinda. We saw a lot of movies together that year. (We also smuggled pounds and pounds of penny candy from ShopKo into the theater. Good times.)
Movies on my to-be-watched list: Ghostbusters, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. I regularly come up with more to add. That way I can make sure my kids get a taste of the cultural icons I grew up with.
One great thing about all this is that we're having a ton of fun watching these movies together. Each brings back all kinds of great memories for me.
Another benefit: The kids are starting to "get" references in TV shows and movies that refer to things they recently saw because I showed it to them. They're also understanding better why Mom and Dad laugh at parts of the Shrek trilogy and other movies that they don't grasp: Oh! Those lines are references to other shows! It's like a light bulb going off in their heads.
Just the other day, my daughter was home sick. We ended up snuggling on the couch together as we caught an episode of Leave It to Beaver. I didn't expect her to watch the whole thing, but my culturally-literate side kicked in, and I insisted she watch a few minutes of it. That way when she heard mentions of "The Beav" or "June Cleaver" on other shows, she'd know what it meant.
Lo and behold, that very night while watching a DVD, we heard a reference to Leave It to Beaver. She was a bit tickled to be the only kid in the family who had a reference for the line.
So thanks, Mom, for yet one more thing!
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