Back to US Life Histories

Time Mov(i)es On

The smell of freshly popped popcorn is in the air. I walk down the aisle of lights and sit in front of the world's largest television screen. I can replay these feelings in my head thousands of times. In my lifetime, I have spent hundreds of hours staring at movie images. But, it wasn't until recently that I fully understood the effect that these images have had on me. We live in a society that is highly concerned with media images, and how we make ourselves appear to each other. Like most, I fell into the norm of society and altered myself to imitate the images that I watched on the big screen.

When I was younger, I thought life was perfect. I never wanted to grow up, and I never wanted things to change. I loved my family, I loved my friends, and basically loved my life. I remember when I was five, my father took me to my first movie. Our local movie theater was replaying Bambi, and just about every kid in the neighborhood was there. I had been looking forward spending the day with my dad at the movies. I remember putting on my favorite pink sweater; I wanted everything to be perfect. Dad drove on this rainy day to the movie theater with me, smiling the whole way there. Walking into the theater, I was overwhelmed by the enormous screen. I had never seen such a big TV set before! But, my dad assured me that this was different from TV. I watched the entire movie holding my dad's hand, enjoying every minute. To this day my father still reminisces about the sparkle I had in my eyes all day!

Later as the day dwindled into night, I went to bed with thoughts of Bambi and Thumper in my head. Although I loved the movie, I could never imagine losing my mom, as Bambi had. When mom and dad both came to tuck me in for the night, I remember at that point thinking how lucky I was. I never wanted that feeling to end and wished for my life to always be as it was.

However, I learned pretty quickly how the passage of life has a funny way of changing people. The memories of Bambi slowly began to fade and my life became controlled by media images. I began to mimic whatever I saw. When I was eight years old, Madonna's first movie, Desperately Seeking Susan, entered the theaters. I went with my best friend and our moms to see it on a cool Sunday afternoon. We had exhausted the day shopping at the mall and thought the perfect way to end a perfect day would be to spend it at the movies. This was the time when "punked-out" was in. Lots of plastic jewelry, hair sprayed as high as I could get it, and clothes that looked straight out of a punk rocker magazine were "cool." People wonder where these looks and fads come from. There is no question where my obsession came from: this movie. I saw Madonna as the coolest person alive! I wanted nothing more than to be her, and so I found that dressing like her got me as close as I was ever going to get. (Of course watching the movie about twenty seven times didn't hurt either!) I went home that night and found anything I could that resembled Madonna's wardrobe from the movie. I ripped my t-shirts so that my stomach was showing, and put on anything florescent I could find. I thought I was the "coolest" person alive. My mother, however, thought otherwise. She told me how ridiculous I looked, and would not let me go out in public looking the way I did. I remember thinking how mad I was at her. Did she not love me anymore? I think this was the beginning of a change in our relationship. My parents were becoming!

As always, fads become a thing of the past and life moves on. This didn't seem to bother me however, because I just went with the flow of life. After a short time, I out grew my wanna-be-Madonna phase, and moved on to a new stage in my life. Movies about teenage life began to peek my interest and I entered a parent's nightmare, adolescence. When I was in fifth grade, the hit movie Can't Buy Me Love was released. It was about a teenage girl, named Cindy Mancini, who got "rented" by a nerdy boy so that he could become popular. He thought if people saw that she liked him, everyone else would like him too. I loved Cindy Mancini. I wanted to be Cindy Mancini. She was beautiful, the captain of cheerleading, and the most popular girl in high school. I saw this movie with my friends, three other girls and four boys. I remember thinking that my parents were just not cool enough for me anymore, therefore I could not go with them to the movies anymore. Cindy Mancini felt like this, consequently so did I. I don't remember so much of the day I saw this movie, but I do remember the day after. My mom needed to go to the mall, so she dragged me with her, practically kicking and screaming! All I thought about the whole day was the movie I had seen the night before. Walking through the mall, I was miserable. I could not believe that I was with my mom. I was mortified. Everything she said, I disagreed with. All I wanted to do was go home so that no one would see me. Cindy Mancini would not go anywhere with her mom, she was always with her friends, therefore, I felt like I was doing something socially wrong. Seems like the days of Bambi were long gone.

Life seemed to go on like this for a while. I would go to the movies and get all different images in my head of what I should be like and how I should act. Like most kids, I was confused for a good portion of my teenage years. It was uncool to be friends with your parents, yet deep down I still loved mine. It was cool to drink, yet I didn't like the taste of alcohol. I remember when I was in seventh grade I saw Beaches with my mom. Although this is an outstanding movie, I couldn't enjoy it. We saw it on a Friday night, just my mom and me. I remember praying the entire movie that I wouldn't see anyone I knew. If anyone had seen that I was with my mother, I would have been absolutely mortified. I saw the movie again a few years later, but it was like I was watching it for the first time. Why did I always seem to conform to media versions of society? This is a question I ask myself when I look back on my adolescent years. Then one day life changed, and my priorities seemed to rearrange themselves. My parents got divorced.

For my whole life, I lived in a town where everyone knew everyone, and everything. If you changed your bathroom wall paper, the milk-man would somehow know. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. I had the normal reaction to a divorce. (Or at least whatever a normal reaction was, I guess.) I didn't cry, I didn't argue about it, I basically didn't talk of it, and I certainly didn't tell anyone. But, when you go from seeing both parents every day for your entire life, to only seeing one once a week, feelings change. I no longer cared about putting on an act for my parents. I loved them both and I felt the need for them to always know that. Maybe it was because I was getting older, maybe it was because media images didn't quite have the same effect on me anymore. Whatever it was, my life was suddenly different. I became a different person, more independent and less stubborn. Movies that I had been watching for so many years, where the teenage kids were embarrassed by their parents, once seemed like outlines to how my life should be. But now they just seemed like stories of mere entertainment, insignificant to my life. I now enjoyed all the time I spent with both my parents.

My dad is definitely not the type of person who enjoys going to the movies. He likes to rent them so he has the comfort of home and control of the remote. That's why, when I was in tenth grade and he took me to see Jurassic Park, I couldn't have been happier. It was raining that day, or at least when we went into the theater. We had gotten there early, so we began to talk about life, as my dad always loves to do. To me, there was no one else in the movie theater that day, just my dad and me. We watched the movie, ate popcorn, and had a blast. It was nice to finally spend quality time alone with my dad again, without my mom and without my sister. It seemed parallel to the day spent ten years earlier watching Bambi. Since that time, I had gone through so many phases, each affected in their own way by media images, but now I was acting based on the love that I was getting from my dad.

I realize now that movies have always been something for me to relate my life to. I found answers to questions I never thought to ask anyone, and it became a place where I could let my guard down. When you are a kid, it is extremely hard to communicate with your parents. I found that somehow through movies, we could always find something to talk about. I now look forward to spending the time with both my parents, at the movies and at home. Movies like Father of the Bride and The Evening Star are both about relationships that the characters have with their parents. I enjoyed watching them with my parents because it brings out the best in our relationship.

Life may have the uncontrollable destiny of change, and there is nothing that anyone can do. Now that I am older, I can accept and understand this, even though the kid in me still doesn't want to grow up. As time goes on, priorities change and feelings towards things that once seemed to matter so much, diminish. Although society will always be affected by media images, I have learned not to let it get the best of me. I try to not let the images that I see on the big screen strip me of my personality. I no longer try to be someone I am not. When I was young, society allowed me to do this. Movie images affected my appearance, my attitudes, and even my feelings, mostly because I didn't know any better. But, time moves on, and I changed. Everyone goes in and out of phases in their life. It seems, however, that stages of my life follow what I see in the movies. Will this continue throughout my life into the future? I think it's safe to say that only time will tell. But, no longer will societal images have an effect on my love towards my parents.

Back to US Life Histories