Horror and Fairy Tales: “Halloween” (1978) and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)

Perhaps the most important lesson for a young girl is on her emerging sexuality- like death and taxes, the biological clock cares not if one is ready for it to strike. When a girl goes through puberty, suddenly making her sexually viable for adult men, not only does her body change but as does the way the world reacts to her. It becomes possible that the same man who had treated her with genuine care and empathy now has his own biologically-driven agenda- complete with duplicitous intentions. Watch a clumsy man talk confidently to a child but fumble nervously with a sexually mature woman- also with puberty comes power.

However, not every lesson can be taught. One learns to be patient only through experience- patience is a lesson that cannot be taught. While you can try to tell a little girl on the cusp of puberty that her world is about to change, drastically, and that this new world comes with its share of dangers, it may be easier for her to process this through the subconscious language of the fairy tale.

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Forgiving Your Father and “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

“All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside. It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.”

Re-watching Return of the Jedi (1983) as an adult makes the scene where Luke burns the body of his father stand out as the true climax of the original trilogy- the culmination of Luke’s journey. While it may seem tragic that sister Leia wasn’t there beside him, this was something Luke had to do alone. After all, it was only Luke who saw the human face of his father and bore witness to his humanity- only Luke would have been able to understand his father. Luke delivering his father’s funeral was his final rite of passage into manhood, and the true return of the Jedi.

Every man will have to bury his father, but will every man have understood his father when the time comes? The evolution of a man’s relationship with his father mirrors Luke’s struggle with Darth Vader throughout the course of the Star Wars saga- from not truly knowing him through the inevitable conflict of a young man’s transition to adulthood. If you’re lucky you’ll have a moment where the pieces come together and you see your father as a part of yourself- but not everyone gets there… and, unlike a Hollywood movie, the story may end first.

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Heartbreak and “Big” (1988)

“Who wants honey? As long as there’s some money. Who wants that honey?”

In a flash Amy was able to transform our hetero-normative experience back into something she was more comfortable with, her own safe space of gender neutrality, with the magic words: “get this shit off me.” Tossing her the tissue box, I chastised her for breaking the narrative, something usually reserved for slightly longer than fifteen seconds after sex. Amy may have rolled her eyes, but the fact of the matter remains: sex is the narrative of attraction.

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Authenticity and “The Cable Guy” (1996)

“I’d rather be anywhere, doing anything…”

There was a gleam in her eye when Ghostbusters (2016) came up in the group’s discussion. She corrected the speaker, a male, who didn’t make an elaborate point to reference the movie’s notorious gender component- “the new Ghostbusters” he offhandedly called it, but this was “girl Ghostbusters,” she said with pride. After all, she was a high school Science teacher and this was a victory with which she could attach herself.

This attachment was the point, existing independently of the movie. She may not see it, nor should she have to- her attachment to “girl Ghostbusters” had served to bolster her identity. The actual film is an afterthought- a big budget talking point. Beyond all the fuss, Ghostbusters is a pile of crap with regurgitated jokes, so who really cares?

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