The Big Bad Pig
Hollywood and video games present a parental challenge.
Thursday, February 2, 2006
831 >> TALES FROM THE AREA CODE
Pig in the city,” I whisper to myself. “This is going to be a slam-dunk.”
It’s just before 10am on a sunny Saturday morning. I am driving toward Salinas on Blanco Road. In a few minutes, my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Kalei, will enjoy her first real movie-theater experience. The morning’s plan, I’ve convinced myself, is bullet-proof.
Every Saturday morning, Maya Cinemas offers a 10am kids matinee for only $1. It’s a rare kind of gift to the community of families—the kind of thing that builds community. The film they show is almost always G-rated. Today is no exception. On the bill is Babe: Pig in the City, the 1998 sequel to the original Babe movie.
Kalei loves Babe. And who can blame her for being charmed by the clumsy, sheep-herding hog? At home she’s watched the original Babe at least 10 times. It’s one of her favorites (after Bambi and Lawrence of Arabia).
But watching a film in a movie theater can be a daunting experience for a 2 year old. So for two days I’ve prepped her about watching Babe hang out in a city, on a big screen, in a big dark room.
“You’re going to love it,” I tell her over and over. “It’s like watching a movie at home, except Babe’ll be huge.”
We arrive at the Maya, pay the $2 and walk inside. A friendly, uniformed usher tears our tickets and smiles. “The movie started a few minutes ago. First theater on your right.”
Kalei is calm, but taking it all in. She’s ready for the goods. She’s ready for the huge pig.
I open the theater’s large doors and point her down the darkened corridor. She walks cautiously, reluctantly. We fumble into some seats.
In less then a minute, I start to fear that the movie sucks. Within two minutes, it’s clear that it’s worse than that. Unlike the first Babe, this one is pointless and obnoxious.
The breaking point comes when Ferdinand the duck plops down into the city and accidentally lands on a shooting range. Suddenly, a row of about 15 men who are aiming shotguns straight at the camera (where the duck is presumably standing) start happily blasting away.
“This is supposed to be a G-rated film?” I ask myself incredulously. I look around and notice that a sea of parents and kids seem to be enjoying the movie. But not Kalei. She’s on her feet, pointing to the exit. She’s made up her mind.
“It’s pretty bad, isn’t it?” I ask. She nods her head. “You’re right, let’s go.”
We wander out into the hallway, strolling across the theater’s patterned carpet. We could go home, but…I notice that King Kong just started in the theater next door. I’ve read good reviews about it. Maybe we can watch the early parts before King Kong actually makes his debut. Kalei’s up for it, so we sneak in.
Strike two. It’s over the top. Kalei is not happy. She leads the way out of the theater before I even think of saying anything. I tell her we should cut our losses and go to a park.
But on the way out, she notices two young girls playing video games in a corner of the lobby. Kalei is curious and moves closer. One of the girls is playing a Street Fighter-type game in which she’s a burly monster violently bashing away at another green, scaly creature. “Ugh! Bah!” The blood flies as vicious body-blows smash the creature to bits.
The other girl, maybe a little younger than 8, is playing another video game. She’s shooting a plastic gun into a war-torn landscape as bloodied, ripped-up bodies fall by the wayside at the whim of her trigger-happy finger.
The girls’ parents aren’t anywhere to be seen.
Kalei wants to stay to watch the games, but I won’t have any of it. I walk her out of the theater and into the crisp morning air. I feel relieved. I tell Kalei we’ll come back next Saturday. But inside, I feel disappointed. This was supposed to be a G-rated morning, full of innocence and laughter.
As we walk up Main Street towards the car, it dawns on me that the battle over what she sees and hears has only just begun. An uphill battle awaits.
As we wind our way back home, I glance back at Kalei, who’s quietly staring at the farm fields from the confines of her car seat. “Do you want to watch Lawrence of Arabia later tonight?” I ask. My spirits lift momentarily when she smiles approvingly.
Exactly two weeks after the pig fiasco, we return to Maya
Cinemas to watch a Lassie movie made in 1994. It’s a
real tear-jerker. This time, Kalei approves. All day she
happily chatters about how Lassie tried to save the boy from
the river. And the world feels like a nicer place.
The next nine-film Matinee Kids Film Society series starts this spring. Families are invited to cast their vote for movies they would like to see at mayacinemas.com or at the theater.