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Uncensored Cinema

July 2, 2011

As a parent, I fiercely filter what my children take in on the television.  I might have slipped a bit recently when I let my three-year-old watch Disney’s Snow White.  Mind you, I fast-forwarded through the parts where Snow White’s evil stepmother transforms herself into a Dark Crystal-esque hag, complete with raspy smoker’s cackle.  And you should know that Margot remains blissfully unaware of why Snow White ends up in a secluded dark forest in the first place.  (As a side note, I’m a bit baffled by the lesson here, Grimm Brothers.  The Queen’s hired henchman is all set to croak her with an axe but realizes he cannot kill such a beauty and let’s her escape.  In other words, had she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt, she’d be screwed.  But then, had she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt, she wouldn’t have been in that pickle in the first place.)

Unfortunately, a few minutes into the movie I realized how terrifying Snow White is in her own right.  With “skin as white as snow,” “hair as black as ebony” and “lips as red as blood”, Snow White is one piercing away from the gothic waifs that hang out in the Gas‘N’Shop parking lot.  (Middle-aged me thinks that is scary.)  And then Snow White opens her mouth and it’s the voice of a 98-year-old woman in an underwater crypt.

Admittedly, I’m a tad more protective than your garden variety parent, likely due to my own unfiltered movie-watching as a kid.  You might be thinking, Old YellerWilly Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryMeatballs?  The aforementioned Dark Crystal?  Yes, yes, all of the above.  But then, thrown into that mix, Poltergeist.  And I was six.  Nope, not a typo.  I was six.

Let me put this into perspective.  At six, I had just learned to ride my Sunflower Girl banana-seat bicycle complete with virgin-white wicker basket.  I spent Saturday mornings with The Smurfs.  I believed my ears dispensed shiny quarters at my grandfather’s pleasure.  Then, suddenly I was watching corpses emerge from a family’s unfinished swimming pool.  A child sucked into a television set by demons.  A man’s face melting into blobs of meat-colored playdough.

Since the mother will always take the heat for bad parenting choices, I’ll point out that my mom’s Claire Huxtable track record is nearly pristine.  So I would like to for a minute carry on an exercise where I will argue the defense of Marcia and explain what she might’ve been thinking when she dropped off a six-year-old at the mall to watch PoltergeistFor starters, it was 1982.  Times were different, and you Baby Boomer parents didn’t know any better.  You might’ve still thought that whole child psychology stuff was bunk and mental trauma fleeting.  After all, you survived the emotional stress of performing weekly bomb drills under your grade school desks.  What long-term damage could a mere 114 minutes of gruesome carnage possibly do to a child?  Also worth mentioning, the movie was rated PG.  (Not kidding.)  And, this is noteworthy, my older brother and his friend were in fact with me at the time.  But wait, that actually might be cause to detract “good parenting” points.  The two aforementioned hooligans just so happened to be the forces behind my early introduction to human torture.  And truth be known, they were the ones who selected Poltergeist over a charming tale about a lovable extra-terrestrial that moves to the suburbs.

On the other hand, the previews did show mostly just a cherub-faced blond girl looking into a television set – harmless family fun.  Happy Days buffs may recall that little Carol Anne even played an adorable sidekick to the Fonz on a few episodes.  Cute!  And also, Mom, you probably didn’t even know what movie you were dropping us off to see.  I’m sure it went something like, “Here, just take the five dollars, buy some tickets and a box of Milk Duds, and I’ll see you after my aerobics class.”  Um…  You aren’t looking so good here, Mom.

At any rate, if you’ve ever wondered why clowns get such a bad rap, Poltergeist did nothing to advance their public image.  Thanks to the scene where the young boy’s clown doll comes to life, grabs him from under the bed (validation to children everywhere why we must always check down there) and attempts to strangle him, my beloved china doll never again saw the light of day.  After Poltergeist, poor, innocent but truly creepy-eyed Phoebe lived out her days shut-up in my closet with a windbreaker thrown over her face.  Meanwhile the always trusted and dependable Hello Kitty kept watch to prevent Phoebe from escaping into the night to slash my jugular.

With all this being said, my hope is that my daughter will live out her childhood with her innocent mind in tact.  I hope one day a freaky-voiced goth girl – clearly tripping on mescaline – who shacks-up with old men will be the scariest movie-watching memory clinging to the recesses of my daughter’s mind.  And let’s face it, she’ll soon run across a dozen of those girls in high school anyway, so what’s the harm done here?

45 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    July 4, 2011 4:19 pm

    I too was sarred for life by the movie Poltergeist at young age (7 I believe). My mom (in this one case) is blameless, my older newly married sister takes the blame for this one. BUT I had the pleasure of watching it at her house, WHILE they were digging for a pool. Must be a rite of passage for young children in the 80’s………

  2. Kristi permalink
    July 4, 2011 8:38 pm

    I’m a little older, so Poltergeist didn’t do me in. Nope, for me, it was Jaws. First movie my parents ever took me to….and they wondered why afterward I wouldn’t even get in a bathtub……….Course, my kids watch Yo Gabba Gabba constantly, which is pretty scary itself…

    • July 4, 2011 10:58 pm

      Kristi, I would wet myself if I saw Poltergeist even as an adult. You must be so brave. Yeah, Jaws is one for the books!

  3. Cara permalink
    July 4, 2011 10:14 pm

    Loved the article…how I’ve missed your writing since 12th grade “AP English”. This one certainly reads like you spent more time on it than we did back in high school. Oh how I miss those ego-tripped filled days when we could throw some crap on a page in homeroom, rush it to Mr. Davis 1st hour, and rejoice to hear him exclaim, “Well done! Brillant writing!”

    And as a mother of four who has followed all the age-appropriate guidelines for movie watching for my oldest, I have to admit I hit rock bottom recently when I let my youngest child (age 5) watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I totally forgot about the part where the guy gets his beating, bloody heart ripped out of his chest. I promise! In 20 years that therapy session will be on me. I figure that’s the least I can do.

  4. July 4, 2011 11:01 pm

    Cara, your written description of that IJ scene has ruined my chance for pleasant dreams tonight. For what it’s worth, I’m certain I saw that as a kid, too. Oh, and you’ll be glad to know that Mr. Davis is one of my first blog subscribers :)

    Hi, Mr. Davis! Please ignore Cara. I swear we didn’t just throw those assignments together. I promise we worked hard on them. Except for my senior term paper. That was crap.

    • Cara permalink
      July 5, 2011 7:14 am

      Hi, Mr Davis! Yes, please ignore my previous comment. We worked really hard on those assignments. I think I may have heard about other students throwing crap on a page, but that was definitely not us.

  5. Stephanie permalink
    July 5, 2011 9:59 am

    For me, it was a bad case of insomnia and the movie, “Halloween” around the age of five or six. I don’t know why or how, but I knew how to use the VHS machine and thought watching this movie at two in the morning would help. Wrong. But my parents are not to blame as they were oblivious to this occurance until after the fact. They were on hand for the time “Children of the Corn” scared me as I watched along with my older siblings. Didn’t they realize the corn field behind our house was cause for concern?

    • July 5, 2011 10:25 am

      Stephanie, I would’ve hoped they’d banned Children of the Corn from Nebraska theaters. That one just hits way too close to home.

  6. Jen permalink
    July 5, 2011 8:40 pm

    Thanks a lot for reminding me of the poltergeist inspired trauma of my youth! I worked hard to block it out and now it’s back in vivid meat color. Anna went through a snow white phase last year thanks to my mom (who incidentally also dropped me off at the mall movies at 6 years old to see Bambie! and she wondered why I was so upset by the Punky Brewster show’s premise, am I remembering that right?!). Anyway upon consideration Anna added a witch’s hat and fairy wand to her Halloween snow white costume – somehow this worked for me :)

    • July 5, 2011 9:42 pm

      Jen, a witch hat would perfectly complement a Snow White costume – way to go, Anna! It’s beyond me why Disney has such a fever for showing animal parents die in their movies (Bambi, Fox and the Hound, Lion King, Finding Nemo, et al).

  7. July 6, 2011 9:11 am

    Did mom really ditch us there to attend an aerobics class?? The theater was at the mall so I thought she’d used that time to shop??

  8. LaVonna permalink
    July 6, 2011 12:50 pm

    I’ve never seen any of those movies and don’t plan to. I know my kids saw things they shouldn’t on TV like ‘The Shadow”‘ which they saw because I was watching it. Jeff insisted on watching Twighlight Zone every week and then couldn’t sleep. I didn’t even watch that.
    I think parents should really be censoring what there kids watch and it isn’t easy. Writers are always sneaking things into a ‘good’ movie. The fact is that each kid percieves what they view differently; but that still does not give parents a right to shirk their duties. Do your best and pray–God knows the beginning from the end!!!

  9. July 6, 2011 7:52 pm

    I get the old Twilight Zone episodes on a sub-station via our antenna. That show is terrifying on a completely different level. Poor Jeff :(

  10. July 7, 2011 9:18 pm

    I can top Poltergeist…my brother took me to see Psycho when I was 5. Yes, I’m a “bit” older than most of you…

    • July 8, 2011 1:56 pm

      Oh my goodness – Psycho? Your brother must’ve really had it out for you.

  11. Troy permalink
    July 11, 2011 3:49 pm

    I watched all those movies as a kid too! Why my parents let me I will never know. Halloween, Jaws, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street. These movies scared the crap out of me! The scariest two for me were (and still are) The Shining and Exorcist!

  12. July 11, 2011 8:23 pm

    Troy: The Shining. I wish you wouldn’t have brought it up. I can’t even type it without expecting those twin girls to appear before me. Scariest movie I ever saw, hands down. Never saw The Exorcist as I know I couldn’t handle it.

    Please don’t mention The Shining to me ever again. Never.

    • Troy permalink
      July 13, 2011 7:54 am

      This makes the shining look way better. LOL

      • July 13, 2011 9:43 pm

        I love that you just replaced my awful memories of that movie with sunshine and happiness.

  13. July 12, 2011 11:24 pm

    I agree, the shining still creeps me out, and your brother was a hooligan? Who knew!

  14. December 19, 2011 12:44 pm

    A bit of useless information here: Did you know that one of the brothers Grimm was actually a lawyer who was in charge of traveling the country and collect all the different legal codifications in the different states of Germany in order to create a german codified zivil law that would be suitable for the whole of Germany

    All those tales are old folk tales he picked up along the way – The brothers Grimm didn’t actually write them (as in invent them) – they simply collected old german folk lore ;)

    • December 19, 2011 5:10 pm

      That’s fascinating — I love hearing back stories like that. Thanks for the history lesson :)

  15. April 16, 2012 6:29 am

    I was 14 when I saw this and it still scared the living Hell out of me. Hearing that voice say “GET OUT” still causes me to pee in terror. And it’s got nothing to do with having had a few kids…

    • April 17, 2012 9:09 pm

      Poltergeist is still in my top three scariest movies ever. And to think I saw it when I was six. (Ahem, mother if you’re reading…)

  16. Teresa Cleveland Wendel permalink
    April 16, 2012 11:35 am

    I’ll never see Snow White the same way again.

    • April 17, 2012 9:08 pm

      Maybe you’ll never see Snow White again at all. I can’t watch it anymore. I’m convinced it’s a horror flick.

  17. May 4, 2012 2:23 pm

    That clown was scary, and I was quite a bit older than you were when you saw it. Are you sure you’re all right now? You’re not just putting up a good front?

    When I was 8, I was invited to a birthday party. The girl’s father took the whole gang of us out to see Jesus Christ Superstar. What the @##$$ could that man have been thinking? (the @#$$ really just means ‘heck’, but as a Christian I have limited options for explosive expletives.)Sure, it was the 70s and everyone pretty much accepted that weed would be incorporated into everything, but ten 8 year old girls at this? Granted the weed smoking took place off screen, because you don’t actually see it in the movie, but the evidence of its effects are everywhere on the screen. We all knew why Judas in particular was dressed as he was.(Well, maybe there were other reasons for him to be in that neon jumper,but that would have escaped us. It was before our own boy-crazy time, and his dislike of Mary Magdalene would have added very little in terms of our suspicions)But I have to tell you, because I am feeling we are becoming kindred souls here, that the scene that terrified the beejeebees (another compromise to Christianity)was the scene where Herod is out on the water with his entourage. Now you have to watch this iconic movie if you haven’t seen it. At Easter my husband and I watched the movie together. As a child ,that scene scared me so badly that in all these years I have never once watched the movie again. Well, gotta tell you that when I watched it with my husband I felt a lot of tension as that scene approached, so I was pretty much holding my breath, unsure if I could go through with the ordeal and feeling a little sick. When I finally got to it, I was truly puzzled. If you get the chance to see this movie, please feel free to offer your own psychological analysis of what may be going on here. I am quite sure you would have some insight. You obviously have a flare for deconstruction.

    • May 4, 2012 8:35 pm

      I’ve never seen Jesus Christ Superstar and couldn’t imagine it having scary parts. Isn’t that the Broadway play where everyone was high including most the audience? It came to my city just last year. I’m definitely going to check it out now. I’m intrigued.

      • May 5, 2012 7:01 am

        When I said “we all knew why Judas was wearing that neon jumper” we actually didn’t. It made me think of the circus and I was expecting costumes with a more familiar biblical theme, like camel hair. I think it was more being 8 years old and trying to comprehend a movie so rife with sexuality, and complicated sexuality at that, with my friend’s father’s sitting uncomfortably among us sweating Oops-bullets. (It wasn’t the tame easily manageable sexuality of Modern Family.)

      • May 5, 2012 10:04 am

        Awful! Reminds me of sitting through an after-school special with your mom and then thinking, “I thought this was just supposed to be about saying no to drugs. Why did they have to go and throw in teen sex? Nooooo!”

  18. June 29, 2012 7:12 am

    Hey! I had no idea this was your very first post. I think this was one of MY very first posts of yours to read (I remember it well and had already liked it…back when I wasn’t clicking “like” for many at all).

    I have a bad-mommy confession to make: my daughter, barely-turned-7 at the time — watched this movie with me beside her the whole time last year (her 10-yr-old brother wanted to see it). The grubs-out-of-the-steak part she thought was “cool” but I was quick to ffwd past the part where he was ripping his face off soon afterward (eeew!! gross). Knowing her, she probably would have thought that was cool too.

    It really is some entertaining stuff (it freaked the crap out of me when I first saw it), but she’s rooted in reality where ghosts, skeletons, and poltergeists rarely appear. When they do, it’s always big brother behind the production. And she’s a skeptic ready for him when he does.

    PS — she pranked him good over the Christmas holidays wearing the full grim-reaper Halloween costume (skeleton hands, black face, robe), hovering over his bed as he was the last to awaken. It was brilliant. He totally deserved it.

    • June 30, 2012 8:15 pm

      If anyone’s kids are able to survive a movie slash fest with their healthy minds still in tact, it would be your kids, Shannon! I would probably laugh through the face-falling-off scene today — I recall it looked a bit like Large Marge’s face falling off in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Your basic 1980s campy claymation effects. At the time though — YIKES.

      Your daughter is my hero — I should’ve done something that bold to my brother. I had plenty of things to get back at him for yet the best I ever did was chuck a bolt at his eye.

  19. October 16, 2012 10:15 am

    I read “Poltergeist” and immediately had to find out what your story was. We all have “Poltergeist” stories and while they vary, each one left it’s victim scarred for life. Mine is here (http://karenbray.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/good-one-dad/) if you feel inclined. How did you even make it through the movie without running through the aisles screaming your face off. Cause that’s what I did when all the chairs were suddenly stacked on the kitchen table. Only I was at a slumber party.

    • October 28, 2012 8:39 pm

      I am not normal today and I’m certain this movie has everything to do with that.

  20. January 3, 2013 11:22 am

    I am in my 30s and to this day refuse to watch horror films. I watched Poltergeist in my teens and was absolutely freaked out for the rest of my life. Also by Omen, Event Horizon, pretty much anything scary/gory/bloody/ghostly.Heck, even the Blair Witch Project scared me… I wasn’t even all that young! Glad to know I’m not the only one… :)

    • January 10, 2013 3:44 pm

      My dirty little secret is that I watched Blair Witch Project when I was 24, mocked it with my friends all the way home from the theater and then, upon nightfall, nightmared myself into a coma.

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