Age Attacks When We Least Expect It

Most days come and go without a single acknowledgement of our age. Ageing, much like growing, happens so gradually that we drift along blissfully unaware of the fact that we are literally decaying. The lines embed that bit further, body parts might ache that bit more but on the whole we’re so oblivious to this that we manage to keep ourselves firmly in denial.

There are, however, some days like today that we’re offered a less than friendly reminder that we are not as young as we used to be. Before I continue and risk the wrath of anyone over 35, I am under no disillusion that I am “old”. I’m firmly on board with the idea that life begins at 40 and I’m truly convinced that my parents are having more fun than ever in their sixties. At the tender age of 31, I can still somewhat unconvincingly boast that I am young.

Back to the day in question. Much of my job consists of spending time with teenagers. I must note that these are not the very young and impressionable, so-awkward-it’s-cute 13 to 15 years olds but the generally miffed and unabashedly honest subsection of over sixteens.  In a typical day, transporting a youngster from A to B, we will battle over both volume control and radio station. I am, without exception, always the loser of this game and on this occasion a very loud Billie Eilish won. Billie warbled “I’m that bad type, make your mamma sad type, make your girlfriend mad tight, might seduce your dad type” and by the end of the 3:14 minutes not only was I firmly convinced that she was the Bad Guy but I was also a bit scared of her. As I heard myself actually say this out loud to the 17 year old girl in the front seat with the bright red, partly shaven DIY hair do, I thought “Christ, I’m old”.

Other insignificant but, on this day, seemingly exaggerated events nodded to my not-so-young-anymore age. I found myself trying to grab at the volume dial without being caught; I found myself willing for the news on the hour; and perhaps most telling of all, I found myself gutted that I was missing the Jeremy Vine show.

The moment, however, which I believe truly sealed my fate was when I declined to join my younger cohort for a Mc Donald’s and proceeded to whip out a miniature sized Tupperware with the Go Jetters on it filled with grapes. If, by now, she wasn’t already convinced that I was 100, this did the trick. I felt immediately disappointed in myself; like that wave that overcomes you when Tesco staff zoom into your face before clicking without any shadow of a doubt “Thinks customer is definitely 25 years old or over.” I always had visions of myself as a “cool mom”, the type Amy Poehler aspired to in Mean Girls as she rocked her pink velour tracksuit and heels. Instead I found myself as a modern day Mrs Doubtfire. The dungarees or width of my eyebrows were fooling no one.

n-AMY-POEHLER-COOL-MOM-628x314 (1)It’s strange, really. We can go through life taking steps that are deemed pretty “adult” without taking much cognisance of this. We might have a mortgage and two kids but it’s the realisation that you prefer The Jeremy Vine Show to chart music that really makes you feel your age. It’s seems then that the number is irrelevant.  Age really is nothing but a number. It’s the subtle reminders that we’ve changed that are much more affecting.  It’s the things that become so synonymous with ageing, like a distaste for loud music or certain musical genres, that speak volumes (no pun intended). Like the literal ageing process, these things happen so gradually (maybe it’s a decibel for every year) we fail to notice them until one day you’re hit with the realisation that you’re scared of a 17 year old girl purporting to be the “Bad Guy”.

Those clichés – “you’re as young as you feel” – have more truth than previously suspected. I’d imagine there’s a 70 year old out there somewhere munching on a Big Mac listening to Billie Eilish who feels much younger than me.  Though who’s to say opting for a packed lunch and Steve Wright’s Golden Oldies should make us any older? If that’s the case, I’ll happily settle for being old any day.

Advertisements

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Where Halloween Meets Christmas

“Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems, in a place that perhaps you’ve seen in your dreams; For the story that you are about to be told took place in the holiday worlds of old.

Now you’ve probably wondered where holidays come from. If you haven’t, I’d say it’s time you begun.”

The question “Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween or Christmas film?” is probably old hat by now, but as that time of year draws near, I can’t help but continue to wonder when the most appropriate time is to indulge in this annual right of passage.  Even if we asked Burton himself, I doubt we’d come to any kind of unanimous understanding.  It is, I believe, entirely subjective.  If you’ve never seen the film before (shame on you), this piece of narrative will be as useful to you as a pumpkin on Christmas day. It is the quintessential example of “love it or hate it”.  In fact, I will go as far as to forbid you to watch this timeless tale and feel nothing. 

The_Nightmare_Before_Christmas_25184

Twenty one years on and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has lost none of it inherent charm.   One of the few popularised stop-motion pictures of our time, the animation automatically gains “classic” film status.  This aspect of the film, while truly captivating, is purely superficial.  What makes the movie a masterpiece is undoubtedly the singular story at the heart of it.  It is here where you’d imagine we might be able to ascertain the true categorisation of the film:

Enter Jack Skellington, the protagonist and King of Halloween Town.  Adored by his loyal subjects, he struggles to understand why he is unfulfilled.  It seems there’s a hollowness that transcends even beyond his physical pumpkin form. This might best be illustrated by his annual attempt to reinvent himself, which provides the memorable opening to the film.  Unhappy with his latest transformation, we follow Jack to the outskirts of Halloween Town.  As he casually laments in the company of his sidekick Zero (some kind of Ghost dog with a coincidentally bright red nose), he inadvertently stumbles into another seasonal dimension: Christmas Town.  Inspired by curiosity and his own personal crisis, he endeavors to make Christmas his own and bring it to Halloween Town.  With every best intention, the diabolical plan is doomed from the start.  The sleigh is a coffin led by a crew of skeleton reindeer; the presents are wrapped in what only can be assumed to be Beetlejuice’s wallpaper; and the stockings are filled with surprises designed to either scare or ensnare the children of Christmas Town. 

While the story largely takes place in Halloween Town, a grim setting consumed by distinct images of darkness and horror, and the majority of characters in our acquaintance are ghosts and ghouls, the underlying message is warm and fuzzy as opposed to being in any way chilling or bleak, thus laying the foundation of an interesting paradox.

In the end, both Christmas and Halloween triumph.  Santa Claus makes amends for Jack’s disastrous efforts and secures a Merry Christmas for his people, while the message of Halloween prevails as Jack finally comes to terms with his true calling as Pumpkin King.  The final scene depicts this perfectly as we watch the snow fall for the first time on Halloween town and a medley of  “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”, the two most polarising songs of the film, plays.  It is perhaps in this ambiguity that the real splendour lies.  The film has the ability to cross boundaries and appeal to everyone – or at least almost everyone.  Halloween holiday makers and christmas fans alike can indulge in their seasonal preferences and equally fantasize about concepts of Christmas everyday and a perpetual Halloween.

After having just watched it, I feel suitably excited for both occasions and it seems this wasn’t too far off Burton’s intention.  The 1982 poem on which the film was based was reportedly inspired by the director having witnessed a store replace their Halloween display with a Christmas one, signifying that once Halloween is complete, we’re already in pursuit of the next “thrill”.  His Nightmare Before Christmas grants us rare permission to appreciate and anticipate both events simultaneously and with equal excitement.  Burton becomes both our Bogeyman and Santa Claus all wrapped in one.

So, if you’re feeling particularly Halloweenie, I suggest you turn out the lights and treat yourself to the horrors of Halloween Town and it’s inhabitants.  The eerie scenery and macabre characters truly put the “eek” in freak.   Alternatively, if you’re on the home straight to Christmas, curl up by the fire and indulge in the festive undertones of this delightful feature.  The scene in Christmas Town alone will warm the cockles of even the hardest of hearts (just wait until you hear that snow crunch). Or if like Jack, you need an excuse to occasionally escape to another land, do what I do and watch it all year round.

Reality TV: Sadism and Shame

8a4e322a917cda113f0c8929c15615d8

I read an interesting article this morning about the downfall of television. You can imagine the gist: Modern television – horrid. Keeping Up With the Kardashians – horrid. My inner snob shares similar views: “TV. Chewing gum for the eyes. Why, i’d much rather read a book.” 

The intellect in me – if one such exists – fantasizes about a me who consumes books on a daily basis and abhors television.  And while I can say that Keeping Up With the Kardashians is horrid (in my opinion), this admission doesn’t stop me from indulging in similar monstrosities such as Made in Chelsea and The X Factor.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’m actually looking forward to The X Factor starting this weekend, despite the fact that every year I watch it I want to tear my face off.  Two things here: 1. Shame 2. Masochism.

The former is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.”  Watching the X Factor, therefore, almost equates to an act of wrong doing.  Let’s consider this further.  For instance, I was catching up on #madeinchelsea yesterday and I literally said to my sister “I’m watching Made in Chelsea even though it’s shit”.  Note: It is always essential to make this disclaimer when watching reality TV or else it might be known to others that you actually enjoy it.  Let’s get to the root of this so-called shame.  It would appear that we think we’re better than reality TV – or at least some of us do (myself included).  I think I am, or at least should be, above the frivolity of talentless fame junkies seeking five minutes of fame.  I should be watching the news or the latest documentary on World War I. That’s that little snob in me. In reality, I have the propensity to like crap TV.  Does that make me an idiot?

Worse still, does that make me a bad person? Does watching these inane examples of television reveal something darker about ourselves? If anyone watched BBC’s Extras, you’ll recall Gervais gave a wonderful dialogue on the evils of fame and reality TV in the Christmas finale.  He compared the concept of Big Brother, X Factor and the like to the Victorian Freak Show, where viewers took pleasure in watching the participants publicly humiliate themselves.  Let’s face it, everyone’s favourite part of the X Factor is watching those without the “X Factor” and the Kardashians wouldn’t be worth keeping up with if it wasn’t for their tears and tantrums.

Inherently tied up in these themes is the concept of judgement.  Whether talent based or following the lives of individuals, we’re given an insight into real people’s lives.  Yes, “some scenes have been created for your entertainment”, but there is an overall guise of reality that previous television never offered us.  Given that luxury, we can get to know people and, most importantly, judge them.  “How could he do that?”, “That bitch”, “They sound like a dead cat” etc etc. Our position of unseen onlooker allows us to jump on our high horses and condemn the behaviour of others as “bad” or “wrong” while proclaiming that we  “would never do that”. 

This idea of judgement is also interesting from another perspective. We judge others who watch these shows, assuming their intellect to be lesser and their standards lower.  A dangerous, prejudiced assumption which leaves us feeling “ashamed” to be watching these shows in the first place.  It seems we’re all too eager to judge from either perspective.

As far as the future is concerned, it is unlikely that reality TV will disappear anytime soon.  Its ever increasing amount only reflects the ever increasing demand for it. Whether rightly or wrongly, this appears to be what society wants from their late night viewing.  According to the aforementioned, this can be attributed to the following:

  1. We’re closet sadists who get a kick out of watching people make idiots of themselves.
  2. We are, in fact, the idiots.
  3. We enjoy judging others as it makes us feel slightly better about ourselves.

That seems awfully condemning, doesn’t it? You’ll be glad to hear, I’m going to offer you a much more appealing alternative: it’s only TV.

A Generation of Lost Boys – A Robin Williams Tribute

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 21.10.44

I write this post in light of the recent passing of Robin Williams. I daren’t delve into questions of suicide and depression – i’ll leave that to the “professionals”.  I think instead what I will do, by way of tribute, is consider, not specifically the works of Robin Williams, but rather the genre, which to me at least, he embodied.  My intention is certainly not to pigeon hole his talent into this one category.  I am well aware of his vast capabilities and how well rounded an actor he was. To me though, Robin Williams is, and always will be, Mrs.Doubtfire… Peter Pan… Jack. 

We #90skids have a way of sensationalising the nineties.  Weren’t our movies and cartoons – even our toys – just the best? It is not for me to decide whether the nineties trumps the noughties or whether kids today really do have no idea what they’re missing.  At the end of the day, it’s subjective.  There was, however, something undeniably wholesome about this period in time.  Games, for one, generally involved more than one person and occasionally dared us to venture outside; sitcoms focused on the values of family life; and movies offered us a healthy alternative to reality.

Before horror got truly horrifying, before Pixar pixelated our screens, there was a delightful spell of what might best be described as “family films”.  Not animation but live action, fun for the whole family films. Honey! I Shrunk the Kids, The Mighty Ducks, Home Alone… I could go on forever baby (see what I did there?). There is something so quintessentially nineties about these films that it becomes difficult to even imagine them in today’s world.  Have we just outgrown them? Are their adventures not quite adventurous enough for the modern audience? Perhaps they are to the nineties what Westerns were to the sixties.   A time in space that we can appreciate and look fondly upon but will, most likely never, be revived… which, I guess, is fine. We have the DVDs and the memories.

It is these memories which, I believe, contribute such a huge part to our feeling of loss and grief over Williams’ death. People often ask how we can mourn over people we never knew, or why someone’s death is of more significance because they were “famous”. I would argue that we did know Williams. Perhaps not in a conventional sense but nonetheless in a very real way. To any kid who grew up watching this funny, rather hairy, man play an overgrown child, a nanny, a genie, Robin Williams encompassed a world filled with possibility.  He taught us many important lessons: that dude can sometimes look like a lady, that green goo is not a toy, and that under NO circumstances are we to play mysterious board games that appear to be playing the drums. Most importantly, he taught us that it’s ok to be silly. I think this is maybe why we’ll miss him so much. To many of us, he was much more than an actor; to a generation he represents a time in our lives when we felt truly happy.

To paraphrase Tinkerbell:

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where (we’ll) always love you, (Robin Williams).”