I’ve written a few light-hearted posts likening myself to Calvin’s Dad, one about PG-13 movies and parenting, and one about expectations being important. Today, I’m going to roll up all of those into one titanic post pertaining to giant robots fighting off Godzilla-sized monsters from another planet. That’s right: This is about keeping touch with your childhood and Pacific Rim.
I’d been thinking about writing about this anyway, then I saw a story on Huffington Post titled “How Pacific Rim Made Me Feel Like a Child — But Reminded Me I Am An Adult” by Troy Campbell. Troy’s a social scientist at Duke working with Dan Airley at the Center for Advanced Hindsight which means he’s more qualified than I am to make educated statements (plus he’s in a cool place). But being outclassed didn’t stop Gipsy Danger from kicking kaiju ass, so what the heck. Let’s do this.
Well, I’m not going to kick his ass because he’s right (plus he seems like a good guy and that’d be mean). He makes a point that once we’ve grown up, we don’t enjoy things the same way we did when we were a kid. It may be because we’ve lost our childlike innocence. We may have more options in today’s complicated world. We may have been influenced by our lifetime experiences. But we’ve got to try.
Below is a picture of my brother’s Ultraman shirt. As kids, we watched that show every Saturday. We also collected an insane amount of Star Wars cards and toys. Those seemed to stay with us longer because the Star Wars phenomenon was such a big thing. It lasted for six years over the original trilogy and is likely the gold standard for marketing and entertainment.
And then the next three Star Wars movies didn’t come close to them. I could easily see myself at the time not thinking they measured up and that I’d grown up too much. In the time since then, even more has changed. Major movies have become huge multimedia gambits. Video games have become those as well, having gone far closer to Hollywood than their Space Invaders origins could have dreamed. These days it takes far more than a couple guys in rubber suits to make me believe that there’s a city-destroying fight going on.
I was discussing this summer’s sci-fi disaster movies with a friend this morning and we counted Star Trek, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, World War Z, and more. Each of these is a tsunami of online trailers, posters, social media, and toys – all of which have a limited shelf life before the next wave hits. I even read an article in Wired about what goes into the trailers hyping the next big movie just before you watch the one you’re at. We can become a little jaded with the expectations (Businessweek story).
But this is where we have to remind ourselves that we have an inner child. And that inner child can have a hell of a time enjoying escapism. It’s Troy’s closing point and it’s a great one. I went to Pacific Rim and took my two boys who are 11 and 15. I committed to being old enough to drive us and pay for movie tickets yet roughly the same age as them once we walked into the show. We all enjoyed it immensely and I could hear them laughing and ooh-ing even over the sound in the IMAX theater.
Calvin’s Dad was once a little Calvin. He’s still got that child inside him and he hasn’t lost it. He just experiences it from another perspective and takes joy from seeing his son take it all in. Will my boys still be talking about kaiju and Jaegers in a month? Maybe not. Will they get psyched for the next thing? Absolutely.
Will we make sure we annoy my wife when we pop the Pacific Rim BluRay in? You bet!
This one’s for you, Hal: