Sunday, June 20

‘Mom, what is a phone booth?’: Watching 80s movies with my kids has become a history lesson | Hadley freeman

“There there is no reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they get involved in a production act. ”So begins Andrew Solomon’s brilliant book Far from the Tree, about parents learning to accept their children’s differences, which I read during my first pregnancy. I understand, I thought. Parents shouldn’t narcissistically expect their children to be the same. But just because my kids aren’t the same as me doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be forced to have exactly the same childhood as me.

My parents didn’t make me look much Hello doody, or whatever show they grew up with, but while other modern kids grow up on CBeebies and Paw Patrol, mine get ’80s TV shows and movies down their throats. This allows them to enjoy wholesome classics like Dogtanian and The Princess Bride, and allows me to relive my peak years. Everyone wins! Except, possibly, my children, who when they saw a boy dressed up as Harry Potter on Halloween, they asked him if he was the witch from The Wizard of Oz. They are like the Amish boy in Witness, puzzled by the modern world.

But they are also puzzled by the past. I was hoping to have to explain some things to you, mainly about the American shows, Mister Rogers, Reading Rainbow, which I have cheerfully imposed on you. You know, educate them on the exotic language differences: “zee” for “zed” and so on. But I did not anticipate that I would be explaining actual ancient history.

This started when we saw Back to the Future, which is one of those rare 1980s movies that I saw as a kid that is almost suitable for children. (On that subject, the Police Academy is road spicier than my memories of Mahoney suggested.) My kids naturally loved Marty McFly (they didn’t what away from the tree) and captured the concept of time travel. But something else threw them. It’s in the scene where Marty is in the dinner in 1955 … What is that strange box you are entering?

“That is a phone booth. It’s what people used to do before they had cell phones, ”I said. They stared at me, like I was telling them about a time before people had oxygen (which doesn’t say much about how much they see me with my phone, but let’s ignore it). It got worse: what book is Marty looking at?

“That is a phone book. This is how people find out other people’s numbers, ”I said, suddenly realizing how my grandfather felt the time he told me that he had grown up without indoor plumbing.

Now, let’s take this apart. Back to the Future is about a teenager who travels 30 years back in time. Sure, people in 1955 didn’t know about diet sodas, padded jackets, or reruns, Y Chuck Berry songs don’t exist yet. But overall, the 1955 world is recognizable to a 1985 kid. He knows what a phone booth and a phone book are to begin with.

However, for boys born in 2015, just like my twins, both worlds are completely baffling. Why look up someone’s phone number in a book instead of on the phone itself? (Thank goodness Marty didn’t use a calling card, surely the most puzzling phone accessory of the past.) It’s the same with Sesame Street (if Bert can’t find Ernie, why not just call him?); with The Muppet Show (why can’t Kermit just ask Google where he could find a new theater?); with The Karate Kid (why doesn’t Daniel take an Uber instead of always riding his bike?).

Times change, technology changes – this has always been a source of comedy for time travel movies (although Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure traces itself back now, given that Bill and Ted’s travels in a bloody phone booth). But the changes in the last 40 years, not only in our daily lives but in how we think, have been so vast and rapid that the past is another solar system. This explains the emergence of microgenerations, such as the last one, called “geriatric millennials”, Referring to anyone born between 1980 and 1985, that is, those who remember life before Facebook, but not before Myspace. I am even more geriatric and I am a “xennial”, between generation X and millennials (geriatrics), which is defined as “neither as disaffected as those of generation X nor as optimistic as millennials”, or, as I define it , “a little obsessed with My So-Called Life.”

Mainly, this is due to the rise of the internet and mobile phones, which have erased the things that children in particular trusted for decades, from the Encyclopedia Britannica to actual phone calls, which have been replaced by likes and emojis. . How to explain all the Walkmans in the movies of the 80s? The Discmans in the movies of the 90s? And soon iPods in the movies of the 2000s? (A phone that won’t ring? Genius!) Life moves pretty fast, like an 80s movie once said. It certainly seems that way to me, because while my kids are still five years old, now I sound like a person of 85 years: “Come closer, children, as I tell you about something called PalmPilot …”

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