In September of 1983 I turned eleven. I was in the seventh grade. For my birthday party I wanted to take my friends to see the movie The Outsiders, which we’d probably already seen eleven or twelve times. The film directed by Francis Ford Coppola spoke to the stuff which we had not yet been exposed; serious themes of love and hatred, socio-economic distrust, death and murder to name a few. Being cast with cute teenage boys was (I think) its initial appeal.
Afterward, my parents took the dozen or so of us to Ernesto’s on Clement Street (in San Francisco) for pizza. The memory of that night has not faded with time.
When we entered the restaurant a gaggle of girls with bright red eyes and puffy faces there was no doubt that what we’d experienced was powerful. We’d cried and sighed and reached for each others hands. Despite the difficult themes, we loved every minute of the entire movie; the evidence not totally clear by the sight of our tear smudged faces.
Yesterday, my grown up girlfriends and I watched as a row of fifth grade girls filled the seats in front of us in a darkened theater, all of us eagerly waiting the start of The Hunger Games.
Their arrival prompted a discussion between my friends and me regarding whether or not the movie was appropriate for their age.
I had to think about it, but my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
Even so, today I’m still thinking about my response, which has prompted this post.
My kids are little and everyday I’m faced with the challenge about what I choose for them to see or do, to eat or say. What is allowed? What is okay?
How did my mom make her decisions? How did the parents of those kids in the movie come to the conclusion that their kids were ready?
The girls in front of us at the movie yesterday demonstrated all of the appropriate behaviors of children being faced with some pretty serious subjects like the end of our civilization, death, murder, love, power and redemption. They giggled when Katniss kissed Peeta in the cave and sighed when they watched Gayle’s breaking heart.
For me, the movie didn’t pack the powerful punch that the book did because it lacked Katnisses beautiful internal thoughts, which made the reading so special.
I wished I could have had a round table discussion with those fifth graders to see how they felt when it ended and I watched them carefully as my friends and I left to say our own farewells.
The kids were smiling and laughing, texting and hugging; not a puffy face in the bunch.
Children today may be more mature than they were when we were young. They may be less or more connected due to technology. Their bodies might be growing faster because of the gunk in the food they eat and they might watch more t.v. All of this might be true.
But when you are ten or eleven or twelve you are still a kid who not so long ago came into this world as gold.
The Outsiders quotes the famous Robert Frost poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
The girls in front of us yesterday may be a few years younger than my friends and I were the night of my eleventh birthday. They probably are more mature, but are still little girls based on the short amount of time they’ve spent on our Earth.
They may not have cried at the end of The Games, but I’d venture to say if they watched The Outsiders today they’d be just like my friends and I were twenty-nine years ago; wet faced from filled up hearts with day dreams of life and love to come.
Because that’s what little girls are made of.