After writing about a book that could be a family tradition, I started thinking about movies and tv shows that are family traditions in my family. Not many that are ‘fun for the whole family’ which nothing ever is, but movies we can call each other the characters from, or quote from, and everyone knows what we’re talking about.
Alice in Wonderland is one that my mom quotes from a lot , and we usually know what she’s talking about. ‘Off with her head’ and ‘more pepper please?’ have gotten a lot of use, as well as ‘this way out, madam.’ And I’ve had ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ memorized since about fourth grade. I like this movie because it’s imaginative, and logically bizarre. It’s pleasant to watch, very much like a dream. I can think of worse movies to have as a family tradition.
If I was going to choose a movie for a family tradition, I would choose The Princess Bride. It has that same dreamlike quality as Alice, but it’s for an older crowd. I love the crazy comedy, but I also love how it still is a fairy tale. All the right rules for a fairy tale are there, and even if some of it gets laughed at and joked about, the idea of there being such a thing as a fairy tale is not. True love is the theme, and that is never joked about. I’m not a fan of some recent fairy tale movies and books, because they don’t play by the rules of fairyland, as Chesterton might say. But The Princess Bride does.
Some movies are family traditions only at certain times, or in certain places. Hallmark Christmas movies are a staple in our family from about Thanksgiving until after Christmas. My grandma always had The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady at her house, so we watched those there. Generally we watch Luther around Halloween, and I remember when The Bible miniseries aired on Sundays leading up to Easter. Some movies are also personal favorites, such as Princess of Thieves for me, which I’ve seen probably over a dozen times. The Black Stallion is one my sister and I watched a lot, and we spend a lot of time sharing movie ideas with each other even today.
Not that we ever see a movie in the same way as someone else does; I’ve almost decided to give up reading movie reviews, because I keep disagreeing with the critics. Movies can give us more than topics of conversation, they can give us practice in connecting and conversing and thinking deeply. Knowing what movies someone likes tells you a little about them, but knowing why they like them moves you along a little further in knowing them. Having a connection of catch phrases or quotes, that’s a good thing. Having a connection of vicarious experience, that’s something special.
I want to talk about the movies I’ve seen. That’s one of the first things I think, when I come out of the movie theater, or turn off the screen at home. What did you think about that part? I want to ask whoever watched it with me. Why do you think this is important? What if such and such had happened instead? I don’t usually talk about those things because most people are content to be entertained by a movie. They don’t want to think deeply. But watching a movie with someone can connect you to them. You’ve had a shared experience, and depending on the movie it could have been heart pounding, tear jerking, or terrifying. The emotions are real, even if what’s happening on the screen is not. That’s why a movie can become part of a family tradition. It also makes me think it’s a hard thing to choose.