As part of my child-friendly weekend, I got to watch a lot of films. Blockbuster was offering a four for £10 for four nights (shit this sentence is so unattractive). A selection of films were chosen:
- Marley and Me
- Race to Witch Mountain
- The Kite Runner
- 17 Again
I had only heard of two of these before, Marley and Me – something about a dog with Owen ‘The Scarecrow’ Wilson and Brad Pitt’s cast-off Jennifer Aniston – and The Kite Runner – my choice, something a little cultural perhaps. With no dogs (or other talking animals).
First off we watched Marley and Me. It was better than I expected. Aniston was decent, Wilson was actually quite good and the dog was good in a dog acting kind of way. It was quite an emotional film, not just the giddy ‘caper’ that the promos all suggested.
Then Race to Witch Mountain. I have little to say on this, suffice to say that it involved Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson trying to help two teenage aliens to save the world from pollution or some such shit – think Al Gore with acne and trouser tents. Dwayne was as appalling as only someone called Dwayne could be and the kids were the kind that you hope will be found at the bottom of a canal someday. With bite marks.
So then we got to the gritty one, The Kite Runner. I swelled up with pride as I inserted the morally sound and culturally rich DVD into the player. This was going to be education and fun. Beat that Dwayne. It began inconspicuously, a heart-warming tale of two friends in Afghanistan in the late 1970s. There were kites, chases through the street and myself, my girlfriend and the 11-year-old were doing well. I think I even managed a few smug looks across the room, asserting my film choice superiority with a simple curling up of the corner of my mouth.
That was until the anal rape scene. I would say my arse fell out, but that might be inappropriate given the subject, however, I was mortified. The 11-year-old’s innocent eyes were fixated upon the screen where a teenage boy was raping a boy of about eight as a punishment for his social standing and religion. The dreaded words came to my ears like a a hammer hitting steel. ‘What happened Chloe? Why is he crying?’
‘Why is he walking funny?’
I pause the television and take stock. This isn’t what I had intended. Where the fuck was Dwayne now?
I glance at my girlfriend who has one of those looks on her face, the kind that makes you feel as if you just unzipped and raped him yourself. So I began to try and explain. ‘The older boy wants to punish him, wants to make him feel small and silly, so he has raped him. It is a very nasty thing, the worst thing a person can do to another. It has hurt him.’
As if it couldn’t get any worse… ‘What’s rape?’
Sex education, the birds and the bees, all that stuff, it is the butt of a million parenting jokes – how to explain where babies come from and so on. But rape? That’s jumping a million stages. It’s like telling a kid that Father Christmas is probably a paedo with a stick-on beard sat in a shopping mall just as they head off to bed with a mince pie on Christmas Eve.
I froze like a wildebeest in a corner and let my girlfriend take over. She said some choice words like ‘forced’, and ‘up his bottom’ while I searched the room for the box to check the certificate. It was a 12. Not even a 12a. Things didn’t improve much when later on in the film a woman is stoned to death by men with rocks for being an adulterer (another ‘pause and explain’ moment) or when a guy’s face is smashed into a mirror later on.
Plus, my joke about how it should be renamed The Kite Bummer didn’t go down too well either. After some chocolate-related counselling, and much talk about how far away Afghanistan is, we sought Hollywood-style comfort in the form of Zak Efron in 17 Again, my girlfriend’s squeaky clean choice, of course.
The cover of this DVD promised a ‘Tom Hanks in Big‘ kind of movie, so I had high expectations. Without writing a full-on review, it was a good film – plenty of laughs, Efron filling the main role’s boots fairly effectively (although the idea that a grown-up Efron would end up looking like Matthew Perry was as likely as me giving The Kite Runner as a gift to my niece on her birthday). Still, it was easy watching and the perfect ‘post anal rape scene’ remedy.
And more than this, it got me thinking. The premise of the film is that Matthew Perry is a 40-something guy who is on the verge of divorce and doesn’t ‘get’ his two high school kids. He was once the star of the basketball team and Mr Popular, but spends his days wallowing in what could of been (if he hadn’t got his then girlfriend pregnant at 17 and jacked it all in).He meets a weird Captain Birdseye lookalike janitor who sends him back to being 17 (and looking like Efron again) in order to put things right, blah blah blah.
I began to wonder as I watched this, would I want to go back to being 17 again? What would it be like? Would I do anything different? Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in work writing a blog. And maybe I would be rich. And successful. I probably wouldn’t be a ‘journalist’. I would be an inventor wowing the suits on Dragons’ Den with my ingenuity and innovation and generally taking over the world (I could tell you about my ideas but I would have to virtually kill you, somehow, or you would steal them and I would become even more bitter, write even more crappy blogs and develop anger-induced RSI).
But what about actually being 17 now, in this day and age? Would it be any different? There wouldn’t be Opal Fruits or four TV channels, slouch socks or Swatch watches. I would have to engage in predictive texting and know all the words to High School Musical.
It’s funny how you spend most of your adult life wondering where the time went, perhaps regretting not doing certain things and resenting the fact that the 9-5 rat race has swallowed you up like Jonah’s whale, despite your teenage protestations that it never never never would.
Yet the thought of a ticket back to teenagedom is a scary one. It is a world that hummed of badly disguised body odour, was full of lecherous boys wearing 501s with curtains and where my facial skin was an almost attractive example of pebble dash (an exterior wall finish composed of mortar against which, while still wet, small pebbles have been thrown and pressed in, in case you didn’t know. Quite a good analogy I reckon).
What’s changed, you might ask. Well, luckily quite a lot. Life isn’t so bad and I don’t have to contend with (as many) hormones these days.
The big difference back then to now is perspective. In the 80s, I had hope for my future – I was going to live in a big house, always start my pension early and be earning over £40k. I may even have a holiday home in Provence. I would go on lots of holidays (back then I still thought school holiday rules applied) and do my food shopping in M&S (the pinnacle of home shopping).
Little did I know, that reality like a thief in the night would break in and anally rape me of my dreams.
I can’t complain too much I suppose. But I do. It’s what I do best. So if I am walking a little funny when you next see me, don’t ask too many questions, okay?