An Advantageous Childhood

August has, in his 12 years so far on this earth, had more sleepovers than I did in almost my entire childhood. But that’s not the half of it.

metropolisA couple of nights ago he had a friend spending the night and they watched Metropolis. August is 12 years old, and he’s watching a film I did not discover until my late teens. The proliferation of home media has radically altered the entertainment consumed.

There are two points I want to make here. The first is how August has many more friends that I pretty much ever did. Really all the kids do. Having never spent two full years in the same school until my last three years of high school, well, whatever, I’m fine, but I did not have a lot of friends growing up. Add to that an incontinence issue and you can see why I did not have many (if any) sleepovers.

I am really glad he has a lot of friends and is able to have them come over.

On top of this, and partly because he has these friends, who share their own media consumption, August is getting exposed to some of the classics of genre entertainment so much earlier than I ever was. When I was his age people did not have VCRs, or if they did they were very expensive and there was little in the way to rent or own. Really, I grew up in a time before video rentals.

This meant I had to watch whatever was on the three channels (we didn’t have cable) or if it was in the theater, that’s when I saw it. There was no waiting for things to come out on home video. Either I saw it when it was released/broadcast or I missed it.

ultramanWhen I was a little younger than August I lived in the Bay Area of California. Star Wars had come out the year before and there was a large upswing in interest in the science fiction genre. To this end there was a local program broadcast weekdays after school, “Captain Cosmic And 2T2” – essentially local television host Bob Wilkins in a new guise. It was through this program that I first caught “Spectreman” “Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons” “Ultraman” and even “Flash Gordon”. While I had known about (and greatly enjoyed) Godzilla and some science stuff, but this opened up my world.

It would be several more years before VHS caught on and I would be able to fully explore and indulge my interest. And there are still things that I have not seen.

August, however, has seen more at this age than I have at his age. The proliferation of home video, either disc-based or streaming along with what feels like 1,200 channels of whatever, well, there’s no shortage of new and old genre entertainment.

flash gordon 1936A little while ago I was able to share with August the first Flash Gordon serial. We sat and watched the whole thing together. It was a fun trip down memory lane for me and he really enjoyed it. August has the ability to watch something with not only a suspension of disbelief, but also an understanding and acceptance of storytelling norms and special effects technology for the time something was made. We plan on watching the other two serials very soon then on to thee 1980 film.

So there August is, watching Metropolis, arguably the first great science fiction epic film, while on a sleepover. His childhood is definitely different from mine, and in many ways much better.

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