When boys go to the movies

When boys go to the movies

It sounds like a trivial problem. Something that should be so easy to resolve, definitely not on the list of 10 greatest daily challenges.

Gerda de Sousa

And yet - everytime my 11-year old son wants to go to the movies, I hyperventilate.


He is at that age where animation should be above Oscar award level to be cool enough, family dramas - "Eeeeuuuuw" and a Disney classic is deemed a "girlie movie".


He wants action, and lots of it. Give him reels and reels of fast cars or the hero out fighting the bad guys while armed to the teeth with every possible weapon and fire power that human kind hasn't even mastered yet. Guns, tanks, aeroplanes, armoured vehicles, bullet proof outfits. it goes without saying, that the chosen movie doesn't necessarily have to  be based on any kind of credible story line. No screen play necessary.

In this world of ours where violence is a daily occurrence and bullies on the school ground a constant concern - do you now understand my problem?


"Boys will be boys", I'm told time and time again. I get that. I understand that. I embrace that. That surely however doesn't mean I have to hand my son over to society to form him into the parcel deemed approved by the norm. I am the mother and I will play this give and take game until "The End". As long as I pay for the movie, a silent prayer to let me please make the right choice .....


So it happens that we had two friends staying over for the week end - with the promise of a trip to the movies on Saturday night. I was now also responsible for the boys of two other mothers and it was clear from the very beginning that the three of them were in total agreement about the genre - Action of course. No further space for negotiation. My research started early and it left me in a state of panic. The options weren't that great for our age group - action, 3D action, IMAX action. 


Then I stumbled upon one called "The Great Wall" with Matt Damon as the ultimate hero. Even after buying the tickets, I stood in the slow queue for the popcorn, sceptically trying to find ways out of the movie for all of us if the gamble doesn't pay off.

I could not have been more wrong. 


How did I not know about this movie? It carried a deeply rooted spiritual message of fighting for honour, sticking to your principles and seeing the battle through to the end. It told the age old legend of a well organised army battling to death to prevent creatures from scaling the Chinese Wall and destroying the country. This was an army where women fought with long spears alongside their male archers. In fact, the head of the army was a flawlessly beautiful woman, adored and respected by millions of warriors. She got the respect from all three the boys sitting next to me as well - one of them even chirping "I wouldn't mind fighting in the blue uniforms with the women. They are so cool".


That alone says it all. The three of them were so enthralled that for 90 minutes all I could hear was the chewing of the popcorn. They admired the brilliant cinematography without even knowing their appreciation for the art of film making. There was no cringing away during violent scenes because never did one human lift a violent arm towards the other. They stood together in the onslaught of a common enemy.  No sex, no love triangle. 


I delighted in the simpleton of the hero: no super-human strengths or special weaponry. He was a normal man fighting with a bow and arrows. He didn't come from a far-off planet and he was far from perfect. He owned up to his weaknesses and his flaws, while striving to be a better man and find forgiveness for his past. 


I left the movie with the three boys by my side thanking me over and over for the great experience. Since then, I've spread the message to all the mothers I know to take their sons. Let them experience a precious life lesson in the best way only a good movie can tell the story. 


Yet, to my surprise I've had to learn that "The Great Wall" made a loss at the box office. It simply didn't attract the volumes, despite its Hollywood star Damon in the lead role. Even he couldn't beat the battle against what society defines a good movie. Did it lack a good love scene or was there not enough hatred between two men to give the movie that edge? Maybe the female warriors should have shown more cleavage or leg while fighting the ugly beasts hell bent on eating them. Sad to think scenes like those would have attracted more movie goers.

Even worse is none of the three boys with me knew about this movie. They could tell me everything about the other posters up on the movie wall .... the story lines, who the heroes are and their special powers. Because that is what they discuss at school and before the extra swimming lessons.  

Just like the hero - I too will fight this challenge and who knows in the mean time I might even teach my son something about movies - that he of course thinks he already knows. Pure action is now always pure bliss. 

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