I grew up watching old movies, and it made a difference.
I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine who happens to be one of my co-workers at my day job. He does accounting and I do things that aren’t accounting. It was a few days before Christmas which meant that hardly any customers were walking through our doors and our motivation for actual workplace stuff was at an all year low. We started talking about politics and current events which meandered over to our frustrations with the ills of modern society.
I told my friend that in a very real way I felt disconnected from society at large to a, uh, large extent. He asked me why. After thinking for a moment, I responded that it was because I grew up watching old movies. He looked at me quizzically and I had to quickly explain that unlike most modern Americans, I wasn’t raised with a television in the home. Or at least, we didn’t have cable. We did own a VCR and a computer monitor that acted as our home screen, but it wasn’t a television in the traditional sense. As with many aspects of my youth, it wasn’t technically normal.
I remember specifically having to always sneak over to my buddies house on Tuesday nights to watch The Simpsons because there was no way we would watch that kind of thing in my parents house. My parents loved old movies, and I don’t mean stuff from the eighties. This meant that I didn’t only idolize modern Hollywood icons like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, I also idolized the stars of yore. Figures like Cary Grant, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly we’re ever present in my childhood. I was raised knowing a spectrum of cinematic history, not just a narrow slice.
In a way, I was watching a very real cultural shift in the walls of my own home in the form of moving pictures.
My parents weren’t radical; we did watch modern movies every once in awhile, but I grew up liking Alfred Hitchcock movies like North by Northwest and Rear Window whereas my friends didn’t even know who Alfred Hitchcock was. This was a common theme throughout my childhood. I seemingly had a connection to the past that my counterparts never had.
And you know what? I’m cool with that. In fact, I’m grateful.
I’ve found myself collecting old movies that I grew up with on iTunes, partially for my own nostalgic enjoyment, and more importantly so I can help distill an appreciation for old cinema to my children one day. I believe that good stories are universal through time, and there are many forgotten life lessons in old culture that is simply lost in modern thinking and behavior. When you watch an old black and white movie like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, you have to appreciate how the writers are able to tell an engaging story through dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue. There was no sex and hardly any innuendo. This was a time when people used to actually talk to each other.
Movies used to be about character, both in the written form and in the moral form. You simply rarely see that kind of depth of thinking with current cinema. Maybe if we could just put our phones away for a few hours, we might just learn something.