Words: Gemma Kent
There are plenty of reasons to re-watch, reread, or generally re-experience something we already have, but the big one has always been the fact that we loved (or distinctly hated) it as a kid. What’s not to love about venturing back into the world of the VHS tape, the Nintendo Wii, or that Christmas classic you loved growing up? A lot, if you ask me.
The most obvious starting point is that things from the past are rarely as good as you remember them. A movie I adored when I was still in single digits was the frantically-made money-grabber Pokémon 2000, though I don’t suppose I would have used those adjectives at the time. Having rambled on about how I loved that film for well over a decade, I finally made a point of acquiring it legitimately (our VHS player broke about six/seven years ago, RIP) and hunkering down with my sister to relive its apparent goofiness and charm. Needless to say, it swiftly became apparent that I had had no actual taste as a child, and I finished that nearly two-hour long film just relieved that at least the end credits had some catchy tunes.
What re-watching that film reminded me of is the fact that some things, like my humble VHS player, don’t stand the test of time, and that what you remember loving as a kid isn’t always guaranteed to stir the same response in you as an adult. And finding that out kind of sucked.
Not everything from your childhood turns to sludge over time, though. I’ve read the Harry Potter series twice now (impressive about eight years ago, but less-so now, given Penneys’ recent obsession), and I don’t think any less of it. And I still adore the High School Musical trilogy in all its ridiculous glory, despite the fact I’ve probably clocked in thirty repeat viewings of the second one alone. But those are the exceptions to the rule, and not everything can sustain that many return flights, even if its quality has survived past the noughties. A gaming example would be the Nintendo Wii’s The Legend of Spyro, Dawn of the Dragon, with which my sister and I were high-key obsessed at the time of its release. I’ve played that game through countless times and will always be indebted to the effect it had on my perception of what a game can be, but I can safely say that, by virtue of the fact that practice makes perfect, I will never find it the thrilling challenge that I used to. And much like admitting that some old films don’t stand the test of time, it’s equally sad facing up to the fact that some landmarks from your childhood can never be adequately relived.
Last but by no means least, the most practical reason to set aside your childhood darlings and face fully into your future, draws – ironically, I know – upon some sage advice from yesteryear: YOLO. Life
It’s a fascinating question, one which deserves a proper investigation! Rather than constructing an unhelpful ‘what-if’ scenario, I decided to pit myself against my younger, brattier self, and re-experience those media-ghouls which, honestly, made my childhood a tad frightening. Because nothing beats competing against kids, and winning.
Many will probably identify with my first challenge: the Rubik’s Cube. I received this would-be torture instrument on Christmas morning, several years ago, unbeknownst to everyone that it would cause me to burst into tears minutes after unwrapping it. It must have been left in a faraway drawer, scrambled and shamed, for just under a decade. Casting my mind back, I think it was the knowledge that there was the odd few who could solve this puzzle in seconds, while I couldn’t even get one side that made me stash it away. It punched a hole in my confidence like humanity in the ozone layer, a mark which, jokes aside, made me question my abilities before every secondary-school class test I went on to take. I was extremely hard on myself, for an eight year-old.
Years later, taking a deep breath, I did what any millennial would do. I found the Rubik’s Wiki. It became apparent that every cube could be solved using generally the same moves, and it was a matter of simply-learning it off! I slayed the cube six times in four hours, alleviating a lot of self-inflicted guilt in the process.
Challenge two. Warriors, the multi-series chronicle about warring felines, has a fanbase with a mean age of eighteen years. This I found surprising, because had I laid my sticky hands on those floppy paperbacks when I had only turned nine. For anyone unfamiliar with the stories, it’s essentially a gateway drug to Game of Thrones: gruesome melee conflict, brutal politics and an expansive landscape divided into seasoned kingdoms (or ‘clans’, if you will). It goes without saying that there’s an elusive sphynx cat from the distant past who shares ominous prophecies.
Go figure. At the time, I couldn’t get my head around the hundreds of characters or their bloodlines or who was feuding with whom and for what reason. I probably turned tail and hid beneath an armchair, clutching a plastic dinosaur for support. Now, it’s deliciously political, explaining perfectly why there exists such a senior fanbase. While we see only meagre improvements with regards to the horrendous gender inequality in human society, for example, Warriors startled me with its widespread female representation. Messages like these are riddled throughout the books we left behind as children, too subtle for us to grasp. Able to understand them, re-reading these ‘pointless’ kids’ stories revealed to me my own progress in life, and who doesn’t need a boost like that?
Just turn to the internet, and you’ll find countless cases where PG-movies contained jokes and scenarios that went right over our heads as kids, who were busy splitting our sides at the slapstick.
I might have been the worst for it, often not listening to the dialogue at all, which proved fatal for a movie like Elf. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it is a kids’ movie, right? Either way, I didn’t get any of it, and I thoroughly despised it as a child. Even the thought of re-watching it caused me to groan a little. But this second time, being wiser, more seasoned and experienced, I finally got the point. Buddy’s an abducted human, not a really, really tall elf. The blunder of a generation became clear in a flash of white light and cornets and, though acutely ashamed, I admit it happened. But the past is done. And now I can count myself among those wise adults who love that strange movie. I could have held onto prejudice and died ignorant, but by confronting the flawed opinions of little-me and re-tackling the media from childhood past, I will not.