As a pop culture fiend who engulfed everything to the fullest of my imagination from an early age (my imaginary friends were the kid characters from Barney), I have fond memories of the things I watched, listened to, and read when I was young. There are things that make my heart swoon in nostalgia as I remember back on them.
Luckily, I know that one day I will likely have children (years from now). I will have the ability to relive these memories by introducing them to my own children, allowing them to experience and live through the same stories, feelings, and songs that I did. Below is a list of things that I cannot wait to show them as they grow up; to look at their face as they watch my favorite plot twists or hear my favorite lyrics for the first time. I want to instill values into my kids like the importance of watching things in the correct order (the way the creator intended), how to navigate movie adaptations (the correct order is usually movie-book-movie), and how to separate the brilliant from the trash (Pixar>Disney>Dreamworks).
Some of these are material that is explicitly made for children, some for children and adults, and some is more adult leaning as they grow older and I force them to be with me. The categories are: movies, books, music, and television.
Pixar Films – The biggest cheat ever as the canon consists of 14 feature films and this is something that will continue grow as the years go by, but how can I pick one over the others? (NOTE: I retain the right to refuse to show my kids the films Cars and Cars 2 before they reach an age where they can view the film with the discretion of a seasoned movie watcher not being susceptible to the addictive substances that Disney seems to have placed for small children in the movie).
Star Wars – What else is there? It is the ultimate story created in the movie format. I was drawn in as a child by the aesthetic, the music, the characters, the battles, etc… Who will be their favorite? Which film will they like the best? The true question is, do I show my children Episodes 1-3…
The Sandlot – This movie lives and breathes nostalgia. It is a longing for another age, for long summer days, for friends, adventure, and ultimately baseball. Most of my deep affections for baseball were likely founded while watching this movie.
Ocean’s 11 – A bit of an odd pick, but as soon as I had even heard about this movie it became my favorite. And after I had actually watched it, I watched it again and could not stop telling everyone about it. It is the most stylish thing to ever come off of the big screen and I cannot wait to see my kid’s face when the crew is revealed to be the SWAT team in the film’s final twist.
Robin Hood/The Adventures of Robin Hood – I pick this over all the potential Disney cartoons because I can again cheat with this one. As a child Robin Hood fascinated me and I devoured every version of the story I could find.
It is really hard to narrow it down to just five, because I was a bit of a book worm as a child, you know, before the internet was invented. (It breaks my heart to leave Matt Christopher books off the list)
The Giving Tree – If this doesn’t cause your kid to have an existential crisis, I don’t know what will! A beautiful story about loneliness, life, and sacrifice with each word and illustration oozing with depth, it may be too deep for a youngin to fully understand, then again, it may be too deep for me to understand.
Charlotte’s Web – Another story about friendship and sacrifice, Charlotte’s Web is iconic. I still find myself making references about “Some Pig” and Templeton.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe – The Great Illustrated Classics were a heavenly gift for me as a kid, giving me the opportunity to read the great stories along with the ability to understand them. I still see kids reading these in my work as a reading tutor. I pick Robinson Crusoe in the face of many others (just beating out Treasure Island), because of its survival aspects, which I fell in love with as a child, plus, this allows me to leave out Hatchet, another book I adored, without feeling too guilty.
Maniac Magee – A sort of magical realism tale about a boy who crosses the boundaries that society has set. Magee is a Christlike figure who shines light on our modern society in a way that children can understand. Plus he is really good at baseball!
The Chronicles of Narnia – A classic series that I remember my mom reading to me. I could not wait to see what would happen next in the world of Narnia. And of course I will make them read them in the correct order, the one in which they were written (Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, Voyage, Silver Chair, Horse and His Boy, Magician, Last Battle).
Music is a bit of a tough one, because most “kids” music tends to lean towards being unlistenable as one ages. Likewise, it is hard to know just what exactly your kids will be able to enjoy at a young age. I suppose I will approach this as albums, bands, or songs that I want to show my children as they reach their pre-teens and gradually grow older. This is hard because my musical tastes as a pre-teen and beyond were in the pop-punk, ska, hardcore, metalcore range before moving on to more old school punk, indie rock, and folksy type stuff. As a future parent do I want to be complicit in my own child’s rebellion by showing them music of rebellion? I suppose most of the groundbreaking records are rebellious in nature, but it’s a parent job to prevent rebellion right?
MxPx “Life In General” – The perfect JR High album, filled with pop-punk songs about growing up and girls, it’s also a much safer album than the early Blink-182 albums, which I’m not going to show my kids, they can discover that on their own.
Five Iron Frenzy – The first album I ever bought was by a Christian Ska band (not this one, The OC Supertones) and Five Iron is the perfect band for this. With equal songs about God and wedgies, not to mention the fun horns, this is a great choice.
The Beach Boys – I wanted to go with a classic artist here, I could have chosen The Beatles or Michael Jackson, but the Beach Boys felt like the best pick. They are the type of music that a child could get into and still enjoy as they grow older, plus I have to introduce them to their (1/2) California roots.
Chuck Berry “Johnny B Goode” – The early days of rock ‘n roll hold a soft place in my heart. Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly all are favorites of mine, as well as the Grease soundtrack. But the best song written in the early days of rock has got to be Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode”, combine this with a love for Marty McFly’s performance in Back to the Future and you’ve got a perfect song.
Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” – Admittedly I started listening to Davis and jazz in general within the last year, but my first 4 picks were way too rock based and I feel like I need to diversify my pick here. Jazz by its non-vocal nature is something that could be introduced early on and Davis is the most acclaimed artist in its history. Plus how cool would my 6 year old be if he/she was into Miles?
Most of the acclaimed TV that people talk about tends to be adult-oriented and of its time. We are in the “Golden-Era” of TV, but how much of it will be able to be passed down by the time my kids are in their teens? Am I going to be bursting at the seems to show my kid The Wire or Arrested Development? The shows I grew up watching feel even less translatable to an audience however many years from now; will Even Stevens, Home Improvement, and Doug be worth purchasing DVDs and sitting down with my kids to watch them? Its a tricky topic, but here is what I am most excited about.
The Muppet Show – It was between this and Sesame Street but I came to the conclusion that the latter is something you have to show your kids for pure developmental reasons (like eating vegetables), while the former is something you desire to show your kids for pure brilliance.
Recess – I continue to uphold the opinion that Disney’s Recess is one of the best and most creative animated shows within the last 25 years. It took the most wonderful parts of school to a child (recess of course) and made a show that made it feel how it actually feels to be a kid at recess. The drama of the sports activities, the hierarchal power of the older kids, the crazy kindergarteners, this show nailed that feeling, and I imagine my kids will love it just as I did.
Boy Meets World – I grew up watching Cory Matthews meet the world and grow together with Topanga and I cannot imagine my child not doing the same. Plus, if Girl Meets World is any good, the two could be watched back to back.
24 – I wanted to pick something that was highly serialized, one of those shows that leaves you on a cliffhanger every episode and 24 takes the cake on that (beating out Lost). It might be a little out of date then, hopefully the fear of terrorism will have died down, but the show should work nonetheless.
Looney Tunes – The timeless of the most timeless, the humor of Looney Tunes is one that will never get old. From “Ehhh… What’s up doc?” to “That’s all folks!”, this is practically required viewing for everyone. Plus this will hopefully lead them to a love of all things Space Jam, becoming early supporters of the Tune Squad.
What pop culture obsessions are you wanting to pass down to your children? Or, if you have kids, what have they been the most receptive of?