I’ll wait here, Jim…
When I was a young child, Sunday mornings were for church and Sunday evenings were for TV. It was a family venture; we’d all sit down, my parents and my brother and I (my younger sister wouldn’t be born for a few years yet) in the living room and gather around our cabinet TV.
Humor me and pretend you know what a cabinet TV is, ok?
Now…part of the evening was a no-brainer. We were going to watch The Wonderful World of Disney. These days it often seems as if Disney is invested in making little kids grow up too quickly and become much too sophisticated too early, but back then it was more like Disney was helping adults keep their childlike wonder. I’m not sure when it changed. But when I was a kid, I knew Sunday evening was going to end splendidly, without a doubt.
It was getting to the Wonderful World of Disney that was problematic. You see…it wasn’t the first program we watched on Sunday evenings. It was the second. But determining just which program we’d watch first was a weekly point of contention.
I always voted for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Seriously…what was not to like? Every week Marlin Perkins would send poor Jim Fowler out to wrassel giant snakes or enraged crocodiles or something, while Marlin narrated from the comfortably safe distance of the safari Jeep. You really have to wonder why this program was sponsored by an insurance company, but Jim is 81 and still kickin’, though one would hope that by now he’s retired from trying to pin wild animals. Wild Kingdom was always a safe and entertaining choice.
My brother, however, doggedly pled to watch Lassie.
I hated Lassie.
Lassie had the same plot every week. Everyone was happy, and then something terrible would happen but the humans would be clueless or helpless, and Lassie would spring into action to provide heart-stopping and tearjerking rescue, often at great peril to herself.
I hated heart-stopping and tearjerking.
It’s funny, now that I consider it, that a kid so young would hate to cry over a TV show, but I sure did. And I still don’t like to cry over fictional shows and movies, though I no longer avoid them and often like them in spite of myself. I mean, really…did you see Toy Story 3? It was smash-full of teary moments, and it was a freaking animated kids’ movie! Ridiculous! But also awesome.
Back in 1990, on the recommendation of someone who really meant well, my BFF Ruth and I went to see the movie Beaches in the theatre. “It’s a great best friends movie,” they said. “You’ll cry,” they said. Know what I remember best about that movie? Well, other than the song about bras. I remember that that is the movie where I taught Ruth how to make wintergreen Lifesavers spark in the dark when you bite them. Because friends don’t let friends go through life without skilz.
I don’t mind being moved by something true. Being moved by something true doesn’t feel like being manipulated. But being told a story for the purpose of manipulating my emotions often feels like handing control of my inner wellbeing over to someone who just wants to take me for a ride and sell me something.
So you can keep your overachieving collie dog. I’d still rather watch a cheetah eat an antelope.