Film I remember seeing “My Girl” when it was released in 1991, one of the very few times both my parents took me and my sisters to a movie theater. In retrospect, I have to wonder, what were my parents thinking taking kids that were ages 9, 7 and 5 to this movie? For being a family movie, “My Girl” is pretty dark and heavy. To say the movie deals with death is an understatement – it’s steeped in it from the start. Besides that it has a widower dad falling in love, puberty, hypochondria, an unrequited crush, and on top of that it's in the midst of the ‘70s.
Looking back a lot of the movie went way over my head. Things on later viewings I saw as quirky touches by the filmmakers I accepted at face value the way you accept things when you're nine years old. Shelly living in a trailer and Vada's dad working (and living) at a funeral home and playing the tuba didn’t phase me. Didn't all adults have funny jobs and strange hobbies? I failed to see the humor in Vada taking an adult writing class and in her being the youngest one in the class by about 20 years. Some describe the character of Vada as “precocious,” but I didn’t see her as all that different from myself, besides being a couple years older than me. And at nine I didn’t really understand what the ‘70s were, other than they wore bell bottoms and played music that was different from the present era, but not unpleasant (do-wa-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy-do - not a bad song).
And, the ultimate sign of my naivete, I didn't see Thomas J.’s death coming. I didn’t read reviews at that age, and I didn't know a person could be killed by bees, so it was a huge shocker.
It was the first time I cried in a movie. It was the first time I experienced the power of art of any type to bring me to tears. Even today just thinking about the scene where Vada runs in to the funeral service and says, "Where are his glasses?" wrecks me. It's so raw, and it’s something a kid would say. Seeing a sad movie in a theater is different from seeing it on TV – it’s more intense since there’s no escaping from it. You cannot look away. It’s an experience I tend not to seek out.
Upon reflection, as an adult, I will probably never be put in that situation again, where I’ll be forced to see sit in a theater and watch a movie that I don’t know is going to be extremely sad. In a way that is a relief – there are no surprises now that I read reviews and have a more sophisticated mentality about movies. But in another sense something is lost – the power of art to move you in way that is completely unexpected. That is something as an adult I experience less and less of. There really is something magical about seeing the world through the eyes of a child, and it’s sad to think that you can never see the world that way again.