Sunday, July 13, 2008


"The Big Show" tonight on channel 2 was, appropriately, "Big" -- the 80's film with Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins, about the 13-year-old boy who wakes up one morning to find he's a 23-year-old man. This was a favorite of mine for a short time, long ago. Now, as the mother of a young boy, my take on this picture was notably different. Laughably, maybe.

The kid makes a wish at the command of a possessed fortune-telling machine called Zoltan, a carnival relic that only works when you unplug it and kick it a few times. Creepy thing -- at any rate the kid wishes "to be big," and the next day he's 12 inches taller and a whole lot hairier, thanks to Tom Hanks and his perpetually woolly pate. "Josh" the kid doesn't want his parents to see him transformed (he's imagining serious trouble when they realize he's too old to start 7th grade in the fall). After convincing his initially freaked-out best friend to help him hide in nearby New York City, the two decide Josh only has to find the now-missing Zoltan machine and make a wish to return to his rightful size and shape. Unfortunately, the New York department of Consumer Affairs says it will take six weeks to generate a list of potential locations for Zoltan. Meanwhile, Josh visits all the NYC hot spots, including FAO Schwarz (one of the first places I landed on my inaugural trip to New York.) At Schwarz he meets an entertainment mogul who offers Josh a job testing and designing toys (a big leap of faith is required for this plot point, but this is obviously a fantasy anyway.) Working for said mogul Josh gets a taste of the big time (complete with Peter Gabriel soundtrack) and meets a girl besides. Here's where Jen the Mom starts to feel a little squicked-out.

It's not that I can't believe a 13-year-old boy would have sex with a pretty 30-year-old woman, given the opportunity to do so. It's more the reverse: imagine what happens when poor Elizabeth Perkins realizes, at the end, that she's inspired the next ten years of adolescent lust for this kid. And holy crap, what if he were MY kid? Setting aside for the moment the six weeks of anguish poor Josh's mom goes through (we never see it) waiting for her son to return from God knows where -- if my kid told me at 13 that he had actually slept with a Woman, I think I'd turn myself in to the police as a complete failure of a parent. Right after I awoke from a dead faint. This is a realm I am in no way ready to contemplate -- my son as a sexual being. His father assures me this starts young, and I simply do not want to hear it. And this was the 80's, this movie -- Josh and his Woman are TOTALLY having unprotected sex. (Though I'm sure she's on the pill.) Good Lord. You can only hope that in the unwritten script of what happens after Josh returns home normal-sized, he simply refuses to tell his mother anything; and she spends the next ten years sending him to analysis instead.

All that having been said -- this film brings back memories of another kind. At 13 I was nothing to look at, having no natural sense of style or interest in girly-girl diversions. I was a nerd, tall and I thought plain, though looking back I see that I was simply cute by adult standards rather than attractive by the impossibly unrealistic standards of junior high. I was reading at the college level, questioning my teachers rather too often, skipping class a bit and getting spit on in the halls occasionally. But it wasn't all bad -- I had nerdy 14-year-old boyfriends, a new one every other month, and I was the undeniable queen of the art department ( a title I held into high school.) My boyfriends were generally nice guys, outcasts like me but not morons like so many of the jerks who roamed the halls (trying to look like Scott Baio.) Apart from the fact that my parents couldn't buy me nice clothes, I never really understood why I was doomed not to fit in. I frequently overstepped the bounds of a mysterious caste structure. By 16 I had an impressive thrift-store wardrobe, a perm and a hunky boyfriend who drove one of those phony hotrod-slash-pickup trucks. In fact, he asked me to marry him. I still have the ring.

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