TOWER GROVE — While watching a commercial for some collection of Shirley Temple DVDs, the boy wonder patiently waited for the sales pitch, the flash of the phone number for orders, and the final wink from the cherubic actress.
“Did she do all that as a 3-year-old?” he asked.
“The dancing and singing?” I responded. “No I don’t think so.”
“Oh,” Ian said, still staring at the TV with that stare we’ve come to know as his problem-solving expression, his I’m-going-to-make-a-pronouncement-so-get-ready face. “That makes sense. I think I would really like to be in movies.”
Since we first bought the DVD of “Happy Feet” and played it as a respite for the parents from the sucking tidal pool of Baby Einstein discs, the boy wonder has been fascinated by movies. He can quote from them. He can use quotes from them in conversation. Watching a movie for the first time with Ian means spending 120 minutes answering questions about the actors, the plot, the sequel, the book the movie might be based on, and, finally, if we can watch the movie again. He knows details about movies he hasn’t seen because he’s asked people to describe them to him at the granular level. As a 4-year-old, he once told me how he was going to grow up and make a “Spider-Man 4” because he was unhappy with the use of villains in “Spider-Man 3”. When I asked if he was going to make any other movies, he replied: “Oh, yes. They’re in development.” He wanted to know which of the Shirley Temple movies I’ve seen before and called them “Shirley Temple 1,” “Shirley Temple 4” and “Shirley Temple 5.” Is it that obvious that his view of how movies are titled comes from Star Wars?
His recent quest has been to better understand the rating system.
He was loading up a video game today and noticed that it was rated “T”. He stopped and suggested that maybe we should rethink playing the game because, as he said, “Daddy, ‘T’ is for teen and I’m not a teen yet.” Before I could muster a response, he reconsidered, suggesting that he’s seen seven PG-13 movies, including “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
“I can see PG-13 movies, right? So maybe I can handle ‘T’ games,” he said. “But not ‘M’.”
To the best of my knowledge, he does not know what ‘M’ stands for, but he has started looking for it on TV shows and video games alike. He probably thinks it stands for ‘Mom’ because it was his mother who first told him that ‘M’ was not for little boys and girls. He has spent some time in each of the past few days trying to convince us otherwise.
Not too long after the Shirley Temple commercial came one for GameFly, the Netflix equivalent of video games. Ian stopped, and before the commercial came to an end he had a question.
“Why do you have to be 18 to order?”
“Well, probably because some of the games are only for adults, or because they don’t want kids to sign up and spend their parents money,” I suggested. “I’m not sure if that’s the case though. It’s like Netflix. But do you have to be 18 …”
With that, the commercial chimed in with its disclaimer about being 18 to order.
“See?” Ian said, pleased.
He has, in the past couple days, gone through the DVDs in his basket and read aloud what each one is rated. He wanted to count up the G-rated movies — “I can see those without you!” — and catalog the PG-13 movies. I think I know why he’s doing this, and I only have my self to blame. He wanted a few movies loaded onto his iTouch, and I put on there on there as a surprise the trailer to the upcoming Batman movie. It’s tame. It has Bane, who has fascinated Ian for more than a year now, and it’s a nice way to include him in a movie he won’t be able to see. Or, so I think. He has another idea in mind and that’s why he’s so, so interested in ratings and counting his PG-13 movies. The boy wonder is gathering evidence from to make a case for seeing “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Consider the first question he asked me tonight as I slipped on a jacket to sneak out and finally see “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
“What’s it rated?” he asked.
“R. Not for kids.”
“I bet I could handle it,” he said.
“No,” his mother interjected.
Later, after I had left, Ian wanted to bring up the topic again as they watched a movie together. He wondered why R-rated movies “are bad for him,” and what makes them different then PG-13. Why, he asked, couldn’t he see the “Tattoo Movie.”
“Mommy doesn’t even want to see it,” Erika concluded.
“Oh,” Ian said, dissolving into that look again, processing, chewing over the info and then finally arriving at his eureka moment. “I’ll just watch Veggie Tales.”