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Film illiteracy


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#1 Jim Janknegt

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 10:38 AM

I was trying to explain why the Ark of the Covenant is a symbol for Mary to my eighth grade religious education class Sunday. I first realized they had no idea what the Ark of the Covenant was so I asked how many of them had seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. Blank stares. So I said, "You know it has Harrison Ford in it, the guy from Star Wars?" More blank stares. Nobody, 20 kids, had seen either Raiders or Star Wars. One girl asked if you get get the movies at Redbox. I said, "I didn't think so."

Is this typical?

#2 SDG

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 11:38 AM

Yes. This happens to me in CCD class All. The. Time. Heck, I get teenagers and young adults who've never seen The Matrix.

Welcome to You Are Old.

#3 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 03:51 PM

I am 32. I have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 07 October 2009 - 03:51 PM.


#4 Jim Janknegt

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 04:05 PM

I guess I just find it kind of odd. One of the great joys of parenting is sharing with your kids all the things you think are great and enjoy. At every stage of my daughter's life (she is 14 now) I have anxiously awaited for her to be old enough to show her the next bunch of films I think she should see. We just watched To Sir with Love and next up in the queue is Up the Down Staircase. We are also excited about watching The Beatles Anthology together (she is a Beatles fan). So I guess I am wondering what the parents of these kids are doing? Do they just let them watch whatever they want and don't try to guide their viewing at all? I think I will ask some questions next Sunday to find out more abut their viewing habits. Seems like both the parents and kids are missing out.

Maybe it's because we are in the homeschooling ghetto? smile.gif

#5 Christy E

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 04:46 PM

As I had no one guiding my early years with great cinema suggestions, I can only blame my poor choices on myself. On the other hand, it has provided great opportunities for a late - but fun - learning curve (such as recently watching Dr. Strangelove from my sickbed.) So good on you for making good suggestions to those who are younger - I can only hope they appreciate their education.

#6 SDG

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 05:07 PM

QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Oct 7 2009, 04:51 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am 32. I have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Shut. UP.

#7 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 05:22 PM

No, really, I am 32.

Dale

#8 SDG

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 08:35 PM

QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Oct 7 2009, 06:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
No, really, I am 32.

Ha! After posting I was thisclose to going back and adding "You're 32???" but then I had to go to choir practice so I didn't. Ah, great minds. And also ours.

BTW, I'm 41, as of tomorrow.

#9 Darryl A. Armstrong

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 09:47 PM

QUOTE (Jim Janknegt @ Oct 7 2009, 10:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I was trying to explain why the Ark of the Covenant is a symbol for Mary to my eighth grade religious education class Sunday. I first realized they had no idea what the Ark of the Covenant was so I asked how many of them had seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. Blank stares. So I said, "You know it has Harrison Ford in it, the guy from Star Wars?" More blank stares. Nobody, 20 kids, had seen either Raiders or Star Wars. One girl asked if you get get the movies at Redbox. I said, "I didn't think so."

Is this typical?


In 8th grade I knew very well what the Ark of the Covenant was but had not yet seen Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. But this raises a few lines of thought to me:

Had any of them seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

Are youngsters becoming less and less familiar with artistic classics of any medium, film included, by mere virtue of more of it being made and existing now than at any point in the past?

What films were adults asking this same question about in 1976, before Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars? Who was Roger Ebert's equivalent before Roger Ebert? Does anyone ever read historical film criticism?

#10 MrZoom

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 10:51 PM

QUOTE (SDG @ Oct 7 2009, 09:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Oct 7 2009, 06:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
No, really, I am 32.

Ha! After posting I was thisclose to going back and adding "You're 32???" but then I had to go to choir practice so I didn't. Ah, great minds. And also ours.

BTW, I'm 41, as of tomorrow.


Happy birthday, SDG! I'm an October baby also. I turn 39 on the 15th.

Edited by MrZoom, 07 October 2009 - 10:59 PM.


#11 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 10:55 PM

I was so caught up in making my ohsoclever joke that I forgot to mention my worst anti-bonafide.

I have seen Episode 1, Jar-Jar and all. I have seen Episodes 2 and 3. I saw maybe the last half of Episode 4 on TV two or three years ago. I didn't see any of Episode 5 until the rerelease when I was in college. I have never seen any of Episode 6.

Ban me now.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 07 October 2009 - 10:56 PM.


#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 12:58 AM

Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:
: Had any of them seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

Yeah, this was my question too. It was one of the top-grossing films of last year, and it was marketed up the wazoo (at Burger King, etc.), so I'd be surprised if they didn't at least know the Indiana Jones CHARACTER. But if they didn't even know who "Harrison Ford" is ...

: What films were adults asking this same question about in 1976, before Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars?

Or, to look at this from another angle, it has been 28 years since Raiders came out in 1981, and 32 years since Star Wars came out in 1977. 28 years before 1981 is 1953, and 32 years before 1977 is 1945. What 1945 films were familiar to grown-ups but completely unknown to youngsters in 1977? What 1953 films were familiar to grown-ups but completely unknown to youngsters in 1981?

For that matter, it has been 10 years since The Matrix came out in 1999. What 1989 films had already been forgotten by the "young people" by the time The Matrix came out?

SDG wrote:
: BTW, I'm 41, as of tomorrow.

FWIW, I turned 39 last Thursday.

#13 mrmando

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 02:39 AM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 7 2009, 10:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
: What films were adults asking this same question about in 1976, before Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars?

The Ten Commandments, possibly?


#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 02:45 AM

The Ten Commandments (1956) had become something of an annual Easter/Passover tradition on TV by then, no? I remember it was such a long film that, when you added the commercial breaks, it really did consume the entire evening. I don't think this was just a church thing; I think people in general still knew it fairly well, whatever their age.

Singin' in the Rain (1952) comes to mind as a film that I discovered shortly after Star Wars, and for me the big hook was that it starred Debbie Reynolds, the mother of Princess Leia. I soon came to enjoy it for other reasons, too, but I don't know if it was particularly well-known to other kids my age. (And hey, THAT film takes place about a quarter-century earlier, circa 1927, when movies went from silent to sound -- so there's an EXTRA layer of nostalgic throwback for ya!)

#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 03:16 AM

On a related note (and hey, is this why the Jack Black movie Year One didn't do so well at the box office!?):

- - -

Religious illiteracy alarms educators
MONTREAL -- Half of American high-school seniors surveyed recently thought Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A McGill University professor's reference to the patience of Job drew blank stares from students in his religion course. An art history teacher in France found children were mystified by the "strange bird" (a dove representing the Holy Ghost) common in Renaissance paintings.
Until recently, such confusion was little more than fodder for faculty-room jokes, evidence of the increasing secularism of Western societies. But educators attending a conference at McGill University yesterday heard there is growing recognition in Europe and North America that religious illiteracy creates serious barriers between cultures. . . .
National Post, October 2

#16 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 04:47 AM

Happy Birthday SDG, you sweet young thing. Ah, 41. I knew it well.

Jim, this is more universal than you think. Early in my experience navigating cyberspace at the beginning (literally) of this millenium, I stumbled on a film site that asked me to write about "old" movies. The married couple running the thing were in their 20's at the time and had ties locally. We met a few times before parting ways and at one point I brought up references to The Sting, from 1973 a pivotal year in my film experience. Young wife looked away off into the distance and quietly mentioned that she hadn't seen anything from before she was born (1975).

Other than e2c's mention of The Movie of the Week and Saturday Night at the Movies (even before the advent of objectionable content, heavily editted to allow for commercials and precise timeslot schedules), I'd say this experience is universal. It should be noted that there was little escape from such TV programming back then except for family night board games, shining your shoes for Sunday morning and such.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 08 October 2009 - 04:48 AM.


#17 SDG

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 08:07 AM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 8 2009, 01:58 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
: BTW, I'm 41, as of tomorrow.

FWIW, I turned 39 last Thursday.

And it's Jeff's birthday, like, tomorrow, isn't it? Did we ever know that all our birthdays converged like that? And I'm in the middle (month sequence wise, not age wise). How interesting. smile.gif

Suz had a similar birthday convergence with two of her best friends in high school; I remember attending a joint birthday party for the three of them (yes, I knew her in high school).

Edited by SDG, 08 October 2009 - 08:08 AM.


#18 SDG

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 08:19 AM

QUOTE (mrmando @ Oct 8 2009, 03:39 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Oct 7 2009, 10:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
: What films were adults asking this same question about in 1976, before Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars?
The Ten Commandments, possibly?

I don't think so. In 1975 The Ten Commandments played on television every year around Easter, and I think it was still part of the general culture. Not to mention, say, It's a Wonderful Life (at Christmas) and The Wizard of Oz.

But we don't watch movies on television any more. I welcome the wider availability of more movies via DVD etc., but it does seem that something has been lost too. When you watched It's a Wonderful Life at Christmas, you were sharing an experience with countless other Americans. The broadcast tradition said something about who we are as a culture, as a people. When I watch It's a Wonderful Life every year on DVD with my kids, it tells them something about who we are as a family, and that's a good thing too, but not the same good thing. In our house, the movie is on because Papa puts it on. When I was growing up, the movie was on because everyone put it on.

Nine years ago I wrote, "The Wizard of Oz is one of a very few shared experiences that unite Americans as a culture, transcending barriers of age, locale, politics, religion, and so on. We all see it when we are young, and it leaves an indelible mark on our imaginations. We can hardly imagine not knowing it. It ranks among our earliest and most defining experiences of wonder and of fear, of fairy-tale joys and terrors, of the lure of the exotic and the comfort of home."

That was true for me growing up, and it's true for people of my age or older, but was it true nine years ago for younger generations? It's certainly not true now.

#19 BethR

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 09:23 AM

For the second time I'm co-teaching a college honors course "Faith and Pop Culture." We're just wrapping up the film portion of the class. Among other things, we asked the students to take a look at the last two A&F "100 Spiritually Significant Films" lists. OK--no surprise that they hadn't seen any foreign films (one exceptional young person had seen Jean de Florette/Manon de la Source). They also had not seen most of the English/American films (with the exception of Fight Club from 2004). What do they want to do their projects on? The Matrix movies, Star Trek movies.

Informal surveys of British lit students suggest that the only common sources of information about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table are Disney's The Sword in the Stone (becoming rarer) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For Alice in Wonderland, Disney version is it, if at all, which means no comprehension of allusions like "down the rabbit hole," "looking glass world," "jabberwocky," "curiouser and curiouser," etc.

We are big fans of "old" movies in my family, and my sister brought her kids up watching 1930s/40s musicals and classics such as Casablanca or His Girl Friday on TCM and DVDs. My 18-year-old niece is dismayed that none of her friends are familiar with these gems.

#20 Persona

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 10:16 AM

<!--quoteo(post=205497:date=Oct 8 2009, 09:23 AM:name=BethR)--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE (BethR @ Oct 8 2009, 09:23 AM) <a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=205497"><{POST_SNAPBACK}></a></div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->(with the exception of <i>Fight Club</i> from 2004).<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->
IMDB lists <i>Fight Club</i> as 1999. I just did my Tops of 2000-2010 list and it wasn't on there. You gave me a scare. <img src="http://ArtsAndFaith....IR#>/smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

Edited by Persona, 12 October 2009 - 08:58 PM.