Some time shortly before Christmas, when I was still feeling energetic and determined to finish everything before our visitors arrived, Paddy suggested one evening that we could watch Lord of the Rings together. By the time we got through part I and part II, I had actually finished all the ironing, but then we were a bit stymied, because our part III DVD was inexplicably missing. It really was very enjoyable watching the first two DVDs together with Paddy and without being sick, since Lord of the Rings is what I usually watch when I am curled up in a blanket drinking camomile tea and feeling miserable. It was much more pleasurable to recall together with Paddy what our first impressions were, the circumstances of seeing all three films together in the big cinema when they first came out.
Although I just managed to stave off the flu bug circulating in Linz throughout the brief, but emotionally intense visit from my family over Christmas, as soon as everyone was gone (including Christopher and Paddy, who flew back to London with the others a few days after Christmas), the bug defeated me. In the end, I was feeling too miserable to even dance a waltz with Peter at midnight on New Year’s Eve, our 23rd wedding anniversary, when Peter kindly stayed home to keep me company, instead of going out to enjoy music with his friends. He assured me that he didn’t mind, but warned me that if I asked him one more time, he might really start regretting it. I stopped asking and just felt comforted by his company.
Finding myself felled by the flu at the end of the holiday season, however, left me in something of a predicament. Since Paddy and I had so recently watched „The Fellowship of the Ring“ and „The Two Towers“, it seemed too soon to watch them again, and „The Return of the King“ was still inexplicably missing. Although I enjoyed the more recent version of Pride & Prejudice and yet another different film version of Wuthering Heights (my very favorite book when I was young), which I had received as Christmas presents, I still needed proper flu entertainment. In the end, I turned to Pirates of the Caribbean.
I owe my familiarity with Star Wars from the beginning to my younger siblings. I remember taking Amy and Pat to see the first Star Wars film, when it first came out. I think it must have been the summer when Pat was 9 and Amy was 10. When the lights came up after the end, Amy flopped impatiently in her seat, rolled her eyes, crossed her arms in disgust, and announced quite audibly, „Well, that was wasn’t very realistic!“ It was perhaps not very wise to tell that story to the boys when they were little, and Christopher in particular was dying to see the new Star Wars, but I was resisting, because I thought he was still a bit too young. Unfortunately, both of my sons have always been better at math than me, so it didn’t take Christopher long to figure it out. When he started asking repeatedly, „And just how old were Amy and Pat, when you took them to see it?“, I lost that argument fairly quickly.
Similarly, I am indebted to my children for introducing me to a segment of popular culture that would otherwise have passed me by. So much of my work involves media theory and academic analyses of popular culture, and I have always felt that this gave me some valuable „weapons“ in the battle with mass media and marketing over my children’s imaginations, but my children, in turn, gave me an opportunity to actually enjoy films I would otherwise never have seen, but only read about in analyses and discussions – if at all. Sometimes it even seemed helpful to find my sons intrigued by positive, sometimes slightly different fictional „role models“. At the time, for example, I felt quite grateful to the actor Orlando Bloom for proving in his portrayal of the elf „Legolas“ that it is indeed possible to be extremely cool, even if you are tall and thin and pale and never get dirty in battle scenes. Johnny Depp’s performance of Captain Jack Sparrow was certainly surprising and especially enhanced a film I would never have expected to enjoy. As a feminist mother of two sons, I felt that this was the kind of pirate I could live with reasonably happily. Of course, I especially liked the lovely „damsel in distress“, who got tired of waiting to be rescued and took matters into her own hands. In retrospect, I think it might have been Pirates of the Caribbean that first sparked Paddy’s extensive interest in film-making as a whole. It certainly piqued his interest in Johnny Depp’s other films, leading to a much broader interest in other directors and genres – also in the Theremin after watching Ed Wood.
There are certainly more intellectual and critical pursuits, which I am always happy to promote in my household. Nevertheless, I’m happy that my children introduced me to such enjoyable silliness, before they grew up and became intellectual and critical themselves. Perhaps it is good to be reminded that popular culture is popular for a reason.
But now it is time to stop being ill and get back to work like the sensible intellectual that I am.