All this talk about television reminded me of something that happened several years ago with Colton, who was eight at the time. I am ashamed to say that I went through a period of extreme TV snobbishness. I felt that watching television was a waste of our time, so I got rid of cable. We only watched carefully chosen videos, designed to enrich and uplift us. (I cringe as I write this now!) I was totally obnoxious about it.

One day Colton and Bud returned from the library, thrilled with what they had found. A video copy of "Godzilla!" I snorted derisively and suggested that our time would be better spent with a book. I was ignored. They made some popcorn and started the movie. I sat with them on the couch, or to be more accurate, on my moral high horse, with an "uplifting" book in hand. I rolled my eyes and sighed with gusto to point out how they were wasting their time. Colton and Bud continued to ignore me.

Something finally penetrated my self-imposed role as the chief of the culture police. A voice whispered in my ear: Look at them, Carol. Just LOOK at them! I studied my son and my husband for about five minutes. They were totally engrossed in the movie, yet they never stopped touching each other. Colton would lean against Bud's shoulder as he giggled helplessly, or Bud would squeeze Colton's leg during a particularly intense moment. They were totally connected to each other through their movie experience, and it was a joy to watch. I knew that they were making a memory together.

We had cable reinstalled the next day, and we never looked back. We don't watch a lot of TV, but when we do, we do it together. We have laughed and cried together as we have watched, and we have wondered and marveled. Television has been a wonderful learning experience for me. It taught me to loosen up, and to appreciate those wonderful moments when I cocoon with my family. And when I watch my husband and son stomping around the house like Godzilla as they destroy Tokyo, I know that I am standing on holy ground.

March 26, 2003

Deb Lewis, on her son Dylan (and Godzilla)

"He learned to read in part from watching Godzilla movies."

The Christmas/new year before he turned four TNT played a marathon of monster movies and Dylan saw Godzilla for the first time. He was fascinated by the idea of a man in a monster suit and whole towns and villages and army bases made from tiny models. He watches movies differently than anyone I've ever known. He pays attention to how music is used, to the lighting, to the camera angles, etc. For Dylan watching moves (or TV) has never been about sitting mindlessly addicted or zoned out as some people think TV watchers must be. It's more than getting caught up in the story or identifying with the characters. He notices and analyzes every detail.

He learned to read in part from watching Godzilla movies. Many of them were subtitled. I watched with him at first and read the subtitles to him but somewhere along the way he stopped needing me. 🙂

He created his own stories out of episodes of Star Trek or The Avengers, taking maybe one part of one plot line and adding to it or changing it and creating characters. We spent many hours acting out scenes, me taking direction. He created his own original stories. One was about doctors who helped monsters, the problems they faced, threats from the government, from the monsters themselves, from days crossing oceans to get to Monster Island. 🙂 One story was about our giant Siamese cat, Zoey. There were fourteen regular characters in that story and others who came and went and it had multiple story lines, plots and subplots. There was another story about our Shih-tzu who was a cowboy who could fly (his tail was a rotor) and whose guns fired macaroni. 🙂 And another very complex story about a mouse named Suzee and her cousin Joey and their adventures. I still have boxes full of drawings he made of the characters. All that started before he could read, between the ages of five and eight mostly, and was inspired by watching movies and television.

He also made clay models of animals and monsters and dinosaurs and made a set for them and made some stop motion films with an old 16mm camera that had belonged to his grandfather. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he makes more stop motion films someday. That's been a nearly life long love of his, since he saw his first Ray Harryhausen movie.

He was inspired to write partly because he wanted to rewrite bad screenplays.🙂 He rewrote the screenplays of several bad horror films when he was younger, "Critter's" was one of them. He first drew pictures and then wrote his version of the story on random loose papers as he thought it out and then had me type it for him. He was very little then, maybe five or six. Over the last couple years he's written his own screenplays. I've only read parts here and there but they're good.

I wish every mom who ever thought about limiting a kid's TV time could sit and watch one movie with Dylan. Whether it's a good movie or bad you can't watch with him or hear him talk about movies without understanding how much thought and analysis he's put into it, how clearly it spoke to him and how deeply he loves the art of motion pictures. If I'd limited his viewing I could have ruined one of his great passions, and maybe even slowed his learning to read and write. He is a very visual person. He notices everything. He notices if labels on grocery items get changed, even if they're items we don't usually buy. He takes beautiful photographs because he can see what will make and interesting picture. If TV viewing altered his brainwaves it did it brilliantly because he's smart, analytical, philosophical and artistic.