When I was a kid, I used to watch movies with my cousin Ross. One evening, circa 1990, while sitting on the floor watching the old Batman movie starring Michael Keaton, he decided he’d had enough of me. “Quit asking questions!” he cried. “We’re watching the same movie! I don’t know why all these things are happening!” I can newly appreciate Ross’s position. I’ve recently had my comeuppance, sitting with my son watching Frozen. He’d just gotten a nasty gash in his head from a playground tumble. It was bloody and scary enough to send us to urgent care, where he eventually was patched back together with a staple. But, as anyone who has been to urgent care knows, even the simplest procedure can take hours. So we passed the time snuggling, him in a stained t-shirt with a bandage around his head, watching Frozen on the iPad.
“Why is Princess Anna not allowed to know about Princess Elsa’s powers?” he asked me. I paused the movie to discuss. But this was only the beginning. Question followed question in mind-numbing succession. When we’d been watching the film for over an hour but hadn’t yet gotten beyond the first 20 minutes, I knew he was even worse than I’d been as a child. Simple questions were easily fielded. But then he started in on the stumpers.
“Whose fault is it that the castle froze?” he queried. “Is it Anna’s fault, because she made Elsa mad – or is it Elsa’s fault, because she couldn’t control her power?” I looked at him, laughing in spite of myself. “Maybe,” I said, “it’s actually the parents’ fault, since they told Elsa to keep it a secret.” He considered this, and then said, “Is that the right answer?” I shrugged. “It’s an interpretive question, William. It depends on what kind of approach you take to the movie.” Suddenly I realized what I was saying and backtracked. We weren’t in English class, I reminded myself, but instead the urgent care. “Well, what I’m really saying is, you could argue it either way.”
And so we did, looking at the issue from multiple perspectives and discussing the evidence for each. I was amused, to a point. On the one hand, here is someone to debate with! On the other hand, can’t we just get to the part where Elsa sings “Let it Go”? I found myself echoing my cousin from so many years before. “William, can’t we just watch the movie?” Secretly, though, I hope this is only the beginning, a memorable first in a lifetime of movie discussions. We’ll just be two English majors, hanging out and passing the time.