Who could have predicted the fallout from taking our boys to see an outdoor screening of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” this summer?
Flash forward a few weeks and one movie soundtrack later, and my family lives and breathes Oompa Loompas. Not bad for a 1971 kiddie flick director Tim Burton (wrongly) felt demanded an upgrade.
So now every car ride includes the dulcet tones of those mini chocolatiers. More importantly, the soundtrack is teaching me quite a few things about my sons and parenthood in general.
- Ditch The Wiggles: I’m sure the boys would love a nonstop diet of The Wiggles, but the thought of turning the family car into a kiddie rock station makes me ill. If you expose your kids to a variety of songs they may end up liking some pretty cool stuff. For my boys, nothing beats Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Heck, I once dated a woman whose kids dug Bob Dylan. She had the right idea.
- Don’t Talk Down to Your Kiddies: “Willy Wonka” is far more complicated than your average children’s film, what with Gene Wilder’s twisted performance and the novelty of nasty kids getting what’s coming to them. We have a tendency to talk down to our kids and only expose them to the most homogenized content. They’re smarter than you think.
- Kids Hear Lyrics, Every Darn One: Our boys know the lyrics to all the “Wonka” songs by now, and they often ask questions based on what they hear. Heck, we all wanted to know what a “bean feast” was after hearing Veruca Salt belt out her swan song. Consider that the next time “My Humps” blares from your car’s speakers.
- Real Men Like Show Tunes: Our culture defines masculinity in a rather rigid fashion, and part of that involves shunning musicals in all shapes and forms (“South Park” ditties somehow don’t count). That’s nonsense, of course. I recently held my head high while the “Wonka” soundtrack serenaded nearby drivers. I want my boys to know they can like whatever they want no matter what the culture demands.
- Class in Session: Many children’s shows and movies aren’t content to entertain their target audience. They have a message to share. “Willy Wonka” tells us the down side of gobbling down too much candy and watching TV 24/7. Other children’s fare, like “Happy Feet Two,” preach about global warming. Parents should expect such lectures and act accordingly, based upon their principles and the open exchange of ideas. Some messages are universally sound, like smiting parents for raising kids as nasty as Veruca Salt. Others lecture on issues with more than one serious side. Don’t let these films have the last say in your household.