Monday, December 28, 2015

On My Mind: Youth in Remission


Lately, I've been feeling my age a bit. Having teenage children will do that to a fella. If you're not old enough to have that experience just file that previous sentence in whatever part of your brain houses profound quotes. One day after you get into your forties, even if you don't have kids of your own, you'll remember it. You might not be able to recite it verbatim, but the sentiment will be unmistakable and overwhelming. The trigger for this will be something simple. You'll have a seemingly benign conversation with one or more teens about music, technology, or sports. There might not even be any teens present. You may just watch a movie trailer. It will be for a reboot of some beloved franchise from your youth. You'll feel the powerful rush of nostalgia mixed with anticipation. That feeling will double in strength when the iconic star of the original film appears, signaling the reprisal of the role that made this person your hero.

Your joy will be short-lived. It will exit your soul as you note to yourself how old this person has become. The odd thing is that you were already aware of their age. You have watched them mature through the decades. However, they were just actors slowly succumbing to Father Time, as we all must. Now that they've stepped back into the persona of your hero, their appearance jars. When you thought of that character you always thought of a defiantly youthful warrior saving us all from certain doom and/or lifting us from the doldrums of cynicism. Now here they are, camera closing in on them during their big reveal, grayed, weathered, features elongated by gravity. You swear you can hear their bones creak over the swelling score. Instincts will tell you they have not returned to rescue us. They are here to pass the honor and responsibility on to someone else.


For me, this has been happening all too frequently as of late. In the midst of trying to avoid as much as possible about upcoming films, I always still allow myself one trailer. First, a few months ago, was the one for Creed. It is a film about a young man named Adonis, son of fictional boxing legend Apollo Creed. Adonis knows he needs a mentor. Naturally, he turns to Rocky Balboa. Rocky is played, once again, by Sylvester Stallone. I've seen Sly in dozens of movies including all of his turns as the aging Rocky. The difference is this time I know he won't be pulling on the gloves. His face tells me so before he speaks a word. His eyes no longer possess the gleam of a man destined to overcome incredible odds, but have the weariness of a soldier battered by many wars. The weight of a lifetime of fighting presses against him, slows his gait.


Just when I thought I was over the shock of Rocky near seventy I watch a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Battling with and against the ever-present army of Storm Troopers are people new to the war between light and dark. Their unfamiliar hands firing blasters and wielding light sabers, the fate of the galaxy changing with each blow struck. Suddenly, a quiet moment disrupts the chaos. Han Solo appears. However, he's hardly the youthful skeptic who somehow found himself face-to-face with his own mortality in the bowels of the Death Star. He's now an old believer, fully indoctrinated in the religion at which he once scoffed. With one sentence he simultaneously validates and incapacitates my childhood. "It's real, it's all real," he says. I nod in agreement because I know this to be true. I rode in the cockpits of X-Wing Starfighters with rebel pilots as they tried to destroy the most dangerous weapon ever created. With my own eyes I saw a young man close his in prayer before making an impossible shot, the fatal blow to that monstrosity aimed at theater-goers far and wide. I remember the exhilaration of seeing it explode as I sat safely shielded by a large bucket of popcorn.

Try as I might to recreate the moment, it will never be quite the same as it was so many years ago. I will never again be the wide-eyed child, legs jellied with anticipation, ready for an adventure, but not fully aware of the power of the Dark Side. I've seen too much. Myself, Han, Rocky, we're jaded vets, now. Adonis, Rey, Harry, Katniss, and you, dear reader, may you all be so lucky as to become the same.

25 comments:

  1. Can I just say that Harrison Ford is still hot? lol

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  2. I feel you SO HARD right now, Dell. PREACH.

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    1. Thanks! Feel like I have been doing a lot of preaching lately, though.

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    2. Seriously, Drew? You're only about 30. You aren't in this congregation. :-P

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    3. Lol, he'll be there before he knows it.

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    4. In Drew's defense, he's got three kids. Those little things make you feel drastically older. lol

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  3. Love it, man. And I love how these two films you've discussed here have been getting so much praise and not only for the nostalgia factor, though it's so thick.

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    1. Thanks. That factor is very thick in both films.

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  4. Great post! I live in a world of denial. I am approaching the dreaded half-century birthday, but when I see an old high school acquaintance on Facebook, I am always shocked to see that they look middle aged. (How can he be gray and balding? We hung out in high school. He's only... Oh, wait.) Similarly, when I see a hot young actor I remember from my youth, I am always puzzled to see them playing somebody's aging parent or grandparent. Oh, well.

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    1. Oh my, actors of my youth playing grandparents is whole other can of worms. Talk about a gut-punch. I don't keep up with anyone I went to HS with and I don't do Facebook so I don't deal with that little esteem dropper, lol.

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    2. Ha ha! That's probably best. I follow two high school friends on Facebook. One of them still lives in my hometown, so I stumble across people, through her, that I once knew. I recently saw a profile picture of a high school boyfriend and was surprised that he looked like a middle-aged guy. My capacity for denial is boundless.

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    3. Great story. And why I don't Facebook.

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  5. One wonders if Bruce Willis is sitting in his retirement home, hoping somebody will come along and make a Moonlighting reunion movie.

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    1. Lol, doubt it. He's got lots going on. Cybil Shepherd, on the other hand...

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  6. Quite true and very sobering. Not to be too heavy or depressing but just wait until someone from your youth who seemed so young to you then dies, not from a terrible accident like say Paul Walker but from an illness that could befall anyone and it knocks you back how old they really are.

    I can remember the first two times that happened for me. The first was when Lee Remick died, to me she was always the young mom in The Omen, perhaps not a kid but young and then she died at 55, which doesn't seem so old to me now but in 1991 was practically ancient! The next and even a harder hit was Elizabeth Montgomery at 62 in 1995! In my mind's eye she was (and always will be) the incredibly pretty 20 something Samantha Stephens, plus she was a witch so she was suppose to live forever!

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    1. Oh, I felt the same about Montgomery since I watched plenty of Bewitched growing up. It didn't hit me as hard because I was still in my early 20s. A few months ago a rapper named Sean Price dropped dead of a heart attack. He was a year or two younger than me. That's always scary when someone your age just keels over.

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  7. I know exactly what you're saying here. As someone nearer to 50 than 40, whose 30-year high school reunion was this year...I get these sentiments.

    But if age didn't specifically come with wisdom (and that wisdom is pretty hit-or-miss in my case), it's at least come with perspective. Perhaps I can't enjoy the new Star Wars the way I devoured the original (nearly 20 times in the theater. I saw it every weekend the following summer in my local second-run theater and "jellied with anticipation" covers every single viewing), but I'm okay with that.

    Hell, it's better than the alternative.

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    1. That wisdom is hit and miss in all of us, I think. Perspective is a perfect word for what's going on with us.

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  8. Great post! It's crazy seeing what's considered the new old Hollywood.

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    1. It is crazy. Seems like just yesterday we were all wondering if this actor or that one would manage a decent career out of early success. Now we're calling for those same people to retire.

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  9. Wow, that's really well-written! I love when people share personal stories about films like this. I'm right in that sweet spot of transition from youth to pre-adulthood. I haven't experienced the same feeling of realisation about age but I feel something similar when I think about the movies I grew up watching and how old and dated they feel. Sometimes it's the best indicator of change in my life, when I revisit a movie and it doesn't quite hold up. I immediately think the movie has changed but it's really me who has, isn't it? A great post! Cheers to your age.

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    1. Thanks. Just get ready for more experiences like the ones you've already had. They don't stop. And yes, cheers to my age.

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