Earlier this year, I started a Letterboxd account for my son, Simon, who is four. We watch movies, mostly together, and then we “talk about them.” Mostly, this means I ask him questions and transcribe the conversation. It’s hilarious—any review of Raiders of the Lost Ark that explains about how it’s “a lot bit ‘sploded and blooded” is going to have at least something going for it—and he has more followers than I do, even if I get marginally more feedback in the way of comments than he does. (The questions have all been for me, about the logistics.) But it is kind of an odd thing to choose to do, and I’m terribly afraid that I come across as one of those performative parents, the ones who want you to know just how cute their kid is at all times and make the kids prove it to you.
I mean, I do believe that Simon really is just that cute. I’m supposed to. It’s my job as his mother. But beyond that, yes, I do like sharing his cuter sayings and pictures and so forth. He amuses me, and I know he amuses my friends. Two of his followers are godmothers, and the third godmother is just having internet issues these days. I actually need to see if he wants to do a few more—and let me emphasize here that every article he’s done with me has been voluntary; I never force him to sit down, even if the transcription makes it sound that way after we’ve gotten started.
But I think part of what I’m doing is teaching him what I do when I sit at the computer and type. He’s doing what Mom does, just the same as when he counts out cups of flour or takes his laundry to the laundry pile. (Which means, yes, there will probably be a Movie Girl Irene in a few years.) It means that I can say to him, “I’m trying to work,” and he’ll know the difference between typing and just playing computer games. He knows what writing an article is. He’s seen it, yes, but he’s also done it, and that makes a difference.
I also, however, think that I’m helping to teach him how to look at movies as more than just bright pictures that tell him stories. Yes, all right, he pretty much gives everything “five stars and a heart.” (Letterboxd lets you “like” movies by clicking on a heart, which is a whole thing that I don’t understand.) But we talk about what he likes and doesn’t like about a movie, and I think exploring that, even at his age, lets him look at things from a more critical perspective.
So okay, what’s so good about that? Aren’t I just raising my kid to be a pretentious cinephile? Well, possibly; it’s a risk I’m going to have to take. More to the point, though, I think it feeds into critical thinking skills. I think these are skills that are going to suit him further in life, and not just in his consumption of media. (Though goodness knows I do think more people could stand to be discerning in their consumption of media.) Looking at what’s good and what’s bad in a situation, spotting holes, seeing the things you don’t like—that’s useful in relationships, in jobs, in the news. That’s another skill more adults should have, and this is how I know to teach it.
And, yes, his articles are darn cute. And I adore that his most recent one included a determination to write it—longhand, mind—himself. Teaching him to think for himself does cause its own problems, even though it’s something I consider necessary.