I have this thing for cheesy kid movies where the dorky boy wins over the heart of the popular girl and the respect of his parents and/or peers. Or, rather, i did have a thing for those movies, and now i just have a thing for staying up past 2am to watch them on SuperStation.
The movies always surprise me with their ability to keep the remote out of my hands… this jaded anti-pop anti-teey-bop consumer who barely even gets out to indy flicks once a year stays rooted to the spot. At some point last summer i was home and idly flipping past HBO and i spotted Jamie Lee Curtis and i stopped to see what movie she was in, because i always stop for Jamie Lee, and that’s where the newest chapter of this tale began.
The movie is House Arrest, and the concept is simple: parents are headed for divorce, and so the kids lock them in the basement to work it out. Other kids from school bring their own problem parents into the picture, and hilarity ensues.
The movie is formulaic at best, and that’s probably the reason i like it so much. It is aimed at kids… boys who do not feel in control of anything. It is aimed at the rejects who got thrown into trashcans who would love to garner the respect of the school bully. It is aimed at the ones who pined after the pretty silent girl but never thought to treat her like an everyday person (even though it wouldn’t have gotten them anywhere). And, most cruely, it is aimed at the children of parents hopelessly mired in divorce, separations, and endlessly bickering and remarriage.
So, yes, for those of you following closely, i am the target audience of this movie, and it waylays me hopelessly on my living room floor lying on my stomach with my feet up in the air with full knowledge that Jamie Lee will make up with her husband, and that Jennifer Love Hewit will fall for the simple hero of the film and that the bully winds up being a big softy after all. I fall for it every time, hook line and sinker.
I’m not sure that i really want anything that the movie is offering, but in a way it represents some alternate universe from mine where i had romance hard-coded into my neurons instead of the pop music representation of it. Of course, having nowhere to learn romance from, all i had to turn to was pop culture to educate me. It’s like when in High Fidelity we’re told that “The unhappiest people i know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don’t know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but i do know that they’ve been listening to the sad songs longer than they’ve been living the unhappy lives.” We’re posed the question of what comes first: the music, films, and culture … or the misery?
I say it all depends.
Some people learn happy endings from their own family and friends, and some people learn them from television and music and movies, and when it comes down to the crux of the matter those of us “who like pop music the most” are expecting a different kind of resolve. We are looking for tidy tied up packages that are easy to fit our minds around, and not uneasy reconcilations and marriages built to last despite rocky foundations. We simply haven’t encountered the concept; hollywood deals wholesale in reconciled parents, and in first kisses in front of the entire cafeteria, and in happy resolved endings. House Arrest is aimed at me because i am trained to appreciate tidy happy endings, and because i want to be able to expect them in my own life even though i know they are as likely as gold records on my wall.
Do i wish that i had a happy two parent home, or that i had good giggly friends who i could idly play football with in the yard, or someone to surreptitiously kiss when we thought parents weren’t all watching? To me it’s apples and oranges, because my life wouldn’t resemble my life if i had any of those things intact. I once just lived a solitary existence resisting advances, and it wasn’t the best thing to do. I have the urge to take meticulous mental notes during these movies so i can apply the things i’ve learned against my life should i ever find myself trapped in a time warp and able to replay my adolescence from where i last saved the game.
In reality, i suppose i am saving up happy endings like the points on the back of a G.I.Joe box, hoping that someday i can put them all in an envelope and send them away for some sort of happiness in return. Here’s for hoping i don’t have to watch House Arrest too many more times to redeem my limited edition prize.