What is obvious to some…

22 Feb

I made sure to introduce Monty Python’s The Holy Grail to my son at the earliest age possible. So when we sat with other geeks, Asher knew all about it. Then someone asked, “has he seen Life of Brian yet?” I said no. Why? Because he simply wouldn’t get it.

Why wouldn’t he get it? Because he didn’t grow up in a Christian culture. He went to Jewish schools until he was in 3rd Grade. We go to synagogue every week. The only connection he has with Christians are his friends, and as teenage boys, they’re less likely to talk about faith except in the passing. He barely knows about Jesus’ story, Christian holidays, and the New Testament… except from what we taught him.

So although it’s an incredibly funny film, for my son, most of it is only funny in context. Which means I’d have to explain the film as he watched it; that would make it homework and kill the joy out of it. So I figure he should probably discover it later on his own. However, that’s led to another problem… all modern comedy is based on Python. Every single comedic ensemble that Asher enjoys learned initially from watching Python. I tried showing him an episode of Flying Circus once and… he just didn’t get into it. Some of it dated, but more to the point, he’s seen so many other groups do similar jokes, or (gasp) do them better.

It’s like having film students watch Citizen Kane. By modern standards, it’s an okay film; solid, not amazing. It’s only when you have someone explain why the film is amazing that you actually understand. Before Orson Wells, all films showed a scene in front of a backdrop–the camera didn’t move, the lighting was always bright to show the actors on screen, there was no variation. It was much more stilted production. Citizen Kane created cinematography.

The reason you don’t see that when watching Citizen Kane is because every film after that is based on Citizen Kane. So all the ingenious concepts got copied by everybody else. It’s like rewatching The Matrix–you’re not wowed by bullet time or the inventive use of green screen. Thankfully, it’s still a good film; the fight scenes are still enjoyable, but you’ve seen similar stuff since then.

So will Asher seek out Life of Brian? Who knows? But he’s not clamoring for it. There are so many options–so many other movies he wants to see–that unless someone watches it with him, I don’t think he’ll seek it out on his own. Which is a different post for a different day; the loss of a common canon. But what do you think? Would Life of Brian still be good without knowing much about Christianity? How many films do you drag your kids (or someone else’s kids) to, because you know that if they watch it long enough, they’ll love it? Let me know in the comments below!

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