Mother’s Day Discussion Post: How Did Your Mother Affect Your Relationship to Movies?

Anonymous asked this question about parents in general, but I am making it just mothers for mothers day.

I’ll start!

When we were kids, my mother used to do a terrible horrible thing, what my sister and I call “The Mom Trick”. She would suggest a movie, and we would say “NO! I don’t want to watch it, it looks boring and weird, no no no no no!”. And then she would say “what if we just watch the first five minutes, and then you can stop if you don’t like it?” And of course we always did like it and then she would trick us into watching something we enjoyed and broadening our horizons and all those things. EVIL! The companion to the “why don’t you just try one bite and see if you like it?” food bargain or the “I’ll just read you the first chapter” book deal.

Amazon.com: Watch Singin' in the Rain | Prime Video
I distinctly remember being 4 years old and almost throwing a tantrum because I didn’t want to see this movie because I didn’t like the picture on the box. And then we watched it and it became My Favorite Movie of All Time.

Anyway, thanks to our mother’s evil trick, we discovered Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly, and Cary Grant. More generally, we discovered that any movie is worth trying. That you shouldn’t judge them by your prejudices, you should try them, even if it is just the first five minutes.

The rule of our household when we were growing up was that if we were home sick, we got to watch one movie a day. On Friday nights, we got to rent two movies of our choice and we could rewatch one of them on Saturday morning. They were “our” choice, but they were choices guided by our parents. Mom and Dad took us from Disney cartoons straight to classic films. We never even briefly stopped off in the “childrens” department. Mom’s little trick steered us straight from animated into black and white.

The most magical Mom-related movie memory is from seeing a movie in a theater, not one of our at home movie nights. When Aladdin came out, we all really really liked it. And it is a good cartoon! Clever and fun and good songs and all that. Anyway, there was one day we were at the mall shoe shopping and there was an Aladdin show starting and Mom announced we were going to go see it again, it no big family plan in advance or anything, just a spontaneous movie! It was amazing! My sister and I were both stunned. And then she didn’t have the cash for the movie, so we ran ran ran too the car and zipped over to an atm and then ran ran back to the theater and bought tickets and came in late. I think that is the only time in my memory that we just up and went to a movie like that, without planning it out and waiting for Dad to be off work or anything. It was like magic, just going to a movie on impulse in the middle of the day.

Aladdin Disney Cartoon Songs Genie Friend Like Me - YouTube
Of course, Aladdin also had that little Gene Kelly riff in the middle of “Friend Like Me”. We just love Gene Kelly.

Mostly as kids we were allowed to watch anything we wanted. Because we were such cowardly kids, we only wanted to watch happy non-violent no-sex films anyway. But there were two movies we/I was forbidden to see as a child:

  1. Mary Poppins: My Mom didn’t like it because it made fun of suffragettes, but specifically I wasn’t allowed to see it because my big sister had somehow seen it before me and it scared her so Mom didn’t let me see it. Why it scared her, no idea! Kites? Weird dancing cartoon animals? Something else I don’t know about because I still haven’t seen it because it is Scary?
  2. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Because it is a terrible terrible message movie and makes light of rape and kidnapping, so we weren’t allowed to see it. I have seen this one in a fit of mad rebellion in college. Terrible plot, but song sequences are truly amazing. Just make sure to get a cinemascope version, not cropped, to fully appreciate them.

Oh, and there was one other semi-official rule. My mother seriously loved stage musicals, she had original cast albums of all kinds of shows (pre-1968 mostly, from when she was growing up) and she saw a lot of those original cast performances too, my Poppie used to take her into the city as a little girl to go see them. And she does not like movie versions of stage musicals. So while we watched every Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire musical ten million times, we never saw The Sound of Music because the “real” Sound of Music was the stage version with Mary Martin of which we had the cast album. Just like the “real” My Fair Lady was the stage version with Julie Andrews, the “real” Hello Dolly was the one with Carol Channing and so on and so forth.

I think that last prejudice is as big a reason that I am now watching Indian movies as the “try five minutes of anything” movie rule. We always had a sense that there was a difference between musicals that were made for movies and musicals that were forced from stage to film. Indian film is the epitome of musicals made FOR FILM, nowhere else. We are watching the best most artistic perfect form of this story.

30 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Discussion Post: How Did Your Mother Affect Your Relationship to Movies?

  1. Since I had posted comment about my parents not watching movies- I asked them why we did not watch movies when we were young. So this is what happened – Arranged marriage it was. So the first time they went to watch a film it was an English language film, which my mother could not make sense of – accented English with no subtitles. So she slept 15 minutes into the movie. My dad interpreted it as no interest in films and stopped bringing up the idea of them going to the movies. My mother in fact watched a lot of Telugu movies in the theatres when she was younger. Later when they realised it was the language thing my mother’s migraine became induced by loud noises so we just did not go. So beyond that story I have nothing to add about how my mother influenced my movie watching habits.

    Like

  2. My mom consumed very little pop culture when I was growing up. She didn’t really listen to music much, we always had the smallest, oldest TV of any of my friends (this was different from my dad’s household, one of the first in our group to get cable), we didn’t go to movies much unless we were invited. Denver is a big movie-watching city, though, so I grew up going with my friends as soon as I was old enough. The funny thing is, now that she’s retired, my mom goes to almost every new release with her retiree cohort (or she was before lockdown) and she got cable and watches all the shows too. We end up talking more about movies now than we ever did when I was growing up, and she watches things now like action movies that she used to disapprove of and would never have taken me to see. We have very different styles of watching, so it’s interesting comparing notes – I just have to be careful about asking her about anything I haven’t seen yet, she has a tendency to recount the whole plot. Moms.

    Like

    • If I were you, I would be SO MAD at my mother for reversing herself when it was too late for me to benefit. Although maybe it gave you a lifelong feeling of movies as a guilty pleasure? Which is nice.

      I know what you mean about the regular movie viewing. My aunt was like that, she lived in a midsized town after retirement with not a whole lot going on and the big thing to do was go see movies with her friends. And then she’d tell us about the interesting new releases. It always kind of surprised me because I take movies so seriously and pick and choose what I watch, and she would just see everything.

      On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 4:01 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Yes, to be honest I have often wished for the number and variety of movie theaters I had within an easy drive of where I grew up. It seems crazy in the NY area, but the theaters here tend to be smaller, dingier, and crowded.

        And yes, it is definitely not fair that my mom is willing to shower the bounty of cable plus internet TV on her grandsons when I had to negotiate to watch more entertaining fare than public TV news or nature documentaries.

        Like

        • Suburbs have the best theater, is my theory. Now that I live kind of on the edge of the city, I find myself routinely driving out to the suburb zone instead of in to the city to see a movie. And like real suburbs, big houses and big grocery stores megamalls. Not the cool suburb-that-is-really-its-own-city like you.

          On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 11:17 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

  3. Two things really stand out regarding my mother and her movie influence on me. Now, I’m probably older than your mother so I’m talking about the early 50’s. Our local tv station used to show old monster movies at 11:30pm on Friday nights. They broadcast all the old Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, etc movies – all in black and white. My dad was an early to bed, early to rise person so he was usually asleep when these movies came on. My mother told me, if I could get downstairs without waking my father or my little brother, I could stay up late and watch the old monster movies with her. Of course I wanted to! And I slithered down the hall and down the stairs on my belly, pretending I was a snake, every week. So, every Friday night, our “girl’s night,” consisted of The Mummy, The Mad Ghoul, The Wolfman, etc. I loved it! It wasn’t until years later that I found out that the only reason my mother let me stay up and watch them with her was because they scared her. She didn’t want to watch them alone. Having her 6 year old daughter there made her feel safer. In later years, that brought endless teasing from me. Wolfman comes to the door – let the kid answer it. Sure, mom.
    Mom was a Latin teacher. My brother was still in diapers so she opted to work parttime. During that period the local tv station would run movies, often musicals, in the morning. There was usually a theme for the week – all Fred Astaire, all Ruby Keeler, etc. The week I remember best was the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette McDonald week. At the end of each movie, my mother and I would have a sing off,. We’d sing the songs from the movies at the top of our lungs (My mother had a very pleasant voice. I sounded then and still sound like a goat.) Once again, I underestimated my mother’s duplicity. The real object of our song fest was to wake the baby so she could take him to the sitter before dropping me off at my afternoon kindergarten and heading to work. Even now, 65 years later, I catch myself wailing “When I’m calling you-o-o-o-o.” I stop when the dog howls in pain.

    Like

    • These are really nice memories! I especially like picturing you snaking down the stairs.

      On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 7:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  4. I’m not sure when I first saw seven brides for seven brothers, but in the third grade I loved it. Maybe we had rented it, maybe I had seen it on public television, but I loved it, and my mom had no problem with me loving it (this is a mother who wouldn’t let me play with barbie dolls). One afternoon I had my friend over, my mom said we could watch some TV, and one of the public stations was playing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I was sooooo excited, I thought my friend would love it. But she didn’t, she wanted to see Sesame Street and only Sesame Street. If you think third grade is a little old for Sesame Street, you’re right. But she was my friend, and I invited her over, and we saw Sesame Street. And I remember my mom comforting me, she knew it sucked. She knew how much I loved Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, she felt bad for me. My mom is a good mother, but she is not a natural kid person, so this understanding, it stands out to me.

    Like

    • My mother let me have oodles of Barbie dolls, but no Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I guess you pick your battles.

      Now I am feeling bad for poor 8 year old you who wasn’t able to watch the movie you wanted to watch! That’s such a yucky feeling. I remember we showed a Charlie Chan movie to a friend who was over once, and she didn’t like it because it was in black and white. ??????

      On Sun, May 10, 2020 at 9:06 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  5. My parents somehow managed to keep us almost totally away from movies as kids. Our TV only existed at 11.30 on Sunday mornings for the one educational show that EVERY SINGLE other kid would be talking about on the playground. I sill very much appreciate this “Sendung mit der Maus”.

    We wouldn’t even have watched Disney if it weren’t for my uncle’s bootleg copies. And our first trip to a movie theater was with the local chaplain when I was maybe in sixth grade.

    All of that may have left me with some wish to catch up. Life got in the way, of course. I focused on films that really sounded interesting – including those from India.

    Like

    • No movie theater until 6th grade???? This blows my mind!!!! I never thought of my parents as super movie people, but I guess they were. Going to the movies was a routine/special activity for us. Not every week, but maybe once a month. Still exciting but not a big deal. Thank goodness for your chaplain! I can’t imagine getting all the way to high school and never having been to a movie theater.

      I almost feel like I should stop telling you Indian movies to watch so you can focus on catching up on all the non-Indian movies out there. But once your son gets to screentime age, I suppose you can catch up through his eyes. So much Disney out there!

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 1:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Yeah, in retrospect I’m pretty grateful for my uncle’s intervention. Even if Ursula in The Little Mermaid scared me right out of the room at the time.

        Like

        • Oh, I didn’t watch The Little Mermaid straight through until well into my twenties. Being scared of Ursala is just good sense.

          On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 2:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

  6. I realized now that I don’t even know what kind of movies my mom likes. Maybe she is not a movie person, or maybe it’s my dad fault because he is/was tv dictator. If he is home, he is the one who choose the movies /series. He is the reason I don’t watch: war movies, action movies, spy movies and westerns, because these were the only acceptable genres. I also hate with all my heart Louis de Funès and Olsen Gang movies.

    Like

    • That sounds terrible! And also, the mystery of Angie’s movie taste suddenly has a big big answer to it 🙂 How do you make a lifelong romance fan? Force someone to only watch action films.

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 10:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • LOL Yes. Other women date the men their father would hate, but I love nice guys too much so my rebellion is to watch the movies my father would not approve 😉

        Like

  7. I don’t think my mother, or father, influenced my movie-watching habits in anyway. Probably, the reason for that is because they never restricted me from watching anything on TV, so I’ve no resentment. And it was TV all the way, going to movie theaters was not common when I was growing up, new movies would show up on local cable channels weeks after release. As long as I completed my studies, I could watch TV and discovered new or old movies on my own. Sometimes we would enjoy them together (mother mostly, father was/is not a big TV person). Of course, there were occasional scoldings when I spent too much time with the remote, but nothing major. This wasn’t common as I found out later in life, many of my friends talked about how there were restrictions on their TV watching.
    I do have a silly grudge towards my mother though – she loved watching old B/W bengali movies of Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen which usually played during weekend afternoons, I did not want to watch those when I could be watching something fun in hindi, so there was a constant tug-of-war for the remote. Till date, I can’t bring myself to watch old bengali movies as it reminds me of the trauma!
    As far as fun movie memories go, we spent part of our summer vacations at my maternal grandparents place, where it was a custom to rent movies on VHS and watch together with other relatives, neighbors. This started from when mother was growing up and carried on for years. I remember the excitement of going to the store with my movie-buff uncle and picking out movies.
    Oh another random memory, in the summer of 95, we took a month-long vacation around India, including Bombay, Goa and as a 7-year old, I remember quite a few things from that adventure. But what my mother remembers most are the lovely songs that played on most of the tour buses we took, arousing her curiosity as to what movie they were from. As she found out later, it was the DDLJ album, making waves already. Till date she remembers that tour through DDLJ songs, which I totally understand, as I myself associate many trips with the songs being played in the car. Not that trip though, sadly!

    Like

    • Awww, I love your DDLJ story!

      It’s funny, you and Angie had the same result from parental forcing of certain movies, but such different genres! Angie is sick of action films thanks to her Dad, you are sick of Bengali romance thanks to your Mom.

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 12:24 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  8. I come from a desi background so bollywood movies is something thats just always playing in our house since I was a baby and since my mom was a baby, dont know what life would be like with out it XD

    Like

  9. In our household, we were forbidden to see scary movies and most of the biggest franchises because of scary things in them. So I first got to see a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean at a friends house during a party where they had it on TV.

    As for the franchises, I got to see the last of the Harry Potter movies in the theatre with my Dad watching it with me, and only later got to read the books. Yet I was able to see The Duchess (which has a rape scene) alone in my house when I was young along with our housekeeper (we lived in Southeast Asia at the time) before going to bed, not that I realised what was happening since all I saw was the pretty dresses and Keira Knightley.

    Later I found out that my parents are just the kind of movie watchers that just don’t like a lot of violence, I am the same, but something like LOTR, Harry Potter, Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean are a bit more in their story then something gratuitous violence against people or blood spilling all the time.

    The usual movies in our household were classic Hollywood movies with Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday especially), 90s romantic comedies and all those big important movies from Holywood as well as old classic black and white Finnish movies where my grandfather was in.

    And now, well before this reality, my Mom is the one I go to the movies to see Indian movies if there is no one else available. We saw ELKDTAL and Chhaapak and she liked them.

    Like

    • Yaaaay, another classic Hollywood child watcher! I loved those movies, they were complicated and interesting and all good things, without being too scary or adult for me.

      On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 1:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  10. I am going to explain how my parents influenced by movies because it really was a team effort. Going to the movies, was just something we did as a family growing up both in India and in the U.S. Even now, my dad will go by himself to the theaters almost every weekend. There are multiple family stories involving going to movies at the theater. One family story is that my mom’s water broke while they were watching an Amitabh-Rekha movie at the theaters. The movie had a scene where Rekha was pretenting to me pregnant and the police officers were confused as to how she was pregnant one day and not pregnant the next day so they kept saying Pet Bhari, Pet Khali (stomach full, stomach empty?!). Therefore, when my parents went to watch a movie a week after my mom gave birth to me (my mother has freakishly easy pregnancies) and everyone in the theater that had seen them the week before were left wondering Pet Bhari, Pet Khali?! Movie theaters are also the reason I fall asleep as soon as a movie starts, especially in the evening. They used to take me to the 9:00 pm showing as a baby, and I used to love the fact that movie theaters had air conditioning and would promptly fall asleep, leaving them to enjoy watching the movie in peace. They used to call it free babysitting. I also have a very very fond memory/ soft spot for Bol Radha Bol because it was the last movie I saw in the theaters in Bombay with my mother and sister the day before moving to America.

    Anyways, I feel like both my parents just enjoyed movies and series and we just enjoyed watching it with them. My dad always liked English movies, specifically James Bond, war movies, westerns, movies based on true stories, sports underdog movies, and in hindi generally most movies with Amitabh, Shammi Kapoor, and Sashi Kapoor, and my sister and I love all of these movies too. My mom’s taste varied, she loved Nutan and Jaya Badhuri (I think it is partially because my mom, especially when she was young looked like an amalgamation of the two), and had a huge crush on Sanjeev Kumar. She loved Murder She Wrote and Columbo (my grandpa loves Columbo too). She loves Mannade, Asha Bholse, and Kishore Kumar’s music, and even now when my dad plays it for her, she perks up and tries to sing the tunes. She is the reason why I only ever play hindi music, even when I am working out or driving the car.

    When we came to America, my sister and I somehow (I think it was through American Movie Channel) discovered Doris Day, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn etc and my parents (especially my mom who happen to be home more at that time) would love watching those movies with us. My sister and I also always liked hindi movies (my sister actually taught herself hindi by watching movies), but growing up in America in a tiny rural town with four major streets, we never had access to hindi movies at the theater, so we just could beg our uncles and aunts to bring or send us movies from India and watch them at home over and over again. I am pretty sure at one point we were banned from rewatching Joh Jeeta Wohi Sikandar because we probably watched it at least 30 times over the course of 4 months.

    So, I guess this is to say, movies were always a staple in our house and associated with family time (whether in the theaters or at home). I am grateful that my parents loved all kinds of movies and I grew up watching everything with them.

    Like

    • I love that story of your Mom going into labor! My family has a similar one, when my mother went into labor with my sister, the doctors sent them home again because she wasn’t far enough long so they went to a movie to kill the time. I wish my labor had such a cool story attached, very jealous of you and my sister.

      I know what you mean about a family just loving movies, that was us growing up. Such a gift to think of them as this joyful fun special thing.

      I do have one random question, now that Rishi is no longer available, who should play Seth opposite Dimple’s Jessica Fletcher in the DCIB Murder She Wrote Hindi remake?

      Like

  11. Late in answering…
    No, my mother did not affect my relationship to movies, she did affect my relationship to tales narrated through whatever medium 🙂
    I was a very small girl in Kindergarden when I narrated plays to others using everything I could grab to do so (a plastic telephone, puppets, paper & crayons…) I narrated regardless of the kind of ‘public’ I had…and the adults did not stop me to do so…I remember that I discussed small girl issues with our dog Anka and she attentively and patiently listened (okay, sometimes putting her head on my legs and starting to snore gently)…I remember that I invited my little friends to watch some of my plays (and I really still am thankful to them for showing interest)…well,life made me loose them at age 7 but the impression is still there 🙂

    As I wrote in my book, I encountered the magic of movies at 6…and decades later, nothing has changed…I’m still a child, I’m still an admirer of what movies can transport, I still love the “turbulent darkness of a theatre” (SRK) where actors take me on a journey that is yours but where I’m allowed to be a witness…

    Like

    • This is reminding me of a volunteer group some friends work with in Chicago, “Sit Stay Read”. You take your dog into elementary schools and let the kids practice reading by reading to the dog. The dog is always encouraging and supportive and interested, the perfect audience for a struggling reader.

      On Tue, May 12, 2020 at 2:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • It was not about struggling with Anka…she was my companion, my bodyguard, my playmate…in fact, she was like a sibling as long as she could be with me/us 🙂 (I’m an only child…but never was a lonely child 🙂 )

        Like

  12. From a Telugu (South Indian angle) – Cable TV was not yet popular in my childhood in late 80s and 90s. So, my mom, just like other middle class women, would often go to matinee shows (that’s why I like Moimeme’s comment on your post here https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2020/05/07/hindi-film-101-what-are-mothers-in-indian-film-and-indian-society/) and we would tag along many times.
    And, as a women born in 60s, she would prefer Black & White classics of Mahanati Savithri rather than the bored damp squids dished out in early 90s. So, I got to watch the likes of Mugamanasulu, Mayabazar, Missamma and Aaradhana rather than what directors like K.Raghavendra Rao dished out. That meant a lot to my movie taste.

    Like

    • The theaters were still playing the black and white movies when you were a kid? That says something about their popularity!

      On Tue, May 12, 2020 at 5:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Yes, cable TV came up in 1991/92 after Globalization reforms (when India opened gates) and Telugu satellite channels started in 1994/95 and serials/sops picked up only in early 2000s after Ekta Kapoor. Until then, movies was the only pastime. 1950-60s was the Golden Generation for Telugu movies with NTR, ANR, Savithri, SVR and Jamuna (to name a few stars) and are treated classics (like Awara and Mughal-E-Ajam in Hindi) and many preferred watching these movies again and again. In fact, when MayaBazar was colorized and release in theaters again in 2010, it was a hit.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.