When I was a child, I collected photos of movie stars, carefully clipping them from the newspaper every week, and scotch-taping them into a spiral notebook in lieu of a real scrapbook. I watched every movie that was broadcast on TV, carefully noting how the female stars dressed, wore makeup, coiffed their hair, and how they behaved or treated others. From the movies I learned about fashion and beauty, love and happily-ever-after, and about exotic, romantic places far from a farm in the middle of America. And, as you might expect, when I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be a movie star.
That was back in the day when most movie stars actually tried to be decent people who wouldn’t shock the old folks back home in Indiana—or in any other place in middle-America—where the traditional values of “Mom, apple pie, and the Fourth of July” were upheld. I especially admired Doris Day with her squeaky-clean, all-American, girl-next-door image. For those of you too young to remember her, as of 2009, Doris Day was the top-ranking female box office star of all time and ranked sixth among the top ten box office performers (male and female) of all time. Surprised? Impressed? Me too!
When things began to change in Hollywood, I was a teenager. The huge scandal with Eddie Fisher divorcing Debbie Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor was a highly disturbing and deeply disappointing tragedy in my view. With all the anguish a thirteen-year-old can feel, I was angry with Eddie Fisher, I lost respect for Elizabeth Taylor, and I felt sorry for and empathized with Debbie Reynolds. I struggled to comprehend how any decent, self-respecting man could justify abandoning his wife and little daughter, even if it was to marry “the most beautiful woman in the world” (that’s what they called Liz Taylor). Carrie Fisher (“Princess Leia”) was age two when Eddie dumped her mother to marry Liz. Before the dust could settle on that disaster, Liz dumped Eddie for Richard Burton. It made your head spin. My movie star icons now seemed indelibly tarnished and unfathomably flawed.
Although my esteem of movie stars in general had been shaken, I continued watching movies in spite of the tarnished and flawed stars in them. When I graduated from high school and was gainfully employed, I saw nearly every movie that came to town in addition to watching the movies being broadcast on TV. As the years passed, I continued to love watching movies of many kinds. (I also continued to be disappointed in movie star lifestyles.)
One of the things I’ve loved about movies is that they create an alternate world that offers a brief escape and respite from the day-to-day reality and cares of this life. If the movie progresses and ends satisfactorily, it can even be therapeutic. Unfortunately, there is also a potential downside. Escapism may become an addiction. Too much time spent in the alternate movie world may render a person unable or unwilling to grapple successfully with the real world. Other “side effects” may occur as well. (I am sure you can supply your own lengthy list of “side effects.”)
I watch relatively few movies these days in contrast to my viewing habits as a younger person. The two major reasons for the change: (1) there are fewer movies that appeal to me, and (2) I have more important things to do. I am working on articulating further reasons . . . .
Something along the lines of … “putting away childish things” … “not trying to keep one foot in Babylon and one foot in the Kingdom of God … “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” … .
I think you get the picture.