There is a certain genre of story specifically designed to make all viewers, regardless of age or gender, empathize with mothers. Sophie's Choice, The Impossible, The Lovely Bones, Beloved, Beaches -- this kind of tearjerker nearly scared me away from motherhood for good. I couldn't imagine standing the pain. I got over it, mostly. And now that I actually am a mother, I am determined never to watch another of those; life's too short (and movie-watching time is too precious) for that kind of masochism. But I've realized that there are other movies I'm seeing in an entirely new light these days.
Movies I loved in childhood, from The Little Mermaid to Back to the Future to Crooklyn, take on a whole new meaning once you start identifying with the parents instead of the kids. Shakespeare probably wasn't thinking much about Signoras Capulet and Montague when he wrote Romeo and Juliet, but these classic tales and modern teen romps are suddenly horror films, minefields of fears I'd never thought of before (because I really needed more of those). There are some flicks I'll never see the same way again.
1. The Fault in Our Stars
All the teen girls in the multiplexes are sobbing over the star-crossed love story of cancer patients Hazel and Gus --- just like I was back when I read the book, pre-child. But now, just mention the idea of having a kid with terminal cancer, and I might break down in hysterics. Here, I'm going to make you cry on the spot: "I won't be a mom anymore."
In Spike Lee's most adorable movie (I know, right?), we're probably supposed to identify with 9-year-old Troy, the only girl in a family with four brothers, a struggling musician father and a strict teacher mother (Alfre Woodard) living in brownstone Brooklyn in the '70s. As a mom, though, I can absolutely understand why Woodard goes H.A.M. on her kids at 4 in the morning for not cleaning the kitchen.
3. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
Way back when, this was a fun comedy about Christina Applegate being a plucky teen who can impersonate an adult in the fashion world. Today, it's a horror movie. Are we supposed to be screening our babysitters for health conditions? No one warned me that was a thing!
4. Back to the Future
Forget time travel, this is the movie that showed me that high school boys are the worst, no matter the decade. Crushing on a high school boy that might possibly be my future son? Grossgrossgross.
5. Romeo and Juliet
Some say it's the quintessential tragic love story. I see this as the ultimate cautionary tale about letting our kids date too early. (See also: West Side Story.)
6. Dirty Dancing
Then: Aww, look, little Baby is coming of age on vacation and hanging around the hotel staff. Now: Holy f---ing sh--, imagine your teenage daughter is sleeping with the guy who's paid to romance old ladies and may or may not have knocked up his dance partner, forcing her into an illegal abortion. That's it. My kids are never leaving the house from age 13-18.
7. Pride and Prejudice
I used to be able to laugh at silly old Mrs. Bennet and her wish to marry off her daughters to any and every gentleman in town. Now I understand her worries: She's just looking out for herself and her family, who will be out on the street if her husband croaks thanks to stupid patriarchal laws. Jane Austen is way harsh on the poor mother.
8. Anna Karenina
Abandoning a loveless marriage for a handsome young soldier? Sounds exciting. Abandoning your young son and baby for this loser? That's sounding less attractive. (SPOILER) Then there's the whole suicide thing. God, that lady is a monster.
9. The Little Mermaid
As a girl, I saw Ariel break out of her restrictive home to explore the world she always dreamed of and pursue the love of her life. As a parent, I'm horrified at the thought of my babies one day leaving home, becoming a different species and never even being able to visit us again, due to the whole breathing underwater problem.
10. Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2
The Bride's superhero determination to kill the assassination squad leader who tried to have her murdered seemed like a typical Tarantino-esque fantasy. And yet, now when I picture knowing that man was the father of my baby, and that he's been raising her while I was in a coma ... hells yeah, I'd like to be able to dig myself out of being buried alive and five-point-palm-explode his heart. If only!
Which movies have changed for you since becoming a parent?
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