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The Wonder of “The Wonder Years” December 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ncardinale @ 12:57 am

One night during the summer of 2007, I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a TV series called The Wonder Years.

I’d never seen nor heard of the show before, but was drawn in to find out whether it possessed the corny qualities of Happy Days, or the biting social satire of All In The Family.

After watching one episode, I learned that The Wonder Years has neither; the show is in a category all its own. For while it touches upon family, school, and other personal problems, these issues are addressed in a humorous, poignant, and down-to-earth manner.

That said, the episode plots are not complicated or issue-oriented. In fact, they are quite the contrary. The storylines are simple, reflect day-to-day living, and are easy to relate to, with the dilemmas being the secondary focus or subplot. Even the premise of the series is wholesome and straightforward: The Wonder Years follows the trials and tribulations of a boy named Kevin Arnold growing up in a typical suburb during the late 60s and early 70s. Kevin narrates the show as an adult in his thirties, reflecting on the memorable moments of his life from ages 12 through 17.

What struck me immediately was the first person narrative. Never before or since have I discovered a television show that utilizes this form of expression. Allowing the viewer to listen to the maturation in Kevin’s perspicacity of his memories, and to be able to observe the lessons he later took away from his experiences, greatly accentuates his character development. Deducing how this unconventional character development method unfolded, inspired me to experiment with perspective in my own writing.

In junior high school, I always assumed that people were only interested in books, movies, and TV shows that involved multifarious plots (those containing breathtaking drama, fantasy, adventure, or predicaments). It’s not to say that people don’t indulge in entertainment for escapism (I’m thinking along the lines of Harry Potter or V for Vendetta), but The Wonder Years taught me that human interest stories, anecdotes, and real-life happenings are very popular and likeable amongst people, as some of us watch movies/TV and read books not to escape ourselves, but to identify with something about ourselves. Learning the aforesaid impacted the types of subjects that I tackle. Often, I write about past experiences and the way I perceive people and the world in order to learn more about myself, and to discern how my views have changed over time.

Also in middle school, I had the presupposition that I was the only person who felt isolated and mistreated by others (aside from constantly being harassed and made fun  of, I was always that kid in gym class who dodged balls, ran in the wrong direction, and was the last one picked for teams). My theory was proven wrong, when, in multiple episodes, Kevin hi-lighted his own gym class troubles, embarrassing moments, flaws, and the uniqueness of those considered to be “outsiders.” In summary, I no longer felt alone.

Since the summer of 2007, The Wonder Years has not been shown in re-runs, is not on DVD, and the internet has very few episodes available for viewing. Even though I haven’t watched the show in years (but hope to resume watching it someday), the impact it had on me was tremendous.

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“Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.” December 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ncardinale @ 11:45 pm

I concur with these words, as spoken by Maude: a sprightly character from my favorite 1971 cult classic film, Harold and Maude.

The plot revolves around a forlorn, drifting young man named Harold, and an ebullient, young-at-heart octogenarian named Maude. In short, Maude inspires Harold to break free of his dull existence and to learn to live life to the fullest.

After watching this movie, I realized… I am Harold.

Not in the sense that I lead an empty, dreary life. But rather, in the sense that I desire to live a rich, healthy life, full of travel and new experiences from which I can draw knowledge, wisdom, and even empathy for others. I aspire to be like Maude when I’m elderly; learned in life and the ups and downs that it brings, as well as the glimmer of goodness in every aspect and challenge that arises.

Prior to watching this film, I had longed to chance upon characters who could define who I am and who I want to become. Being able to identify with Harold and Maude was like finding the perfect label to a once unspecified canister. They are my point of reference, reminders of my self-realization and self-evaluation, and put into words and evident visuals the abstract notions of who I was and how I wished to modify my character.

Since Harold and Maude is a slightly older movie starring established actors/actresses, and makes reference to time-worn music, movies, and historical events, the film also acted as a catalyst in developing and expanding upon my suppressed interests in Silver Screen movies and music from decades past. 

Up until this point, I had shoved aside my true tastes and pretended that I did not enjoy them (all in the name of conforming). However, once I laid eyes on Harold and Maude, I delved completely into gems of the yesteryears (discovering new “old” artists, songs, and genres all the time), thus helping me to better understand my parents, many adults that I encounter, and more importantly, myself.

As cheesy as this may sound, it even brought me closer to my deceased grandparents.

There is one scene in the movie where Harold roams through an expansive, grassy cemetery, which looked extremely familiar, as if I’d been there before.

That was because I had.

The cemetery was the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Francisco as it looked in 1971. Many of my relatives are buried there. Of all of them, my grandparents are the most meaningful to me. In 2005, I was brought to this cemetery to attend my grandma’s wake/burial and to visit the grave of my grandfather.

 It turned out that almost all of the scenes in Harold and Maude were shot on location in San Francisco. Knowing this only brought the movie closer to my heart.

Between vicariously re-connecting with my grandparents and embracing my true hobbies, I finally felt like I had found myself.

All thanks to Harold and Maude.