For no particular reason, here’s a list a list of movies that changed my life, in no particular order.
Little Nezha Fights Great Dragon Kings
Little Nezha was my first action hero. As a child I was convinced he was a girl and I wanted to be just like him. Born from a Lotus blossom, little Prince Nezha rode a deer everywhere, had delicate features, wore an apron and his hair up in two sweet buns and most of all he kicked dragon butt when his people needed him to. His weapons of choice were a golden ring and a red silk sash. So I stole the red sash from my mother’s robe and I think I also converted a frisbee or something into a ring I could throw and then I ran around the house and yard, pretending to be Nezha. And because I was so convinced that he was a girl, I never thought I couldn’t be.
The Neverending Story
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I was bullied as a kid. Growing up geeky in the 80’s and 90’s was hardly a recipe for popularity. I practically lived in books and what time I didn’t spend in books I spent obsessing about horses. Sebastian was a kindred spirit as far as I was concerned. When Atreyu stepped on the scene, with a horse for a best friend, I knew I had found My People. And while I had friends, none of them shared all of my obsessions. I wanted to ride the Luck Dragon and meet Rockbiter and even go through the Swamps of Despair if that meant that i could do all those other things.
I saw Terminator 2 when I was just entering teenagerdom (is that even a word?). I can’t remember for sure but I think it was the first real action movie I saw. Having Sarah and John Connor as the true stars of the action very much innoculated me against the narrative so common in other action movies of the time; I didn’t need to be a screaming, helpless piece of luggage, I could be just as badass as Sarah. Terminator 2 also introduced me to the joys of hard rock and hair metal, proclivities which, I’m a little ashamed to admit, live on to this day. Terminator 2 laid the groundwork for years of Van Damme and Bruce Willis movies, keeping my love of action movies burning to this day.
I saw Aliens way too young, I was nine or ten at the time, and I had nightmares for weeks after that. But it taught me what it meant to be really and truly scared and I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared as I was, watching that movie, even when I probably should have been. It is also another in a long line of first movies that told me that being a girl didn’t mean being a helpless victim. I came to the default narrative much, much later in life and by then the horror narrative in my head was that you had to be a girl to survive. That being a girl meant wanting to survive enough to fight back. So the default narrative of women being helpless screamers (thank you for that Stanley Kubrick) pretty much just annoyed me.
I was always a tomboy. I always got along better with boys than girls. Part of this is probably the fact that my worst bullies were girls and I liked a lot of the same stuff as boys. The women around me worked in many traditionally male fields. So I grew up with that awful “girls in general are icky”. I grew up thinking that to be brave and strong you had to do male things and be more like men. Rose changed that for me. Rose was definitely feminine. She was the society girl with corsets and expensive dresses and the multiple changes a day that went with it. And yet she was strong enough to stand up to her overbearing fiance and brave enough to wade into ice-cold water to save her lover. When she was drunk and trying to impress people with her physical prowess, it was with ballet, something that was very much presented as part of her being a woman. It took a while for me to absorb it but seeing Titanic for the first time changed the wiring of that narrative in a significant way.
Stardust was the movie that brought me back to story telling. It took me a couple of years after I saw it for the first time. It is still one of my very favorite movies (to the point where I actually prefer it to the book) and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched it. But back in 2009, when I was a hair’s breadth away from burnout, it reminded me how much I used to like telling stories. Which led me to start writing again.
So that’s me. What were the movies that changed your life?