“Broken boat! A BROKEN BOAAAAT!”
That was the mantra that little YY exclaimed every five seconds as we watched… Titanic. That’s right, the somewhat sappy but very much a masterpiece of 1990s cinema, our generation’s answer to Gone With The Wind, and the direct cause of Canadian director James Cameron’s cringing “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!” proclamation when his movie won its 11th Oscar of the night – the most Oscars for a movie since, I think, Ben Hur…
But those are but trifling matters. It was interesting watching our little boy watch Titanic for the first time – as any parent will tell you, kids can be very impressionable especially with stuff they see on TV. Normally we are careful about what we watch with him – no violence, no swears (well, I do admit to a few Louis CK binges during the daytime but I’m not sure if much of the language actually gets into YY’s head), and particularly nothing scary or disturbing.
Titanic to us is quite honestly just an old classic that warrants re-watching from time to time, if for nothing more than the spectacular visual effects that are still impressive even today. The way the boat – sorry, the majestic ocean liner – sinks is just unreal. The iceberg hits the boat just a little more than halfway through this three-hour epic, which means the sinking scene takes up most of the second half of this movie.
So, that’s a long time sinking. And there are numerous jarring moments throughout all that, with a babyfaced Leonardo DiCaprio and a young, cute Kate Winslet running hand in hand through all the water splashing around them… but the absolute highlight of the film has to be when the boat actually sinks.
First, it’ll kowtow over so that the back end of the ship lifts up into the air, its nose disappearing into the ocean depths. And of course, the weight of the back end is such that the bloody boat cracks in half in a scene that will make the hairs on your neck stand on end.
And yes, it quite clearly affected little YY – who up to that point was just farting around playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys and babbling happily – and now he’s suddenly sitting there with us watching, his mouth wide open, screaming: “Broken boat! A BROKEN BOAAAT! A BROOOOOKENNNNN BOAAAAAAAT!” at the height of his impressive voice.
And X turns to me and wonders aloud: “Do you think he should be watching this?” just as the bodies fall from the Titanic’s suddenly fractured body into the frigid waters.
“I dunno,” came my reply. Honestly, I had no idea. I’ve heard horror stories about kids happily having baths, and then one day, just because they saw something somewhere or on TV, they’re all freaked out about the water and it’ll take a massive battle just to get them into the bathtub once again.
After all, just a week ago, we went through about a week’s worth of the most frustrating, hand-wringing, exhausting parenting we’ve had the displeasure to experience – little YY throwing tantrums every 10 minutes, crying like you wouldn’t believe, and just about flipping out over the littlest things. And it would take such a valiant battle on my end just to change his diapers, change his clothes, get him into the tub, get him out of the tub, and so on. We’d heard about the terrible twos and the terrible threes, but holy smokes, we didn’t think it would be this bad.
So, we’re still a tad traumatized from that experience. So anything that could happen makes us wonder and probably overthink things. So, is little YY traumatized by watching such a massive ocean liner crack in half and sink into the ocean’s murky depths?
The way he watched it, the way he screamed, the way he was so actively and emotionally involved, told us: yes, he’s traumatized.
I mean, screaming “A BROKEN BOAAAAAT!” 20-30 times in succession? Yeah, we’re torturing that poor kid.
But the bath afterwards was no biggie. Nor was sleep – although he did have a somewhat fitful sleep. Perhaps that’s what it was – he was a little overstimulated from the movie, but no more fitful than he is during some of his more fitful nights.
Later, I talked with X about it and asked her opinion. She offered this possibility – the way we act and react as parents has a much stronger impact than anything YY will ever see out there. And since we were clearly chuckling, smiling, watching, and overall relaxed about the situation, perhaps little YY learned to be relaxed about it too. If we had been freaking out, or if we freaked out in trying to keep little YY from watching, perhaps the effect would have been more adverse.
But as it happens – a broken boat? Pah, it’s just a movie. An expensive movie, the second-top grossing movie of all time, but still, a bloody movie about a broken boat. Little YY has moved on, and there’s no PTSD to be seen here.