Something that has brought me a great deal of joy over the years — but particularly in 2017, a year that has us grasping for crumbs of joy among the embers and the schrapnel — is sharing pop culture with my kids.
My eldest turned 12 last January. It hit me that I remembered exactly what I was reading at 12 — Stephen King’s IT, for one, along with a whole bunch of other adult texts. So… my policy on reading matter, always fairly casual, meant that I removed all filters and left R to it. My policy on other media shifted a bit too, especially when I realised that 12 is an awesome age to experience teen media that didn’t come along until I was… well. Older than 12.
We started with a Buffy marathon, which took us out of the summer and through a good part of our year. Rewatching this beloved favourite with my cynical 12-year-old (who already knew to expect the best and worst from Joss, thanks to watching Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog first) was fascinating, and led to a joyous journey of snark, banter, judginess (oh Buffy, NO… oh Willow & Xander, NO) and the hilarity of R predicting the deaths of (mostly) the wrong people.
Oz is totally set up to get killed off, and continues to stay alive despite all the odds. They really were holding out hope for Seth Green’s calendar freeing up again someday, weren’t they?
The musical episode was the pinnacle, of course, of this epic show, but even more exciting was Season 7, of which I barely had any memory because I hadn’t rewatched it a zillion times like the rest. It was like watching a new show …
While we tried to recapture the magic with an Angel rewatch, it didn’t take. Instead, we found new shows together that became *our* shows. Riverdale, AKA Trash Emo Murder Archie & Friends, has been the focus of much of our snark and frustration in 2017. (Oh, Archie, why? Oh, Archie, NO.) Together, we yearn for the show to acknowledge that Archie is the worst (my kid is yet to be introduced to Dawson’s Creek but yeah, Archie is the Dawson in this scenario), Kevin Keller is the best, and the only ship worth shipping is Betty + Veronica.
We’ve also fallen down the delicious hilarious rabbit hole that is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, leading to all kinds of intense and bonding conversations about relationships, mental health, female friendships, gender, and more. Also, there’s SONGS. Glorious, glorious songs.
R acquired a bunch of fandoms this year, many of which have nothing to do with anything I like, which is fair enough. We have a cultural exchange program — which meant going to see Heathers the Musical live together when it was performed locally, and then me getting a lecture afterwards about the many ways in which the Broadway version was better.
I’ve learned not to be the parent who hovers after lending a book that I think my kid will like; meanwhile, R checks in on me every week to see if I’ve got any further with reading Gunnerkrigg Court all the way from the beginning. (I haven’t, but I want to, it’s awesome.)
Then there’s my other kid, who at 8 is developing her own firm interests. J is all about science apparently, and space — she would rather watch Hidden Figures all over again than a Disney movie, though she recently fell hard for The Descendants. Her latest discovery is the new Powerpuff Girls reboot… but after months of J lamenting that we don’t have a show that’s “ours” like I have with R, we discovered a mutual love of cheesy Christmas romance movies. Which, btw, are great to watch with your kid because they don’t have the “OH SERIOUSLY” shirts off sex scenes that are apparently anathema to 8-year-olds, nor much in the way of violence or swearing. (“Mum, it’s fine, I already know all the words.”)
Most joyous of all has been reading together, something that my 8-year-old and I are still managing to find time for most bedtimes. After getting through the first four Harry Potter books (J declared herself she wasn’t ready for The Order of the Phoenix), we have sunk ourselves into the first volume of the Alanna/Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce.
I was talking to friends recently about how one of the key learning curves about being a parent is coming to terms with the fact that they won’t enjoy or care about the same books [insert your own hobby/pop culture subset here] that you do, and even if they do, they won’t experience those books (etc.) in the same way.
They are their own people, and that’s awesome and to be appreciated. They aren’t mini-versions of us. Which means that when they DO actually love something that you do, and you can connect over it, it’s a truly special moment that you can’t take for granted.
So yeah, discovering that my 8-year-old LOVES Alanna and genuinely wants to curl up with me and read about this girl disguised as a boy training to be a knight has felt like a gift, a true moment of joy.
My 12-year-old got to experience that from the other side — R had been wanting to watch the new Voltron remake cartoon for ages, so we watched it as a whole family. All four of us love it! My husband and I both remember the original cartoon from our childhoods, and this new version captures some of that same epic mecha joy, but far improves on the original with a sharp script, witty characters, more active female roles, and a gripping space opera narrative. PLUS TALKING MICE.
Having a new show that all four of us, with our disparate tastes, can enjoy together as a family is almost as good as a Doctor Who Christmas special that makes us smile. Oh look, we got one of those too!
Tansy Rayner Roberts (@tansyrr) is a novelist, pop culture critic and Hugo Award winning podcaster. Listen to her on Verity or Galactic Suburbia! Tansy’s latest release is Girl Reporter, a YA novella about Aussie superheroes and media.