Bless you,"Winnie the Pooh," for striking a blow for movie innocence
When I was nine, my down-the-street neighbors took their daughter and me to see a movie. I’m guessing it was her older siblings who drove us and chose the film, because it was screechingly inappropriate for our fourth-grade nothing selves. It was 1977’s “The Deep,” starring Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte, and while I couldn’t follow the drug trafficking-scuba diving plot, there’s one scene I do remember. To terrorize Bisset, men break into her room and use a chicken foot to draw on her stomach in blood.
I’m sure most viewers were more focused on an earlier scene of Bisset swimming in a see-through T-shirt. But I was nine. The scary scene didn’t give me nightmares, but I’ve never forgotten it, and even at the time had this weird lurking suspicion that if my mom knew I’d seen it, she might not let the neighbors take me on outings any more. Chicken foot. Blood. Bisset’s helpless screams.
That’s why I’m so thankful for this week’s release of “Winnie the Pooh.” I have a three-year-old, and for as long as I can, I want to keep her in the world of joyful baby kangaroos, scholarly rabbits, and gentle bears snacking on honey, where the biggest action involves trying to get Eeyore a new tail and the strongest language is “silly old bear.”
Sometimes it’s even hard to read the news these days. I can barely look at the sweet little face of Caylee Anthony, or think about what happened to Jaycee Dugard or Elizabeth Smart. Flipping channels on the TV, I quickly zoom past the screeching of “Jersey Shore” to get to the calmer charms of “Little Bear” or “Caillou.”
I’m not a prude. I love pop culture. Some day, I’m sure we’ll introduce Kelly to the world of Harry Potter or whatever replaces him for a new generation. I don’t want to keep her away from movies and TV – she’ll get her chance to soak up her share of the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on American shores. Why not? Some of my fondest memories involve bad movies and TV—heck, I wrote a book about it!
But those days are still off in the future. Today, it’s my job to do my prep work for her. Even for a movie like “Tangled” or “Rio,” I scout around and see if I can pick up a book version first, so we can talk about any scary scenes (the terrifying incinerator in “Toy Story 3”!) in advance, and I can decide if the movie is right for her. If something is frightening in a book, I know it’s only going to be 10 times more so on a five-story-high movie screen, or worse yet, in 3-D. I know I can’t seal my house in a plastic bubble, but I can tell you this: Entertainment comes into it on my time frame, not whatever Hollywood decides.
The dreamy lyric from Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” floats across the “Winnie the Pooh” movie trailer like the red balloon in the film. “Oh simple thing, where have you gone?” It’s a perfect choice. In a complicated world, one simple thing is back. One simple thing, and one silly old bear.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com’s movies editor and is the co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?" available in stores and online.