Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spider Boy

One of the many joys of Netflix streaming is the fact that we can share shows that we used to watch with our children who are just emerging, dewy-eyed, from the forests of infancy. And by "share" I mean "force them to watch." For example, Norah and Chris have already been subjected to approximately 586 hours of Family Ties and Wings, and although she doesn't remember it except for having a vague desire to wear bulky sweaters with stirrup pants, Norah sat with me through quite a bit of Thirtysomething when she was first born.

But one thing that both the children and the parents enjoy here in the Happy Nash household is the 1994 Spider-Man series. Chris has become obsessed. He sings the theme song, studies the episodes, and then leaps across the divide between the two couches, swinging by a thread of invisible spiderweb. Spider-Man's interests are remarkably similar to his own; for example, Spider-Man needs ice water with a straw in order to make webs, and Spider-Man leaps "kind of like a frog but it's different."

I think the Superhero thing just has a certain amount of cache, but I noticed that in this show Peter Parker also narrates... everything. ("I'm walking to the kitchen, but I don't see Aunt May. Where's Aunt May? My arms! Their turning into large purple vines! The serum! I must have taken too much of the serum...") So maybe in that preschooler brain phase of really working hard to make sense of the world (and let's face it, that's an increasingly challenging task these days), this kind of super-literal narration might make the show really accessible and even turn it into a learning experience in some ways -- the voice Peter Parker uses to narrate his own thoughts is very different from the way he speaks out loud to others, and the facial expressions are exaggerated. By pumping up the subtext, Spider-Man opens a new range of human experience and emotion in a way that an almost 4-year-old can absorb and understand.

Also, there are mutated lizards with evil mechanical robot parts. What little boy wouldn't love that?

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