by Elizabeth Schechter.
When you are a writing-mom, there is very little watching of television. At least, very little watching of adult television. I could quote The Wonder Pets or Backyardigans to you for hours. (But not Barney. The Purple Blight will NEVER appear in this household.) But I watch very little television for me. I have no idea who the characters on Glee are, or who is doing what to whom for how many black jellybeans on Top Chef. That being said, when I do get to watch TV, then I tend to pay fairly close attention. What that means is that even if I’m watching something I’ve seen a dozen times before, I’m bound to see something I have never seen before.
This lesson came crashing home one morning, when I caught about ten minutes of the movie Gigi (before my five-year-old said “Mommy, I don’t want to watch that!” and we went back to Sesame Street). It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, and looking at it now, my mind is blown.
How did this movie make it past the censors in 1958? HOW?
You have Gigi, the main character. Fifteen years old, and the daughter of a minor vocalist in the Paris Opera (and therefore, by the definition of the times, her mother is only a few steps up from being a whore herself– theatre women were NOT respectable), and there is a strong implication that Gigi is illegitimate herself (I cannot remember any reference to her father). Her family is poor, and there is absolutely no hope of her ever making a good marriage. So her grandmother is training her to be a courtesan.
This is the exchange that fascinates me. The censors let this through:
Gigi: You told Grandmamma that you wanted to take care of me.
Gaston Lachaille: To take care of you beautifully.
Gigi: Beautifully. That is, if I like it. They’ve pounded into my head I’m backward for my age… but I know what all this means. To “take care of me beautifully” means I shall go away with you… and that I shall sleep in your bed.
Gaston Lachaille: Please, Gigi, I beg of you! You embarrass me!
Gigi: You weren’t embarrassed to talk to Grandmamma about it. And Grandmamma wasn’t embarrassed to talk to me about it. But I know more than she told me. To “take care of me” means that I shall have my photograph in the papers. That I shall go to the Riviera, to the races at Deauville. And when we fight, it will be in all the columns the next day. And then you’d give me up, as you did with Inèz des Cèvennes.
And then there’s the bit where Gaston tells Gigi that if she is nice to him, he’ll be nice to her. Her response: “To be nice to you means that I should have to sleep in your bed. Then when you get tired of me I would have to go to some other gentleman’s bed.”
Again, I’m amazed. And I’ll need to go rewatch all of this movie sometime soon. After J. goes to bed, that is.
Now, my own TV watching will shortly be going through the roof. J. will be out of school for winter break starting the 22nd. My goal is to be DONE with my current work-in-progress (an urban fantasy entitled Heart’s Master), before then, so that I can focus on my family for the holidays. Which means that we’re going to be pulling out every holiday DVD that we own, and watching them again. This is a little bittersweet for me.
You see, my absolute favorite holiday special, hands down, is Emmitt Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which was made by Jim Henson back when I was the age my son is now, and marks the first time Paul Williams wrote music for the Muppets (The Muppet Movie came out two years later). I adore anything having to do with the Muppets, and I dearly love this movie. But it isn’t the same. You see, what you can get now on DVD isn’t the same movie I watched as a child -- it’s been cut, drastically. The narrator for the original was none other than Kermit the Frog, but when the movie was released on DVD, there was an issue with the rights to Kermit, so his very major part was cut! Which means that some of the backstory was lost, since they just pulled his scenes out whole cloth. So, when I watch this movie, I have an opposite reaction to the one that I had when I watched Gigi. Instead of seeing things that I’d never seen before, now I mentally fill in the things that I know are missing (including the very charming little dance routine by George and Martha Rabbit during the talent contest. Jazz Paws!)
Any of you ever have this experience? Watch something you’ve seen a million times, and see something that you’ve never seen before?