/Answers: The Movies That Define Our Childhood

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Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this edition, tying in with the release of Ready Player One, we ask “What movie defines your childhood? What nostalgic favorite floats to the top of your brain whenever your think back on your early film fandom?”

Vanessa Bogart: Labyrinth

My dad was a music fanatic and indoctrinated us into the gospel of David Bowie at a young age. Like the chicken and the egg, I don’t actually know what came first for me when I was little, Ziggy Stardust or Jareth the Goblin King. Music and movies are deeply rooted in our family relationships, and Labyrinth encompassed both. In a six person family, I am the youngest of four kids. I idolized my older siblings growing up, and while there are many movies that we call “Bogart Family Classics,” Labyrinth is the one that always made me feel closest with my sister and my two older brothers.

No matter how cool my big brothers were, “Magic Dance” always turned into a singalong. I remember my sister and I spying on our brothers watching Labyrinth and giggling at these two metal shirt-wearing teenagers singing the different parts, but it always made me feel extra special when the four of us would watch it together and it became a family musical number.

I still watch Labyrinth multiple times a year, even though I am still terrified of the fire puppets, and the sight of David Bowie now brings a swift tear to my eye. So engrained in our upbringing, the loss of Bowie was felt like a shockwave through our house. While it is a classic all on its own, nothing evokes that deep nostalgic feeling of when we all lived under one roof quite like Labyrinth.

Ethan Anderton: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

There is no VHS that I watched more as a kid than the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from 1990. Though Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory gave it a run for its money, neither of those movies had a line of toys for me to obsess over and recreate the scenes from the movie. It was the first franchise that I loved, so much that I went as Donatello for Halloween one year. Every dowel rod I found became a bo staff. My cake for my sixth birthday had Raphael on it. I watched the animated series every Saturday morning. I sought out as many action figures and vehicles as I could. It was my first love and passion.

The movie also helped shape my expectations for what I expected from the franchise I loved. The sequels that followed the original ended up being disappointing to me, even at a young age. This experience would begin to define my love for movies and the development of characters, even if I didn’t understand the intricacies of the franchise’s evolution (or devolution) just yet. But perhaps more important, it also just made me enjoy the hell out of my childhood and connected me to friends who loved exactly what I love. It was my first time being a literal fanboy, and it’s only escalated since then.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Kiki’s Delivery Service

I could list any Disney movie from the ’90s as one that defines my childhood, but the first movie that comes to mind is from an entirely different animation studio: Kiki’s Delivery Service. Funnily enough, for a long time I didn’t even own it. Kiki’s Delivery Service was a movie that was a special treat for me whenever I visited my grandparents’ house, the beat-up VHS nestled in her basement waiting for me to watch it for the 100th time. My grandma always kept a collection of movies for me and my little sister whenever we visited, which was often. She only lived 30 minutes from us, and she would babysit me and my little sister almost every other week.

As soon as I arrived at my grandparents’ house, I would rush downstairs and throw on Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was more than just a movie I watched to pass the time while I hung out with my grandparents. It changed my life. Long before I knew what anime was, it would set me down a path of unhealthily obsessing over Hayao Miyazaki movies, and of wearing dark witchy clothing. I connected with the young, go-getter Kiki as she set of on a daunting year of independent living at 13 years old. And I connected even more deeply when she lost her way and thus her powers. (Yes, I was a very introspective 7-year-old.) Kiki was the first time I saw a heroine who was so much like me: a young, naive girl who messed up more than she succeeded, who got embarrassed, who loved pancakes. We even had the same haircut! Yes, she had superpowers, but she was so much more ordinary than any Disney heroine I had ever seen in my short life.

And because I only ever watched Kiki’s Delivery Service at my grandparents’ house, the movie became like a warm security blanket. Even as my grandparents’ basement collected dust, as the videotape became so grainy that it became nigh unwatchable, Kiki’s Delivery Service was to me those lazy, happy years when I slept over at my grandparents’ house and could stay up as late as I wanted. Or as late as I could — which was usually before 9 p.m. When my grandma moved out of that house a few years ago and threw away the old VHS tapes, I bought a DVD of Kiki’s Delivery Service. It wasn’t quite the same — there was no crackling of white noise right before the movie started, the picture is now crystal clear — but it still brings me the same flood of nostalgia every time. And yes, I can still sing every word to Sydney Forest’s “Soaring.”

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