I’m sure you’re familiar with the phenomenon of reliving your childhood, whether by falling back into an old habit, indulging in a childhood treat, returning to a once-upon-a-time hideaway, or reading something that was a favourite book. It stands to reason then, that if you’re in the profession where you get to distribute your creative work to a large audience, you might find yourself in a situation where you get to make a whole lot of grown up people relive their childhoods, for better or for worse.
Hollywood is a fantastic example of this. Children who grew up with comic book heroes are now big budget action movie directors. Kids who will never forget the opening credits marching into the vanishing point on the cinema screens to the tune of John Williams’ Imperial March are now orchestra conductors recording the ever expanding Star Wars universe soundtracks. And those of us who reverently remember the raw emotion of learning about loss through the pages of books might now be screenwriters for A Bridge to Terabithia.
Sometimes, sadly, objects in the rear view mirror are, well…. rosier than they appear. Some story lines do not stand the test of time. And some are so classic and timeless that their modern re-imagining cannot be anything but a clumsy simulacrum of the original. As adults, I think we crave the opportunity to recreate that feeling of magic and excitement inspired by the stories and games of our childhood as an antidote to our age-acquired cynicism. However, we also dread that the latest remake, instead of giving us a temporary portal to the magical realm of our halcyon days, will simply kick that door in so forcefully that the weathered door frame will shatter and flood our memories with harsh fluorescent light, turning the golden hues of memory into peeling paint and abandoned crumbling landscape.
The latest such remake which has intruded into my consciousness (impressive these days given how little TV I actually watch outside of Paw Patrol and Ninjago) is Carmen Sandiego on Netflix. Now, I thankfully do not have a significant emotional connection to the original show or game, however I do remember playing it in primary school. It holds the number 2 spot in iconic computer games that date the generation of my childhood, immediately behind the Oregon Trail. If I wasn’t trying to ford a river while counting my oxen and hunting deer to feed my starving younger siblings in the back of the wagon, I was chasing Carmen Sandiego around the world with series upon series of geographic clues. This was back when the old, clunky Apple IIGS ruled computer classrooms and we tapped our fingers impatiently, trying to hurry our team of oxen from the right side of the screen to the left, waiting to see what other travesty will befall our wild west pioneers before they can reach Oregon. And just when you think you had no more patience left…
However, while I may not have forged an emotional bond with Carmen I have friends my age who feel much more strongly about the mysterious femme fatale. The incredibly talented seamstress behind Without A Stitch On appears to have kept her sanity through her PhD days by frantically creating cosplay costumes in between lengthy chapters on intellectual property. And whether it’s Peggy Carter, Wonder Woman, Mara Jade, or Harley Quinn, her attention to detail and creative approach is impeccable. Carmen Sandiego may not have been a costume that pushed the boundaries of her extensive talent, but it certainly didn’t diminish her enthusiasm, either for the costume or the Netflix reboot.
As it happens, the reviews appear to be excellent, and my friend certainly sounded delighted with the refresh, and the homage paid to the original series and game. I have to admit I have not yet been able to make the time to watch it. However, I was curious enough to suggest it to The Mister as a TV alternative for Hawkeye. Although his interest in the Go Jetters has since waned, he did pick up quite a lot of miscellaneous geographic terms from that show which I would love to see him build on.
Sadly, even if we as grown ups escape the savage fate of bungled remakes and reboots and manage to extract our precious childhood associations intact from the experience of modernisation, we still have our children to humble us and pierce our safety bubbles. Children do not care about our memories, our nostalgia, our desires to relive the past, or recall the carefree entertainments of our youth. They will mercilessly crush our interests, dismissing them casually with a frown or a word, and move on without realising the emotional devastation they leave in their wake. It is the lot of parents to suffer.
In this case I was lucky to only experience this particular one second-hand. The Mister informed me by text earlier today that he did, in fact, put on the new Carmen Sandiego for Hawkeye this past weekend on my suggestion. The results were not overly positive.
“I think this is for grown-ups,” Hawkeye expressed unprompted half way through the first episode, according to my husband.
“Why do you say that?” The Mister asked him.
“Because it’s got a lot of grown-ups in it that are all very angry with each other.”
Well, there you have it. Back to Ninjago we go. Mommy will need to relive this particular part of her childhood skulking around cafes with her laptop next time she manages to escape responsibility.
Feature photo credit: George Germaine, Germaine Photography, used with permission from Without A Stitch On