I am not a keen cinema-goer. The last time I attended any sort of cinema was on a school trip around eighteen months ago, and the time before that I cannot even remember, but I suspect that it was to see Marley and Me, a tale of schmaltz starring an improbably youthful-looking Jennifer Aniston and a dog. My taste in films has always leaned towards the avant-garde.
However, like all good parents (ahem, pardon my audacity at describing myself in such a manner) I know that the first trip to the cinema is an important rite of passage in any child’s life, and I know this because my first film was Bambi.
I know, Bambi. It could hardly be bettered. In fact, the only way I think I could improve on that is if I said that my first film was Dirty Dancing, one of the Godfather trilogy (whichever one is considered the coolest. I don’t know, because I am not a cinema-goer and have obviously never seen any of them) or possibly Grease 2. But as none of those are particularly suitable for very young children (although I remember a girl at primary school with slightly too-liberal parents who knew all the moves from Dirty Dancing and was forever telling us how hot Patrick Swayze was, despite the fact that he was a grown man the age of our parents and she was only seven-something that I can now appreciate was all kinds of wrong) Bambi it was.
And oh what a film. I can’t remember most of it, of course, because I was only three, but I remember that it was about a cute deer, like the one on the Babycham bottles my mother used to drink on special occasions, and that there was a forest fire (terrifying) and that Bambi’s mother died, and that me and quite possibly also my mother and maybe even everyone else in the cinema cried buckets, and that it was all terribly emotional, and it set the scene for a lifelong love of deer (Bambi!) and a lasting fondness for Babycham despite the fact that it tasted like cheap cider in a cute outfit and came from the same school of Patronising Marketing for Women as a Bic for Her. Sadly it didn’t lead to any great fondness for the art of film, or trips to the cinema in general, but I put that down to that time we trudged all the way to the cinema to see Care Bears the Movie and it was full.
I never did get to see Care Bears the Movie, which is probably for the best as I now feel quietly confident that it would be a huge disappointment to the 37 year old me, who despite not being an avid consumer of film, has at least seen enough post-1980s children’s animation to recognise that the genre has moved on in quality in the intervening years.
Another thing that has moved on in quality is the Cars movie franchise, which I recently decided should be the bearer of memories of the first ever cinema trip for Piglet. I feel a little bit ashamed of admitting that I like these films, as my first thought upon seeing the first Cars film, after “thank the Lord, Piglet is sitting still for A WHOLE HOUR!” was that not only did it miserably fail the Bechdel test, but that even in a crowd scene the only two visible female characters appeared to be a pair of cheerleading cars. However, without giving too much away, I think it is fair to say that things are gradually moving on in that regard. Anyway, I was fairly confident that Piglet would manage to sit still for the entire duration, especially as he had been bribed with a ludicrously overpriced bag of Minstrels (seriously cinema-goers, HOW EXPENSIVE IS THE CINEMA? This, my friends, this is why I never go. The price of the tickets was bad enough, but the price of the Minstrels? Reader, the price of the Minstrels nearly killed me).
He did, in the end, sit through the whole thing. I use the term “sit” loosely here, as there came a point when he insisted on standing in the middle of the aisle whimpering “no more Mummy” and shaking his head dismissively in a way that I knew he would immediately regret were we to actually exit the cinema and get on the bus home. I would call this point the middle of the film as it was sufficiently close to the beginning for me to feel that my twenty sodding pounds would have been wasted if we left early, but sufficiently close to the end for me to be actively looking forward to the final race scene and Lightning MacQueen’s inevitable victory (that isn’t a spoiler exactly, but I considered it highly unlikely that such a cheerful children’s film was going to end with someone dying in a forest fire, but then you never know. It’s happened before).
This point also coincided with a restless Piglet, having polished off all the Minstrels, reaching for his bribery-cup of hot chocolate, which had mercifully cooled down, yelling “mine!” and shaking it around, all over his seat and my arm, leading to me desperately muttering curses whilst mopping up the seat as best I could with an emergency stash of baby wipes and wondering which would look worse on the journey home-walking around with one arm soaked through with brown liquid or removing my T-shirt and going home in just the crop top I was wearing underneath. Fortunately for most of Bristol, I decided that no one needs to see my midriff and chose the former.
Fortunately, soon after this the final race started, and Piglet sat down in a-luckily empty-adjacent seat for long enough to get to the end, and even to affirm that he thought it was good, and refuse to leave the cinema because he wanted to have dinner there-presumably he expected dinner to be a feast of overpriced Minstrels.
I don’t think we’ll be heading back there anytime soon. I am not a cinema-goer and the chocolate is extortionate and mostly ends up on me, but (SPOILER ALERT!) no one died in a forest fire and we made it to the end. Just.