The Education of Emily

When she was a kid, as I'm sure most of you who know her are aware, Emily lived out in the country with cows and chickens and suchlike. They didn't have cable TV, and most of her television watching was PBS - "Mr. Rogers," "Sesame Street" and the rest of the Children's Television Workshop productions. When I learned this early on in our chatting-online days, it absolutely boggled my little suburban child of the '80s/'90s mind - how could anyone grow up without cable? Wasn't this a form of child abuse? It didn't seem possible to me that someone nearly my own age could grow and thrive without a steady diet of "You Can't Do That on Television," and didn't really understand the importance of the epic run of Duran Duran's "The Reflex" as the champ of MTV's "Friday Night Video Fights." I got over it pretty quickly - it was just weird. Everyone in our neighborhoods in both the Denver 'burbs and in Greeley had cable.

Now and then in our early conversations I would drop a reference to some movie I sort of assumed everyone had seen - Die Hard, Jaws, Rocky, Batman, a ton of others - only to hear, "I've never seen it." At first, this never failed to blow me away. I've grown a lot more used to it now. I've worked on getting her caught up on the touchstone movies of the MTV generation and the important classics. I made a point of showing her Rocky during one of her first visits to Colorado, because, honestly, how can you expect to get anywhere in life if you've never seen Rocky?

Last night we watched the first part of The Godfather - we started it a little late, so we had to stop right when Michael gets back from Sicily. I had tried to show her The Godfather before, but it was during another of those early visits and because we only saw one another about once a month (and because, y'know, Luca Brasi getting knifed in the hand and garroted is hott), we wound up making out and fooling around instead of watching the movie.

It struck me again last night, though, that there are things I just assume people know about pop culture that Emily doesn't. I sort of assume that people know The Godfather, even if just by cultural osmosis. She asked about if Michael's Sicilian bride appears in Part II, and I said, "Yes," because what am I going to say? "No, she gets blown to smithereens in about ten minutes."

It's not that it's bad or wrong or anything, it just seems kind of weird to me. She didn't know the secret of what "Rosebud" was before I showed her Citizen Kane, and I didn't think it was even possible to reach the age of 23 in America without knowing what "Rosebud" is - it's sort of like the shower scene in Psycho or Darth Vader's shocking revelation in The Empire Strikes Back, so heavily referenced and homaged and parodied that it seems impossible not to be familiar with it even without having seen the movie.

Not long ago, I made a joke about Mr. Peabody and Sherman and the Wayback Machine and it went right over her head. I was again dumbfounded - "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" is one of the great pinnacles of American television, and I'd always figured it so ubiquitous that anyone would get a Peabody and Sherman joke. Apparently not. Needless to say, "Rocky & Bullwinkle," Season 1 immediately went into the NetFlix queue.

It's a long process, but worthwhile. By the time we're sixty or so, Emily may actually not even have to ask about even my most obscure and idiotic references and jokes.