I visited Monkey Man’s class yesterday, and his teachers shared with me his story dictation (parent helpers and teachers take dictation while the kids tell stories, and then later the class acts out the stories as they are read aloud). Monkey Man’s protagonist was the “funny squirrel” from the animated feature, Ice Age. Monkey Man’s story started as the squirrel began his quest for the elusive acorn, but rapidly developed into a story about the earth crashing into the moon when it “fell out of space” only to bounce back to its assigned spot. A few other elements were included, like the dinosaur who somehow develops a relationship with the squirrel.
The teachers asked me about the origin of the funny squirrel, and I explained that it came from the movie, Ice Age. EE says I am reading too much into my conversation, in which, probably because of my own discomfort with the influence of media upon my children, I bristle in defensiveness about Monkey Man using a movie character in a story that is otherwise supposed to be imaginative and creative. The stories that kids in the class dictate must be filled with superhero references, princesses, and other film and book characters, since the children undoubtedly draw upon what they know.
The thing is, both EE and I are interested in the ways in which movies, books, music, art, and other elements of both “high art” and pop culture influence each other and are intertextualized. We are both English teachers who’ve been to graduate school, so when we read, watch movies, or listen to music, we always are looking for allusions, influences, and connections. EE assured me that Monkey Man’s story did just that. Monkey Man intertexualized his experience with the film into his own experience, and into other stories he knows, other books he’s read.
To add fuel to this fire, last night we happened upon the end of Mansfield Park on cable TV, and much to our surprise, we had to pry both Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl away — actually, we weren’t even successful in our extrication since we waited until the film ended, and then headed to bath time. Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl were transfixed by the movie, and given that most of what they watch is PBS programming and animated Disney or Pixar films, I was astonished. As we watched, they asked questions, made observations, and soaked in the panoramic views of the English countryside.
EE noted that it may be time for HE to begin the long Anne of Green Gables marathon with Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man. I’ve already been through that series once, as HE noted a few weeks ago, and I am up for the challenge again!