When we were six, seven, eight years old…we being me, my cousins, and my brother (who had a few years on us and was therefore ‘the responsible one’) we found our second home in The Green Frog Video Store, in Napier. We were not early adopters. We did not have a VHS player. But my aunty did. So, weekends and holidays were spent a 20-minute drive from home, and then the adults would let us go to the video store and browse the killer racks.
They were sure we were just bringing home E.T. and Indiana Jones and Star Wars. And we did….sure.
But we also brought home The Toxic Avenger and Class of 1984 and Being Different and Freaks and those weird films that were one-part nature documentary, one-part Video Nasty: Leopards getting ripped apart in front of your eyes by crocodiles, hunters chasing down an ostrich on foot and twisting its neck, cut to a scene of a catwalk with a model as thin as an ostrich leg hot-footing it down the runway in a cloak with beautiful plumage…
I’m still sure I learned a lot from all this. But I have no idea what it was or how to explain what I learned.
Late last year my father told me he didn’t think it appropriate that I let my son watch 1985’s comedy-horror, Fright Night. (There were boobs in the opening few minutes).
I pointed out that I was his age when I saw it.
“I don’t think so”, dad huffed. And then, with pantomime indignance, “Where was I in all this?”
Um, in the next room, drinking and playing cards.
There’s no way to make that sound okay in 2022, right? But it’s the truth of how the video store raised me. To get around renting Revenge of The Nerds, and then King Frat, and finally Class of 1984, we would just hand over my aunt’s driver’s licence. You know, to show that someone, somewhere in the vicinity was over 18!
Recently I saw Mad Max 2 on the big screen – for its 40th anniversary. In preparation, I rewatched the original Mad Max. A beautiful, brutal film. And one that was never appropriate for me to watch before the age of 10. But I did. And with my folks in the room next door. They were having a good time. And so was I.
Because we grew up not quite with the TV as a babysitter, but always with the knowledge that what was on TV was total fantasy, absolute make-believe.
And we turned out okay.