But I wasn't fearless. Oh, I had very specific and deeply held anxieties, over which I lay awake in dread on many a night. Would you like to hear about them? The three things that haunted my dreams and stirred me to helpless panic? Come scootch over here real close, and look upon the first face of terror:
That guy. That guy!
What is the deal, with the Cat in the Hat? Come on, he is PETRIFYING! He just shows up, while your mom is away, and she didn't even lock the door so he just COMES IN and starts WRECKING the place. Balancing shit! Spilling shit! Letting a pair of Things run amok! Strewing wanton chaos and mess in his wake!
Okay: my mom was a compulsive neat freak, taking her own anxieties out on dirt with furious aggression. We wiped out the sink after each use, played with one toy at a time, and knew to open the fridge with a sleeve pulled down to prevent fingerprints on the handle. She's mellowed considerably since then, thank Prozac...but there was a time when the slightest mess provoked her displeasure, and if mama ain't happy...well. Cat-induced mayhem boded ill.
And so at a tender age I was vaguely afraid of the Cat in the Hat, worried he'd show up to get ME into terrible trouble some rainy afternoon. (Although this line from the Wikipedia plot summary is splendid: The Cat's antics are vainly opposed by the family pet, a sapient and articulate fish.) On some level, I understood that a gigantic, bipedal, English-speaking cat sporting a stripey chapeau was...unlikely. (Thank heavens I wasn't subjected to Mike Myers's mutant visage as a kid; that gives me nightmares now.) But I soon had new demons to dread:
AAAAAAAAAAHHH! Laurel and Hardy! Coming with pickaxes, yet, to DESTROY YOUR HOME. (Yes, Mecklenburg, I can hear you laughing from here.) They were a silent menace that played on an overhead screen at the local Shakey's Pizza, accompanied by jaunty-funereal organ music as they smashed china and furniture and upright pianos to smithereens. Laurel and Hardy were real, if consigned to the realm of Olde Things, and I found them completely terrifying. All right, all right: the Cat in the Hat was a drawing...but these two maniacs could still possibly appear on your doorstep and tear the house down around you, giggling wordlessly, blinking their tiny black evil eyes. Laurel and Hardy: shudder. In a college film seminar, I had to watch "Big Business," and was hard-pressed to explain why I was peeking through my fingers in American Film Comedy. Not funny not funny not funny. Not.
Even less funny? Ohh, dude. Look at THIS:
OH MY GOD, NO. I was nine years old when 1941 came out, probably old enough to know better...but holy mother, look at that poster. That particular poster, in the back of some comic book or magazine I had, scared the bejesus out of me. SO MUCH DESTRUCTION. They are FIRING UPON the amusement park! Normally a fun place! They're blowing up the movie theatre showing DUMBO! That house, at the end, ruined and pulverized and pushed off the cliff into the sea! Merry Christmas! Ha ha ha! Wheeeee!
Oh dear lord, I could not handle it. Still can't; never seen it all the way through. The whole reason I started this post was because this blasted-ass terrible movie popped up on cable this evening, and I was lulled into false complacency by the merry jitterbugging in the USO. Before they SMASHED THE ENTIRE TOWN TO FLAMING SMITHEREENS, and I realized what I was watching and fumbled for the remote, whimpering into my mac and cheese. Not funny!
Also, now I am prone to wondering if there is a homeowners' insurance clause for Wanton Cinematic Mayhem. Acts of Laurel and Hardy?