What media hit you differently the second time around?
April 17, 2022 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I recently re-reading a book I hadn't read in 20 years. I read a scene that I remembered vividly, but now understood in a completely different way. Have you had this experience? What had changed in the intervening time and what was your new understanding? (I'm not looking for 'First I liked it, but now I hate it.' or vice versa.)

In this scene that I read, two men have been quietly in love for many years. Eventually, one of the men is dying of AIDS and the other finally makes a romantic overture. The man who is dying says to the other man that he had waited most of their lives for this moment, but now he is simply too tired. When I read it in my 20s I could not understand how a person could be too tired and too ill for romantic love. In my 40s, I read this scene with deeper understanding of illness, of exhaustion, of what the body can and simply cannot do. It has fundamentally altered the way I read this scene and I now find it almost unbearably poignant.

Another example: when I watched Fiddler on the Roof in my teens, I thought it was abut falling in love no matter what the obstacles. When I watched it as an adult, I experienced it as being about the deep and futile desire of parents to protect their children and way of life. (Also, I used to think Perchik was sexy as all get out and now I think he's a total tool...)

Have you had experiences of returning to scenes or moments within texts or other media with new eyes or understanding? What shifted both in your interpretation and in your life that allowed for that new interpretation?
posted by jeszac to Media & Arts (88 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've reread the Anne books by Lucy Maud Montgomery many times starting from when I was younger than Anne was at the beginning, through my teens and now into adulthood and motherhood. I've gone from identifying with Anne as a child, teen, young married woman, and new mom and now I've come to identify more with the parental figures in young Anne's life as my oldest daughter is SUCH an Anne in many ways. It's been very interesting to return to these books over and over again in different phases of my life and I expect them to keep on giving as I age.
posted by potrzebie at 3:10 PM on April 17, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: When I read the Borrowers books as a kid, of course I identified with Arriety and how fun being small would be, but as an adult I really finally appreciated her poor worried parents, and how incredibly brave and resourceful they were, trying to survive in a huge and terrifying world, especially while keeping their child safe.
posted by The otter lady at 3:11 PM on April 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I recently reread most of the books I had to read in high school. Man, so many of these great books are wasted on high schoolers. Most recently I reread Bernard Malamud’s “The Fixer.” Back then I found it “dull” because there wasn’t actually that much action plot moving forward, just a guy laying around in prison for two years. Now I know that it was based on a true story, and it is a gut-punching narrative about anti-semitism and Russia.

I reread some of my YA romancy novels, too. One was about a girl who couldn’t decide whether to get an abortion (early 1970s feminist novel). Back then to me, it was just a narrative about a girl who needed to hide stuff from her parents and eventually reveal the truth. Now, the only way it reads to me is “wow, the author had some issues she needed to deal with.”
posted by Melismata at 3:15 PM on April 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps it's a bit obvious, but my second time reading through Moby Dick the homoerotic overtones were way more clear yet also felt less deliberately subversive (i.e. hinting at the dark, gay secret of crews on the high seas) and more simply playful and joyous, celebrating intimacy and love in all forms.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:33 PM on April 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I've had this experience with a lot of films, particularly ones by directors who reference tons of other films/literature in their works (intertextuality, I guess).

One that sticks out to me, in particular, is the film All About My Mother by Pedro Almodovar. I remember renting it in the early/mid-00s, as a teenager as I was just getting into films and liking it but not really "getting" anything about it. Then years later I watched it again, after watching many of the films referenced in it (Opening Night, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, All About Eve, Douglas Sirk melodramas, understanding the dedication to Bette Davis, Gena Rowlands, Romy Schneider, etc.), it really affected me after understanding what Almodovar was referring to. Watching it all those years later, with those references in my head was a big lightbulb moment.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 3:36 PM on April 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The Thomas Crown Affair remake was a nice heist film with some cat and mouse when I first watched it many years ago.

Now it’s about the emotional interplay, both subtle and gross, of Pierce Bronson and Rene Russo.

Definitely informed by my own challenging emotional entanglements.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:44 PM on April 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Lord of the Rings series was a favorite of mine when I was very young. At 8 or 9 years old, I only read it as an epic adventure. But when I read it again as an adult, I was shocked at how achingly sad it was.
posted by merriment at 3:44 PM on April 17, 2022 [26 favorites]

Best answer: I saw Saturday Night Fever when I was about 12. At the time I thought Tony's love interest, Stephanie, was oh-so-sophisticated.

Reading the story of Noah's ark now, it really makes God seem pretty unreasonable.

Rip Van Winkle? Now I see why his wife was nagging. A farming family worked very hard, the wife just as hard as the man and all labor was needed. He seems a bit like a jerk who wasn't refused to do any work to help the family survive.
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:44 PM on April 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I remember rolling my eyes as a kid when I heard that evangelical groups were trying to ban Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series because it was anti-Christian. Ah, I thought, they just think any reference to magic or sorcery or talking animals will inspire occultism! Re-read the series as a young adult, and while still staunchly opposed to book banning of any kind, saw the extremely blatant anti-Catholic narrative throughout. The church is evil, the fall from grace was good actually, they literally kill god, etc. Talking animals were still the highlight though.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: So, so many books now can be reread with “OMG the author had homoerotic feelings and couldn’t talk about them!!” Just reread Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, and it definitely reads that way.
posted by Melismata at 3:58 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I recently relistened to Billy Joel's album, River of Dreams. I can't exactly put into words, but the events of the last two plus (really six) years made me feel the feels in a different light.
posted by kathrynm at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2022

Best answer: I used to think that Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes)'s Dad was kind of weird, but now that I'm older I'm realizing that he's actually pretty cool. Yeah, he messes with Calvin's mind a bit, but he's never mean-spirited about it. He's quick witted and funny and seems to enjoy being a font of knowledge for his ever questioning kid. And he bikes around everywhere.
posted by Gray Duck at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2022 [38 favorites]

Best answer: This is a lovely question! There's a book of these called Rereadings, based on the long-running column in literary quarterly The American Scholar. When Anne Fadiman was editor she asked distinguished writers to re-read a book they had first read before the age of 25. "In short order the Rereadings became the most popular part of the magazine... [and] as it turned out, revealed at least as much about the readers as the books."
posted by happyfrog at 4:20 PM on April 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Oh god yes Melismata. If you read The Once and Future King as a fun medieval fantasy romp when you were a child, pick it up now. WHOA boy.
posted by potrzebie at 4:25 PM on April 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: The Breakfast Club. I saw it when it first came out, I could not relate to any of the characters. Decades later, I watched it again and felt it in my gut. Taking some distance away from my teenage years, and also thanks to teaching and coaching teenagers in my undergrad classes gave me the grounding to feel the stories of each character. Whereas the first viewing was meh-h, the second was a punch to the gut.

But principal Vernon remains a bully to this day, the intervening years did not change my perspective on him.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:40 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: There's an old saying (supposedly) that you should read Don Quixote three times; in your youth to make your laugh, in middle age to make you think, and in your old age to make you cry.
posted by Candleman at 4:58 PM on April 17, 2022 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Agreed, this is a lovely question. I have a number of potential answers, but I'll go with my most broad one - The Simpsons! Like many older millennials, I grew up with this show, watching it as a young kid until I was a teenager, and then stopped, having determined that it had jumped the shark. At some point in the pandemic, my partner and I started to re-watch the old seasons from our youth, and man, it hit differently. As a nerdy bookworm, I of course identified mostly with Lisa, and focused more on the kid-related plot lines. Now as an adult, it's Marge who steals the show for me (well, and Grandpa, of course), but moreover, I noticed a number of references that certainly went over my head as a kid, and find various plot lines of the adults more interesting.

It's also wild to me how dated some of it is, given that it wasn't that long ago - the episode with John Waters where Homer is anxious that Bart is gay mostly holds up, but the fact that it was seen as 'groundbreaking' at the time was a reminder of just how far American society has shifted (even if recent politics remind us of how much work remains to be done).
posted by coffeecat at 4:59 PM on April 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Mrs. Dalloway. It took getting older for me to appreciate Clarissa and Peter reappraising each other after decades of friendship and deep feeling.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:01 PM on April 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I found Catcher in the Rue insufferable when I was a teenager since I was generally disdainful of the kind of angsty kids who brushed everyone aside as phonies. I reread it in my thirties and found it both enjoyable and complex, since I was no longer bothered by the teen characters (because they were no longer my peers, age-wise).
posted by redlines at 5:02 PM on April 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I, too, read Anne of Green Gables [a million times] as a kid, but when I re-read it after becoming a mom, it was the first time I ever saw things from Marilla’s perspective. MINDBLOWING.
posted by Maarika at 5:23 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: As a young woman I thought Ekaterin Vorsoisson a pushover in need of a backbone.

As a woman long married to a feckless load, I understood her situation -- and the loyalty she doesn't want to let go of -- an awful lot better.
posted by humbug at 5:29 PM on April 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As a young teen with no relationship experience watching Heathers, I found Christian Slater’s character’s “passion” for Winona Ryder’s character completely intoxicating and wished they could wind up together (yes, despite his actions in the third act. I thought he was just in so much pain and she could help.) Obviously, real-world relationships have made me terrified for her and glad she was able to extract herself alive. Almost ashamed to admit that but I guess if he wasn’t appealing, nobody would like the movie.
posted by kapers at 5:36 PM on April 17, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: My very conservative religious parents for some to this day unknown reason, had vinyl copies of Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene and Équinoxe, which I have memory of listening to as a very young child, and not really thinking much of them (but thinking that the cover art was dope and slightly transgressive). I cracked back into them in my mid-30s, and they're on fairly regular rotation at this point. They are both spectacular albums.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:37 PM on April 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Middlemarch. 150 years young; 150 years old.

Virginia Woolf called it "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people" and if you read it as a young adult then return to it in middle age, after the accumulation of choices (and non-choices) that got you there, you understand why. (Parts of it can be devastating.) If you're young right now, I'd suggest re-reading it every five or 10 years to cushion the blow.

And as MonkeyToes suggests, Woolf herself writes novels for grown-ups.
posted by holgate at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I first saw the little intro film in Pixar’s Up (about Carl and Ellie) a couple of years before beginning the long slog of trying to conceive, experiencing infertility, and then losing the only two pregnancies I ever had. Needless to say, when I first saw it I thought, oh how sad, he’s bereft because his wife died and they had such a happy life together. Understandable.

Now that my partner and I have been through all that and ended up childless like Carl and Ellie, it is ACHINGLY sad. We have a happy life together and have lovely friends and family including nieces and nephews, but man, this movie hits you hard if you wanted to have kids and then discovered you couldn’t.

I have mostly come to terms with being childless and feel more than okay most of the time, so I finally sucked it up and we watched the whole movie a little while ago. It was GREAT, but I definitely cried. It was very emotional.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:46 PM on April 17, 2022 [33 favorites]

Best answer: When I was younger, I thought immortal characters like Tolkien's elves and Anne Rice's vampires were just being whiny when they couldn't deal with the world changing. I couldn't conceive of any downside at all to immortality (I mean, besides the drinking people's blood stuff for the vampires, that would be awkward). I wanted to live as long as possible and see the future, to know what happened next, good or bad.

Now in middle age I understand the feeling that everything good in the world is slipping away, and that the future may be too much to bear. I don't know if it's just the perspective of age, though, or the real worry that the planet is going to become uninhabitable.
posted by LadyOscar at 6:15 PM on April 17, 2022 [34 favorites]

Best answer: Anna Karenina - as a teenager, I had not experienced love in a relationship, and identified much more strongly with Levin the loner trying to do his best in his changing world. Rereading it last year after my wife's cancer diagnosis was rough. Not that it's a particularly relevant story to a decade-long 21st century marriage, but the power of those feelings rang much more deeply.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:21 PM on April 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Pride and Prejudice. I used to think Mr Bennet was the Cool Dad; now I realize how much of a deadbeat he is. Still no sympathy for Mrs B, though.

Actually, a lot of Austen holds up on re-read.

Middlemarch, obv, but that's covered already.

I am a little afraid to revisit my childhood favorites -- so much "classic" kidfic is full of weird racist stereotypes that I either didn't see or wilfully ignored.
posted by basalganglia at 6:25 PM on April 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I watched The Shining a number of times in high school & college as a spooky horror film. When I tried to watch it again later the undertones of Jack’s abuse stood out clearly and I could not finish.
posted by migurski at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I watched Naked in the cinema in 1993. I've watched clips over the years, but this year was the first I watched the film in almost thirty years.

I think the second time through I see the male characters as more troubling, more terrible, worse than I remember. (I stopped the film half-way through.)

The first time I saw it, the David Thewlis character's maniacal motormouth monologues really grab centre stage ("the diminishing pachyderm formation," the rant about never being bored, there are many brilliant lines). But this time I really noticed how much of a bully and a user he is and how narcissistic and violent he is. Don't get me wrong - in 1993 I found him troubling and the other male character as absolutely vile. But this time time round, I really noticed the silent (non verbal) responses of the female characters (mostly fear, discomfort, betrayal) to the male characters. And how self-centred and amoral the David Thewlis character is (he really is a an excellent portrayal of motormouth conman, who can talk so much, put you at ease or slightly off balance, and then lift your wallet, sell you a bridge or in this film hurt everyone he meets). Also this time I noticed how complex and well portrayed the Lesley Sharpe and Katrin Cartiledge characters are.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:43 PM on April 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I bought Fisherman's Blues by The Waterboys when it was released in 1988. The Waterboys were one of my favorite bands. I listened to it a lot. Ten years later, I went to the movies to see Waking Ned Devine. The film opened with the title track from that album. It's the only time I've cried during the beginning of a movie.
posted by perhapses at 7:29 PM on April 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: This is kind of low hanging fruit (gah, that's unintentional), but The Giving Tree stands out as a book I adored as a child becoming a book that's vaguely horrifying to me as an adult.

While I haven't gone back and re-read it, and am not likely to, a lot of the online discussion of the Harry Potter franchise has helped me see the less pleasant aspects (that the society in the books as presented is pretty awful, with slavery, racism, and an essentially a caste system, and the "happy end" is that Harry goes to work for the cops, helping to enforce the rules), and I can't imagine reading it in the same light.

Similarly, going back and watching any comedy I enjoyed growing up in the 80s is a crapshoot of whether or not there will be some glaring thing that I didn't pick up on as a kid. The least egregious of these, I think is the fact that the real bad guy in Ghostbusters is Walter Peck, from the EPA, and it's such a sign of what the 80s were like that the EPA, trying to enforce clean air and water laws in New York were seen as villains. (I still love Ghostbusters, but I do wonder how much that had an effect on me at a formative age)

Less fun or whimsical: I used to absolutely love the film Big Fish because it captured what so much of my relationship with my own father was like, and in part allowed me to see (through Ewan McGregor's role as the father when he was young) my father's side of things. Since my father passed away, I can't watch the movie anymore, or even discuss it without having to hold back tears that would lead to ugly crying. This paragraph is probably the most I've allowed myself to talk about the movie in about ten years, and I need to stop or else I'll be useless for the rest of the day.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:59 PM on April 17, 2022 [16 favorites]

Best answer: I read Eat Pray Love shortly after it came out, I was 27 and a newlywed and I thought all the hype was completely ridiculous and overblown, like lady, we’ve all had breakups, you’re not that special.

I read it again a decade later, right after I had gotten divorced myself, and shocked myself by the amount of highlighting I did and how much the language resonated. Holy moly, did I ever identify with her depths of confusion and heartbreak over how you could somehow end up in this baffling place of being so far apart from someone you thought you’d spend forever with. I completely related to her feelings of loss around her identity and not knowing who she was anymore or where she might want to go next, and the sort of reckless willingness to just start throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what might stick.
posted by anderjen at 8:05 PM on April 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I was younger I never understood why Andie didn’t choose Duckie at the end of Pretty in Pink. Now I think all the men in the movie are assholes and she should have taken Annie Potts to the prom instead.
posted by cakelite at 8:48 PM on April 17, 2022 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Like so many other Mefites, I've read and re-read the Anne of Green Gables Series throughout my life and as I get older the less I like Captain Jims from Anne's House of Dreams and Reverend Meredith from Rainbow Valley. When I was younger, I thought Captain Jims was a charming former sea captain with a tragic backstory. As an adult, I find his comments about how women having no sense and therefore can't write condescending.

As for John Meredith, I want to warn Rosemary to get as far away from him as she can because she will be carrying all the emotional, mental, and actual labor in that marriage. John Meredith's absent-mindedness is supposed to be part of his charm but adult me is appalled by how he neglects his children. There's only one adult in Rainbow Valley who calls him out on it and she's portrayed as a villain.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 9:00 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Reality Bites. As a kid, oh Troy was an Artiste etc etc. as an adult: That douche Troy was a grifter and the yuppie Michael was decent, made a mistake, and totally owned it and tried to make up for it.

Really, any movie with a squee romantic person who with wisdom is actually a withholding weenie.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:56 PM on April 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: In high school we had a poetry unit, and while I loved the rest of English classes, I never really "got" poetry. As a specific example, I remember we read "Richard Cory", and I didn't understand it at all - he's rich and admired, and then he kills himself for no obvious reason? What?!

Then in my '30s, an acquaintance observed to me that I had "a perfect life", when a few days before I had been looking at the little patch of greenery and trees behind Sears and thinking it would be a pleasant place to lie down and die after ingesting some sort of poison. I hunted down the poem and thought..."oh, now I understand". (Don't worry, It Got Better.)
posted by LadyOscar at 9:57 PM on April 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Piggybacking on the previous comment, I read The Catcher in the Rye as a depressed teenager who felt as if most of the adults around me were quite phony, and I wished that Holden Caulfield would give up on those around him and find a life away from everyone, even including his sister. I reread it as a 20-something pulling myself out of the muck, and realized that I had identified with Holden as a youth so much that I completely missed how incredibly sad and lonely he was, how he had convinced himself that adults were all liars, that he had no idea how to reveal vulnerability to anyone, or to accept help, and that he was miserable and insufferable to be around. I must have been a very sad kid!
posted by panhopticon at 10:04 PM on April 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Someone mentioned The Giving Tree above. I'd loved it when I was a kid, and thought the tree was so generous, and the boy foolish. Reading it to my granddaughter recently... and oh boy, I was SO annoyed with the tree. It needs to learn to set some boundaries! And the boy is totally a selfish jerk who is taking advantage of her.

That book is a perfect metaphor for every relationship where one partner takes and takes and takes - and STALLS - leading the other one on until it's too late for them to form a fulfilling life with anyone else. (Especially a female whose childbearing years have gone by while waiting for a man to be "ready", or for him to get the "good job" that's always just around the corner so they can buy a house and plan for the future, or whatever.

I've run into other children's books recently but can't catch the titles at the moment. It's amazing how many of those childhood favorites hit SO differently now, and it's seldom because the world has changed, but because I have learned and grown.

There's been a couple where I've been all, "WHAT WERE THE PARENTS DOING?!? Did they just... let that happen???"
posted by stormyteal at 10:15 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: When my kids started getting near middle school age I went back to review a bunch of books and movies from my youth to see what would be appropriate to recommend at what age. There were surprises. I loved The Breakfast Club more than I did when it came out. I hated Ferris Bueller, God what a selfish tool. And man there were a lot of superfluous bare breasts in 80s movies. I suppose I thought it was pretty awesome when I was 15, but in retrospect there were a ton that didn't even have to do with sex, just boobies for boobies' sake. (At the beginning of Stripes why was Bill Murray's girlfriend walking around with no shirt just to break up with him?) I suppose without a PG-13 rating available producers might have felt that if they were going to be stuck with the R they might as well earn it, perhaps? Whatever, it frequently looks silly from this perspective.
posted by Cris E at 10:34 PM on April 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Harold and Maude.

Then: Oh no, poor Harold!

Now: Dammit Harold, Maude had a PLAN and you wrecked it.
posted by inexorably_forward at 10:43 PM on April 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if this exactly falls into the category of your question because it's multiple works, but Fiona Apple's "Idler Wheel" and "Bolt Cutters" records are two of my all-time favorite music things, and they helped me reappraise her earlier albums. I always thought the earlier albums were just fine. Now I get them in a better way, I think.

I'd also recommend Moby Dick as a book that keeps giving new things on additional readings. The chapter "The Whiteness of the Whale" definitely hits different after you've lived a bit more wonder, a bit more dread, maybe have a greater sense of life's underlying and baffling what-the-fuckness.
posted by kensington314 at 11:52 PM on April 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A second hand story:

When I was 18 a much older man recommended I read The Magus by John Fowles. It's a big thick book but I stayed up all night to read it because I couldn't put it down. I vividly remember feeling every emotion under the sun - rage, joy, bitterness, sadness, light, dark, you name it - and when I finished I was emotionally exhausted. It was, and remains, one of the most intense emotional experiences of my life, strange as that might seem.

A few years later it came up in conversation for reasons lost to memory, and I mentioned that I should read it again because I'd forgotten the plot and only remembered the emotional turbulence. Another, different, older man told me not too, because he'd had the same emotional reaction and experience as me when he read it as a young man. But when he'd read it again in his 40s, he said the whole book felt very different, and disappointing. He refused to elaborate, saying only that "it's a young man's book, don't ruin the memory by re-reading it".

I never have.
posted by underclocked at 12:54 AM on April 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil. Read it at 18, then again at 30. It's about the somewhat premature midlife-crisis of Ulrich, a useless intellectual in the Austro-Hungarian empire at the eve of WW1. Thousands of pages of navelgazing, but it's a fun read, because the navelgazer is fairly perceptive, has a keen eye for the absurdities of his period, is a bit of a contrarian, always ambivalent, never meets a cognitive disonance he's not willing to embrace, super aloof, elegantly ironically detached, described as a man without qualities, because he wants to resist definition, wants to stay flexible, can't commit to a relationship, can't commit to a cause - unlike all the pompous clowns around him, who pursue all sorts of more or less high-minded causes with passionate intensity and in a usually deeply counter-productive manner, and are clearly the worst, whereas Ulrich, who lacks all conviction, is obviously the best. Or so I thought at 18. I thought he was kinda sexy, poor me. (Fortunately I don't have much of a libido, so I was never tempted to hook up with an Ulrich type.)

At 30, it all seemed a bit less charming. Still kinda relatable (much more relatable than I would have liked; academic career fizzles out after early promise, lack of committment in interpersonal relationship, general lack of purpose, etc. - premature midlife crisis not so rare a fate, apparently). But it's obvious now that he's the most pompous clown of them all, the self-awareness not as much of a saving grace as I used think, and not as keen either, as I picked up on some of the protagonist's blind spots I missed on the first reading. Everyone fails in this novel, but everyone else actually fails in more interesting ways. Ulrich's less of a role model and more of a cautionary tale after all.
posted by sohalt at 12:57 AM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I first encountered Romeo and Juliet it was in high school English class and it was about the time the Baz Lurhmann movie came out. I was so sad about the loss of their romantic relationship, which seemed terribly unfair. All true of course, but now I read it fairly often, as a high school English teacher, and have been struck at first by how much it is clearly about everyone's haste as a dangerous thing, and lately, by the violence of Juliet's father. The adults are to me, now, clearly the actual point, and the kids are the vehicle for a message about the adults.
posted by jojobobo at 1:13 AM on April 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I always read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock as being about a guy who's afraid to make a romantic move and consigns himself to a life of loneliness, which seemed a little bit extreme and pessimistic. These days it reads to me as being about coming to terms with yourself as a non-heroic character. In your younger life you imagined yourself as a protagonist who'd be able to do certain things, and at some point you realize that protagonist doesn't have your limits. Maybe you had grand dreams or hopes or desires; maybe you aspired to do something important; maybe you don't know how, or just don't have the right kind of personality or talents, to get there.
posted by trig at 2:01 AM on April 18, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: This is trite, I suppose — but my reaction to watching Finding Nemo twice, before and after I became a dad, was:

1. Hm. The plot of the movie was that some kid was lost. Eh.
posted by PaulVario at 2:56 AM on April 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Since a few people above have mentioned The Giving Tree, there is an alternate ending someone wrote that is quite good.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:04 AM on April 18, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Re children’s books: In “Love You Forever,” a popular children’s book, OMG the mother is a horrible stalker. But all the new mothers I knew gushed over it.
posted by Melismata at 4:55 AM on April 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but rewatching the Matrix after finding out that it's a trans allegory makes it a very different experience, particularly now that a significant portion of my friends are trans.
posted by Candleman at 5:24 AM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I picked out "Love You Forever" at a school book fair as a first grader, and *my mom* found it creepy! As an adult, I get it, but it's really interesting to think back to that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:01 AM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lots that is difficult about The Little House books that are now patently obvious to me (realise others will have seen those problems from the start); one discovery that is specifically age and role related: Mr Ingalls - amazing free spirit and inspiration >> unbelievably selfish libertarian ruthlessly exploiting wife’s sense of duty
posted by melisande at 6:02 AM on April 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Is this where we talk about every coming-of-age story where the parents are dead / off-stage / disinterested or disapproving / "the cool adults" who do not intervene? You know -- the trope that allows the child to do something dangerous and impossible and then have a big shiny moment of revelation, without landing in jail or the hospital.
I hate that.
I'm the person yelling at the screen or shaking the book, trying to talk some sense into the author.

One example: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It has four sequels. What is with that?
It read as a cool fantasy novel as a teenager in the '80s, but even then the idea of a 13 year old landing a plane in a lake and then surviving in the wilderness of northern Canada for months alone was just unrealistic.
Now that I've raised children it is inexplicable how Brian Robeson got through the first days without doing something desperate and weird and making the situation worse. Falling out of a tree. Eating the wrong raw plants. Provoking some animal. Tearing up his clothing to make a rescue marker.
I blame Survivor.
And of course, the technology now is worlds different. Hopefully Brian's smart phone survived the swim to shore.
Some plotlines do not age well for that reason alone.
posted by TrishaU at 6:06 AM on April 18, 2022

Best answer: “The Poisonwood Bible” lends itself to this as it tells the story from the different family member perspectives. In particular, I’ve come to understood the mother’s story much more despite not being a mom myself and when I first read it in my late teens I thought hers was the most boring and would almost skip her chapters.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:15 AM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a kid, I thought the Cheers TV show was a fun comedy. I rewatched some of it a few years back and WOW it is a depressing show. Every character is permanently lonely, stuck, and unfulfilled.
posted by metasarah at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Piers Anthony reads much differently in adulthood than in my tween and teen years after the distinction between some titillation and grooming became clearer.
posted by Candleman at 7:46 AM on April 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Lovely question. We were assigned A Separate Peace in 10th grade English class in suburban Southern California in 10th grade. I had zero understanding of major aspects of it like the East Coast, elite prep schools, or same-sex subtext, and somehow misunderstood the marble buildings and playing fields to be a preview of what typical college life would be like. Reading it more recently, I found it more enjoyable but also fascinating for new reasons -- most of them relating to questions of why the powers deciding on high school reading matter would assume that middle-class high-schoolers in places like Ventura would all relate to these rich white New Hampshire guys.
posted by johngoren at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A non-fiction example: in college, I studied the literature of Japan’s Heian period, a golden age of culture and beauty around 800 - 1200 AD known for works like The Tale of Genji, about the life and loves of a nobleman, and the Pillow Book, a collection of observations by a court lady. I read the book The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan for a class, and was primarily interested in the way the culture expressed itself: the expressions of taste and sentiment that were important, the poetry and artistic practices, noblemen and noblewomen’s daily lives, religious practices and superstitions, the role of women within the society.

Later in life, I returned to the same book and found myself much more interested in the underlying conditions that produced the culture I had been so fascinated by: how land and the wealth produced on it was divided and amassed, setting the stage for a weak government and large amounts of wealth amassed among a small group of nobles, how emperors were turned into cultural and religious leaders and carefully managed, the economic and political reasons women had more power in the Heian period than they later would, and how actual power was held and passed on by a single clan, but eventually bled away into the provinces. With a decade of life experience I was better able to understand the dynamics of influence, wealth and money that had largely gone over my head earlier.
posted by shirobara at 8:59 AM on April 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Batman - the 60s TV show starring Adam West. When it was brand new and I was just turned seven, it was the most amazing thing ever. Action packed, nerve wracking. Intense. By the time I was eight or nine though, it was awful. Totally ridiculous. Only a fool could take any of it seriously. Then, approaching my eleventh birthday, I finally "got it". It was supposed to be ridiculous. I started laughing and I haven't stopped since. So profound a revelation that to this day I can't take superhero-anything seriously. The more gritty and real they are presented, the more absurd. My bullshit detectors erupt. I turn and walk away.

Now I'm in my sixties and half-hoping I'm wrong about all that -- that I might somehow find something to love in the Marvel universe and beyond. It's certainly proving very difficult to avoid.
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on April 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I have so enjoyed reading your thoughtful responses and now have a whole bunch of books and other media to track down. Thank you!
posted by jeszac at 11:29 AM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: * The Giving Tree. Already been discussed. What a nasty, depressing story. Not much there in terms of character-building, generalizable life lessons. Looking back, it isn't clear to me why anybody thought this was a good fit for children. My guess is that people associated Shel Silverstein with kids' lit, and assumed everything he wrote was meant for kids.

* The Great Gatsby. So much better than I remembered it. I think I liked it at the time, but didn't really get it. I think I was just sad for Gatsby. Re-reading it, I paid more attention to Daisy and Tom, and how they (and their whole social set) were just 100% empty garbage humans.
posted by panama joe at 12:36 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch is a lovely extended meditation on exactly this question.
posted by yarrow at 1:34 PM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: in 2018 ish i watched the anime terror in resonance. i recognized the 9-11 reference but mostly watched it as a show about 2 kids trying to get revenge/recognition for their suffering, and i think i acknowledged lisa's struggles more than other people do. a few months later i read this review and did some more research. watching it now i can also appreciate it's full context, releasing in mid 2010s japan amid a right-wing political resurgence.

another one for me is the chinese show the untamed. nothing in particular changed for me between viewings but the second time i understood the reasoning behind madame yu's actions and stopped just hating her because she was aggressive.
posted by pfeffernusse at 1:42 PM on April 18, 2022

Best answer: I read Ling Ma's amazing book Severance twice: once in 2019 (so innocent re: the impending pandemic) and again in 2020. I've read a fair bit of post-apocalyptic lit, but this one hit different the first time because it was so lyrical, and obviously the second time due to the echoes of early COVID days (especially empty streets and faltering workplaces).
posted by Paper rabies at 4:03 PM on April 18, 2022

Best answer: Death Of A Salesman. Actors all want to play Willy and he is after all in the title, but sometime in my mid-thirties I realized that the play is about Biff. It starts with his arrival, and his getting sucked back into the toxic family and then escaping it once more forms the center of the action. When you realize that Miller was in his mid-thirties when he wrote it the whole thing makes a lot more sense.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I re-read Anne Rice's _The Witching Hour_ a couple years ago. First time I read it was in college and I loved it, found it so exotic and immersive and creepy and sexy. This most recent time I was laughing at the endless pages of the male lead's thinky-thought chatterings. Did he ever STFU?! The folks he was talking at could have left the room, made themselves a sandwich, drank a cup of coffee, gone to the bathroom for a lengthy session, and he'd still be talking his grandiose talkings when he got back.

TV: I re-watched _The Office_ recently. The first time I watched it years ago, I was annoyed at how Kelly's story ends, I thought the show was saying that Ryan had finally grown up and they were going to be happy together, and I thought that was so dumb and wrong and I felt bad for the nice boyfriend she abandoned. Now I realize they're just showing us that Kelly was always just as irredeemably terrible as Ryan, and that their story was just going to go on as it had been because they were actually well matched in their terribleness. That makes more sense.

When I first read _The Story of O_ I read it as a metaphor for obsessive, self-destructive love -- I thought that her need for her boyfriend's attention was driving her to do whatever he wanted, no matter how debased. Later I understood it wasn't about love or reluctance at all.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:47 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I first saw A.I. I found it to be a fairly schmaltzy mess, and it felt like a real letdown as the last Kubrick film that was taken over by Spielberg and turned from whatever it could have been, into this kid-oriented pablum with a few moments of 'edge' mostly drowned in a fairy tale arc. Later, I realized that the point of the film is that David is a complete sociopath, an entity designed with completely amoral desires and no sense of empathy, just a hunger for a specific feedback cycle based on the target he locked on. Once that mental frame is in place, the movie is rather brilliant and I've watched it at least a half dozen more times.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:43 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Life Hack: Don't revisit movies you loved in the 80s.

As a young viewer, it didn't register at all that Dr. Venkman, in Ghostbusters, had brought enough thorazine to put down a rhinoceros with him on a first date.
posted by mhoye at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Whoo boy. This thread is great, and I immediately had no doubt about my answer. In 2014 I made a Christmas mix CD, the last of a set of five. This one was called "Black & Blue Christmas" and it had all the dirty, profane Christmas songs I hadn't used in my previous mixes. Stuff like Eric Idle's "Fuck Christmas," Denis Leary's "Merry F'n Christmas," Ben Folds's "Bizarre Christmas Incident," and South Park's "The Most Offensive Song Ever."

I listen to this CD every Christmas and am proud of the compilation--except for one song that always makes me wince a little and wonder if I should have included it. That song is one of the few that doesn't have explicit language: Weird Al Yankovic's "The Night Santa Went Crazy."

I'm surprised that I wasn't already leery of this song when I made the mix, since Sandy Hook had already happened not far from where I live and work (and I'd already been vaguely freaked out by music right after that, in the form of Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot" on my car radio)--but with more and more mass shootings piling up, the "exaggerated" bloodbath of Yankovic's song started sitting REALLY wrong with me. I love Weird Al, but this song was a mistake. Everything I've ever seen about Yankovic says he's a decent, kind human being, and I've wondered if he's ever had second thoughts about the song as well.

I have no problems with filth at Christmas. I can't take violence anymore.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:33 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I read a couple of Kazuo Ishiguro books as a teenager and it felt like punishment, because what the fuuuuckk was he on about? Same for Arundhati Roy's God Of Small Things. I read the same books 20 years later, in my mid-late 30s, and they're literally my favorite books ever. I could fall down on my knees and weep for how beautiful they are.

I also heartily agree with jojobobo about Romeo & Juliet. It's gone from being a (sweet/sad --> stupid/trite --> nostalgic) story about teenagers falling in love... to something very different: a story about the adults, yes, and also a celebration of language. Christ, I sound like my godawful english teacher. But it's true. I can practically hear Shakespeare cackling now when I read Mercutio's long speeches, and I see such deep love of *language* in the love scenes. Shakespeare was playing when he wrote. He was having the time of his life, you can hear it and see it in every line. I get goosebumps!
posted by MiraK at 12:58 PM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Ghostbusters for the above reasons.
posted by Tesseractive at 5:09 PM on April 19, 2022

Best answer: (Chiming in after seeing this on the sidebar)

The movie Heat (1995) was a cool action movie when I was younger. Watching many years later, I saw it as showing how the men were sad and pathetic failures in their varied but similar ways. Having watched the movie many times years ago (it was the only VHS cassette we had and our cable wasn't installed yet), I suppose I'm also a bit desensitized to the violence, if I'm able to notice anything about the characters, because it is an incredibly violent movie.

Re-watching The X-Files, particularly the core mythology episodes, was very different from seeing it in my teens/twenties. Then, I liked it for the aliens and scheming and wild stories. Now, it seems remarkable at giving voices to people who would be outcast or disregarded, particularly women with medically unexplained or dismissed symptoms, and those with traumatic experiences who were not believed, but also anyone suspicious of the official government-supplied facts. It is disturbing how, almost all the time, the harm was actually caused by aliens or nefarious quasi-state actors, rather than abuse from ordinary people. I suppose that might be the flip-side of how the show questions why those reporting harm are not believed - Would you believe it was abuse? No, how about aliens? As a psychiatrist, seeing a show where so many implausible persecutory beliefs turn out to be factual and not delusional is fascinating. Especially because the plots map remarkably over stereotypical and still common delusional beliefs but also increasingly real technology and state-level actions.
posted by sillyman at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I first saw the film Groundhog Day, I thought it was funny and light entertainment and really enjoyed it. Watching it again last year, I was shocked by the way the main character behaves *after* he's meant to be likeable. He was much more ethical as an asshole at the start of the film than as a manipulative seduction artist at the end of the film. I also can't comprehend why he doesn't just tell people about what he's experiencing. What harm would it do? It's definitely a film that is more fun if you think about it less. I suspect incidentally bumping into pickup-artist culture and the critiques of it in the years between have changed my impression.

I re-read Les Misérables every five or six years. When I was a teenager, I thought Valjean was admirable. Lately, I've been struck by how much needless suffering he causes others. [spoilers for a 150 year old book] His factory lets management abuse the hell out of employees, he makes his daughter miserable and is jealous of her love in a creepy way, he makes everyone suffer for years by not revealing that he saved Marius (to be clear, Marius is even more of an asshole), his politics and religious beliefs are shockingly conservative given his history and the time. He's a really interesting jerk. Éponine is the only actual hero in the novel. (Which, I think, is not unintended. There's a reason it has the name that it does.) I'm not sure exactly why I read it differently now. Perhaps I've soured on all great-men-of-history narratives. Or, perhaps I now see myself as a middle-aged professional class person and recognize that Valjean wasn't a very responsible middle-aged professional class person.

(I won't provide a full analysis of The Never Ending Story. But, I will suggest that nobody who wants to continue to think of it fondly rewatch it as an adult.)
posted by eotvos at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I won't provide a full analysis of The Never Ending Story. But, I will suggest that nobody who wants to continue to think of it fondly rewatch it as an adult.

Alternatively: try reading the book it was based on. The point where Bastian makes a wish over the seed from the Childlike Empress comes halfway through the book - the movie has Bastian wish everything back to the way it was, but the book is much different, goes on for much longer, and is a much richer story. And is itself something that might hit you different as an adult than as a child.

Also seconding Romeo and Juliet and, like, 30% of the John Hughes films.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on April 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I first saw Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man it struck me as being a pretty hilarious and cringe look at a total freak who's hubris led to his demise (a bear ate him). I rewatched it not long ago and while I still love the movie, I see it for the achingly sad story it is. See also: the craziest episodes of that show Intervention. When I was younger I only saw the nutty reality tv appeal of the show, but now I'm older and much more sensitive to the myriad sufferings a person can endure in this wicked world.
posted by cakelite at 11:34 AM on April 20, 2022

Best answer: I loved The Mill on the Floss when I was in high school - it was one of my favorite books. I loved Maggie and suffered along with her in her unfair, awful world. But I've tried twice to reread it over the last couple of years and I just can't get past the first few chapters. The stupid stubborn awfulness of the characters is so deep.

Maybe it's just Trump PTSD, but I just can't handle how well Eliot shows the way "moral society" works, without any empathy for the people getting crushed. It's not about Maggie anymore - I know what's coming and I can't rescue her and I just don't want to see it happening. Eliot had set her up to fail to prove a point. And the point sucked, and it still sucks. I just thought at the time it was only a 19th century problem.
posted by Mchelly at 1:02 PM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a movie called "Searching for Bobby Fisher" that, when I saw it way back when, was a movie about a chess prodigy and how crazy the world of competitive chess is. Re-watched it recently to discover a story about toxic masculinity and how it intersects with sports. Still a great film.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:44 PM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I read The Hobbit as a kid, I didn't really get it.

When I read it as a middle-aged man, I realized it was a caper a la Ocean's Eleven, featuring a reluctant middle-aged man as its hero.
posted by clawsoon at 2:06 PM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a young teen with no relationship experience watching Heathers, I found Christian Slater’s character’s “passion” for Winona Ryder’s character completely intoxicating and wished they could wind up together (yes, despite his actions in the third act. I thought he was just in so much pain and she could help.) Obviously, real-world relationships have made me terrified for her and glad she was able to extract herself alive. Almost ashamed to admit that but I guess if he wasn’t appealing, nobody would like the movie.

On my last rewatch, it occurred to me that Heathers shares a thematic structure with Fight Club. Christian Slater is the 80’s teen equivalent of Tyler Durden, a charismatic anarchist seducing a disaffected protagonist into nihilistic rejection of existing social structures.

My headcanon is that after the cafeteria “shooting”, the real Jason is expelled and exits the story, but Veronica is so inspired by the incident that she adopts him as an alternate personality. From that point on Jason is just a hallucination.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:55 PM on April 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I can't remember how old I was when I first saw the fourth-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "The Visitor", but it would have been somewhere in my early teens. I thought it was a very good episode after that first viewing, but the emotional weight of it missed me completely. Watching it again a few years after my father died when I'd just turned 21, I realized how remarkable a piece of television it is in its depiction of grief at the loss of a parent.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 4:44 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've read The Great Gatsby three times, twice for classes and once on my own. The first time was your basic high school reading of it, the second was in a college class taught by a socialist-leaning professor (a lot of the book's class dynamics were covered that time), and the third, for pleasure, brought me to appreciate the flow and beauty of the prose itself.

In other mediums, Bloom County is more interesting to me as an adult, now that I know more about the cultural and political situation in the 1980s. IDW's hardcover reprints of the strip contain several historical notes, which helps. The first time I played Final Fantasy VIII was primarily for the story, which, as it turned out, was bonkers. Some time after that, I embarked on a second playthrough because I wanted to mess around with the gameplay systems, sidequests, and so forth, and had a much better time. That second playthrough also had me coming away with a deeper appreciation of the soundtrack, which is now my favorite in the Final Fantasy series.

There's probably others, but those are the ones that came to mind the fastest.
posted by May Kasahara at 7:52 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Reading the Bible as a kid being raised in a church that believed in Biblical inerrancy, versus reading the Bible as an atheist adult. As a kid, it was just all true and all from God. As an adult, it's interesting to notice how the characters of each of the writers shaped it. Paul is a big one I've been thinking about lately: He was the most important founder of the religion built around Jesus, but he doesn't seem to care about anything Jesus actually said. He's got his own agenda, and his agenda is all about dead Jesus. It would've been very inconvenient for Paul if Jesus had still been alive.
posted by clawsoon at 10:35 AM on April 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I thought Romeo and Juliet was kind of romantic when I was 14 but I just watched Speilberg's West Side Story and while I thought it was very watchable, with some delicious dance sequences ("America" and "Cool" were absolutely faboo to watch), I spent a lot of the latter part of the movie just infuriated at Maria for not caring about her brother's death, and I simply couldn't buy into such senseless loss of life at all.

I used to watch a lot of things and imagine "what if that happened to me" and it always seemed ok because I could be cocky and think "well I would be smarter and have a better outcome" but now that I'm a parent and realize how infinitely precious and irreplaceable my own children are, I watch everything while internally screaming, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH YOUR PARENTS LOVE YOU?? HOW DARE YOU RISK YOUR ONE PRECIOUS LIFE!
Being a parent has made me a bit of a buzzkill I guess
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:57 PM on April 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer:
I can't remember how old I was when I first saw the fourth-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "The Visitor", but it would have been somewhere in my early teens.
Interesting. I'm still not too excited about that particular episode, though I can see the appeal and appreciate the discussion. It also reminds me that most of DS9 gets better every time I watch it. It aired when I was a teenager and I was both annoyed that it wasn't TNG (NOT MY TREK!) and frustrated by the degree that it took religion seriously. In the last re-watch, I saw that part much more as a meditation on how secular and religious people interact, with some real subtlety, especially when it comes to Kira and Sisko's interaction.

That there's so much hard evidence for miracles clouds that understanding a bit. But, one could imagine the miracles we see on-screen are recollections from an unreliable narrator. Most of the discussion of race and politics/war also actually a lot more thoughtful than I realized the first time through. They still fuck up gender pretty badly, and lack imagination along that axis compared to the average '70s studio musician, but at least they made *some* attempts. That's definitely not a critique I would have been able to recognize when it aired.

With apologies for thread-sitting on Trek, the thing I've most changed my mind about is the ethics of the Federation in TOS/TNG/non-reboot films. When I was a kid, I loved both Measure of a Man and The Drumhead. They showed a justice crusader winning! With words! Thirty years later, I recoil in horror that the characters I love are willing to accept such a horribly broken and unjust system. Their legal system makes the US today look pretty reasonable. At least we have appeals before you can be disassembled and you don't have to rely on an amateur lawyer with no time to prepare and the opinions of a single judge. Well, in principle. The only appropriate response to seeing the trial in Measure of a Man is to join the Maquis. Tom Riker was right. It's hard not to conclude that Picard, Kirk, and every admiral you've met is actually a brutal, despotic colonizer, even in the episodes that don't feature pan-pipes. (I really want to believe Sulu is just misinformed and means well.)
posted by eotvos at 3:37 PM on April 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "The Adventures of Augie March" - I read it twenty years ago and I liked it then. But then this year I listened to it as an audiobook, and I LOVE it. So this is a strange case of the same work in a different media. The book is written densely, with beautifully sounding sentences, but I didn't really appreciate that extra dimension until I heard it read out loud. Plus after a decade writing fiction and stories, I am much more appreciative of writers who can work magic with words.
posted by storybored at 9:34 PM on April 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was young, I thought Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were funny. When I became a civil servant, I realised they were fucking documentaries.
posted by rjs at 11:43 AM on April 24, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A scene that comes to mind, for me, is in Return of the Jedi:

Luke's determination, upon looking at the stump of Vader's arm after Luke severed it, that he was about to repeat Vader's choice: using anger and hate for the power it seems to bring.

Luke looks at his own hand, sees the cycle at work, the realization crosses his face, and he throws his own saber down. Then he says it: "Never. I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

I grew up not knowing my father. Still do not know him. My mom took her knowledge of him to her grave. Tools like Ancestry.com have not been helpful for finding out anything about him. I don't have an Obi-wan or Yoda to give me any context.

When I saw that scene originally, it moved me powerfully. Luke was rejecting the choice his failed father had made. A father he never knew. Breaking a terrible cycle.

But back then those final two sentences, while they landed strong, I never quite understood them: "I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

Back then we didn't have the Clone Wars cartoon, or the Prequels, to understand that Anakin wasn't a simple villain driven by power, or a desire for order, to lead him to follow the path he did.

Anakin did it out of grief and fear of loss. Loss he had suffered much of already. Fear. And before his turn to the dark side, he had managed that fear, and had done positive things with it, rather than using it as a drive for anger and power. He was a Jedi. Maybe without the false war Palpatine had staged, and his whisperings in his ear, he might have made a better choice.

Anyways.. as a kid I hated the thought of my non-existent father. I was determined to do everything I could to not be like him per what little my mom had told me about him.

Now, I wonder what was behind his decisions. And I have empathy. While I make different choices, I do so without a sense of "fuck you I choose different", and now merely with a meek hope I am choosing well for others and myself.
posted by kmartino at 8:10 AM on April 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly? Every time I watch Shrek I gain some new pearl of wisdom from the depths of that murky swamp.

(I'm currently on rewatch #231)
posted by passengera34 at 12:17 PM on May 2, 2022

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