Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yojimbo Rewound: Samurai Baby

We were not going to let him watch TV.

We swore this, not just because the books warned us against the dire effects of TV watching on infants, but because we ourselves hardly watch any TV. In fact, what we do watch these days tends to be limited to old Akira Kurosawa samurai movies and science fiction adventure movies.

We were good, and we were good. Our TV rested dormant as our ancient VCR sat gathering dust, used only as the occasional distraction by our toddler who liked to experiment with trying to reach the buttons.

And then, one day we broke down. We popped in a casette of Yojimbo, the classic Akira Kurosawa film that A Fist Full of Dollars was based on. (Clint Eastwood? Spaghetti western? Ring a bell, yes?)

Toshiro Mifune, the star of Yojimbo, plays a seasoned samurai who sets two warring gangs against each other to clean the town of their nasty, scummy, big-bad-brutal-yet-morally-cowardly influence. A pure tale, yes? Well, aside from the violence, the dancing girls, the violence, the war, the swordplay, and, well, the violence, it's really pure stuff.

So we play it. And Junior barely seems to notice. We breathe a sigh of relief. The next time we watch Yojimbo, he pays a bit more, but still very little, attention. Not really worried anymore, we plunge into what can only be called a Yojimbo spree. Peppered only by a soupcon of Sanjuro (the sequel, which is to For a Few Dollars More as Yojimbo was to A Fist Full of Dollars), it's Yojimbo pretty much with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

(I may have forgotten to mention that one side effect of almost never watching TV is that when you do break down, it's binge city.)

And I have to say, all in all, Junior's showing no ill effects. Oh, I watch him to see if he's inclined to grab sticks and wave them about or to try that studly little samurai shoulder twist Toshiro Mifune does, but so far, nada. Admittedly, his chattering is more intelligibly Japanese than English, but...what's the harm in that?

And yet, recently I've had cause to wonder if babies can be passive aggressive. If they wanted, for example, to communicate, "I'm tired of Yojimbo. Pop in Speed Racer, please," would they, do you think, wait until you're at the very last scene, the climactic moment in the midst of the climactic fight, which, even though you've seen it before fifty times, is the exciting part that you've been waiting for, and then demonstrate for you at this very critical time that they've at last grown tall enough to reach the rewind button?

I'm proud of Junior. He has grown taller and more savvy, and he can reach the rewind button, and he chooses his moment perfectly. But I like to think we get some of the credit. I mean, not to brag, but if we hadn't watched so much Yojimbo with him, would he ever have been motivated to try so hard?

As he's learned to walk and manipulate objects, there have been other incidents: The Mysterious Case of the Missing Tax Forms. The Day I Found the Diaper in the Dresser Drawer. The Sweet Potato Carpet Caper.

And let's not forget the early indications of a future career in IT as our toddler diligently tests the stability of his father's computer, making the green light go on and off, on and off, on and off, in quick succession.

Each one, of course, a distinct shock to the system. But the Yojimbo rewind incident holds a special place in my heart, because all these other things are innately interactive.Yojimbo  is not. Yojimbo was born to be watched, not rewound. Yet Junior holds by no rules. He makes them. He is, dare I say it, a true samurai baby.

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1 comment:

susie said...

Love the manner by which we see, actually see, by your description, Junior as he interacts with his to-him-all-new world. You should seriously consider going into writing for a living. Hilarious; loved it.