Back in 1993, I was watching the television when a preview came on for Jurassic Park - just the preview. I proceeded to spend the next ten years being chased and eaten by dinosaurs in my nightmares, while fighting back images of the T-rex chowing down on that guy on the toilet during the day. Now that I'm an adult, I decided to face my fears and watch the actual movie. After all, now I know that no one's on the verge of cloning dinosaurs, plus, Jeff Goldblum is in it. So, no problem.
Wrong. I watched Jurassic Park more than six months ago and that T-rex is back on a rampage in my head. What's weird is that I wasn't really scared while I was watching it, only occasionally startled at worst. It's just when I go to sleep that I remember that dinosaurs are freaking terrifying and there are crazy people who would totally try to clone them. And Jurassic Park isn't the only Steven Spielberg blockbuster that caused damage. I saw E.T. around the same time as I saw the infamous preview and that didn't go over well either. Towards the end of the movie, a lot of grownups in scary white suits hook E.T. and the little boy up to some terrifying machine that appears to be sucking the life out of them. The message I took away from E.T. is this - if a grownup in a white suit appears anywhere in the vicinity, RUN. This complicated trips to the pediatrician.
But E.T. isn't the only movie with traumatizing life-sucking machines. The Dark Crystal, which now that I'm an adult I consider an unheralded technical and artistic masterpiece, is a dark allegory about the nature of good and evil, but since Jim Henson made it, it got marketed towards kids. In this movie, the Skeksis (which now that I think about it are reminiscent of velociraptors) suck out the essence of the other races of creatures and drink it - cue the nightmares. They also control a race of beings somewhere between a mutant beetle and a tank. In fact, fantasy movies are perhaps some of the biggest culprits in the phobia-inducing department. While most traumatized people remember The NeverEnding Story for the horrific scene in which Atreyu's horse who is also his best friend gets sucked into a swamp that feeds off of sadness and (spoiler alert) he suffocates on the mud of sadness. Happily I never got that far. Unhappily, I didn't get that far because I was too busy being terrified by the first ten minutes in which a nothingness is engulfing the entire fantasy world like a black hole, if a black hole had red eyes and growled.
Then there's Disney, maker of many great films and mother-abandonment issues. And Old Yeller, which is about as appropriate for children as Saving Private Ryan. It's about a family's beloved dog that gets rabies and it ends exactly like it would in real life - they shoot the dog. I saw the movie when I was four and afterwards I wandered around the house in numb disbelief. I have now reached the fifth stage of grieving, acceptance, but I'll never forgive that frontier family. Only slightly less traumatizing is The Fox and the Hound, a charming animated film about two best friends who grow up to be homicidal hunting dog and vulpine victim. As far as I can tell the message of this movie is: don't kill your friends, but if your friends are different from you drop them immediately so you can get back to killing others of their kind.
But surely if there is one place that is trauma-free, it is Sesame Street. Wrong again. In Follow That Bird, Big Bird gets sent away from Sesame Street by a bird aid society so he can be with his own kind. His friends on Sesame Street start a rescue mission when they realize he wants to come home, but in the meantime, Big Bird has been kidnapped, imprisoned, painted blue, and forced to sing by the Sleaze brothers (literally). As a kid, this made me really nervous, but what really freaked me out was that they paint Big Bird blue. And then he sings this song:
Even though this time it seems
Like I'm such a long way
From any rainbows that might keep my dreams from fading
Oh, no wonder I'm so blue