Will McKinley recently wrote a truly wonderful post over at his blog. In it he described the heartache that classic film fans suffer as our idols grow old and pass on, and how this is the price we have to pay for loving these films and their stars as much as we do. I think that while we suffer for our love we also receive the opportunity to do and be more because of it.
Inside every classic film fan is an old soul yearning to find its counterpoint in the world. Sometimes we get lucky and find new friends on Twitter, Facebook, or (most rare of all) in the real world. But for the most part classic film fans are a less than popular option when it comes to finding a hobby. And that is where I think something important happens. It happens when we realize and accept that being a classic film fan isn’t just a hobby for the weekends but rather it is a way of life. Classic films, their actors and directors, the music, the books, the fashion, everything from that time seeps into our hearts and souls and finds purchase there, changing us forever. It is because of this that we are so deeply affected by the passing of yet another classic film star, but it is also because of this that we have the chance to do something greater…a chance to save history.
Let’s be honest, in today’s society things that are old are not considered worthwhile or given much respect. This goes for clothes, books, movies, music, and even people. Before my son was born I worked as a nurse in an intensive care unit, and I saw first hand how the elderly are treated, more often than not, like children or idiots or burdens rather than what they are which is young people who got old. I saw how doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, even their own family members left the room as quickly as possible instead of sitting and trying to talk with them. I saw the empty rooms with no visitors for days and weeks on end. I saw the people forgotten in beds, with no one to help them move to the chair next to the window. Now I wasn’t perfect, I had days where I was busy or tired and didn’t do the best job I could have. But for the most part I tried to give these patients a little extra time and comfort. I tried to talk with them, to hear a story or two, to return to them a little of the respect and dignity that had been lost to them, and at the very least I tried to see if they liked TCM. And in return I was given smiles, pats, the occasional attempt at a cash tip, a few flirts, and stories about lives and times that were long past. I heard from a man who was supposed to be in the first wave of the planned invasion of Japan during WWII and who later travelled to New York and saw the perfect game in baseball. A woman who used to hide the dinner rolls in her purse told me about how she and her husband travelled doing USO tours during the war. I heard stories about children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers, and these are stories I still remember to this day.
Classic film fans are a window to a part of our past and our history that is starting to be forgotten. As the living links to this time begin to fade away we remain, standing resolute against the dimming light. Even though it isn’t popular or “cool” it is something that is needed and vital for what we hope society can be. I’m not foolish enough to think that the time of classic films was an ideal utopia that we should bring back in its entirety, but I do think that there are certain pieces and attitudes of it that are needed today. Like knowing your neighbor, like having a sense of community and pride in that community. In this world a child can’t walk to the park down the street by himself without fear of his parents being arrested for neglect, people are more likely to text someone than call, email than write a letter, Facebook than actually go and see someone face to face. We seem to have lost the sense of strength and togetherness we used to have, the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, and the respect for each other and the world around us. But as classic film fans we still see those values and attitudes reflected back at us in the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, and the books we read. And we have a chance to help keep all that alive, to continue standing firm holding up our small lights in the approaching darkness, showing anyone and everyone that classic films not only matter but that they are important, smart, fun, and life changing. And all we have to do is watch the films we love, read the books we enjoy, and listen to the stories that people want to tell us.