“Dad, there’s no real magic in the world, right? Like, this second, there’s no elves in the world, right?” a young boy named Mason asks his father in Boyhood, a lovely heart-warming movie about relationships and discovering yourself. The movie was filmed over 12 years with the same cast, and follows the journey of 7-year old Mason into adulthood. His father reluctantly says no to his question, and you can see that moment as a significant turning point in Mason’s life. It’s as if the magic of the boy’s childhood just evaporated and was lost forever. I was deeply touched by this scene as by the whole movie. It’s a movie without any real plot, but it doesn’t really need one as it’s not trying to make a point; it is just a one that is.
Curious, I asked my 5-year old the next day if he thought there is magic in the world. His answer? An empathic no! I persisted, asking him why he didn’t believe in fairies or elves or witches. Or why Harry Potter or superheroes were not real. He insisted they weren’t and simply stated ‘because I know’ and when pushed more, reluctantly went on to explain “I have been to so many countries mom but I haven’t seen any magic”. The boy had a point! Not to discount my little travellers theory but there is another reason why my child doesn’t believe in magic.
Ever since he could talk, and being precocious that started very early, he would ask if something existed or not, if it was real or made-up. It seemed like his life mission was to find out what really existed and what was just stories. Contrast this with my 3-year-old who is blissfully unaware (or at least pretends to be) about the realness of things and doesn’t seems to care much about it – his world as I see it is full of endless possibilities. What fun to be able to imagine a man on the moon or Batman fighting crime in Gotham City or a planet full of transformers.
Kids these days have a lot of exposure to and knowledge about completely unimportant and irrelevant things, thanks to the YouTube phenomenon. By the time my son reached 5 he had seen videos of space shuttle launches, car factories, scuba diving, garbage collection in action, flash mobs, toy reviews, construction trucks, clips teaching baking, sewing, tap dancing, taekwondo and even sofa making, all of these on request.
There is definitely a price to pay for all this passive visual stimulation. The knowledge of preliterate kids in the era long gone was limited to the knowledge of their parents. And given the average intelligence levels, it also means the there was a lot more room for imagination. At 5 if I wanted to know how a space shuttle takes off, I would probably have got a visual demonstration of it using props (Read: hands) or if my parents were feeling indulgent maybe a picture in the dusty old encyclopaedia.
The other day the older kid approached me, with the 153rd question of the day “What did hulk look like when he was a kid?” Me, distracted “Umm, not sure”. Without hesitation “Can you check the internet?” Scene re-enacted with the 3-year-old – I told him about the time I got hurt when I was a kid. He asked to see a picture, and upon being told there is none, he promptly states “Can you check the internet?” *facepalm*