My Brother and the Movies

Megan Aldrup
    When David was little, he used to get up early in the morning and sneak downstairs to watch videos. He was obsessed with Disney’s Pinocchio, which we owned on VHS. My parents even bought a child-proofer for the VHS player, a plastic rectangle that locked into the slot and had to be squeezed on two tabs to be released. David figured that contraption out in about a week.
    “Some cognitive impairment,” my mom snorted. “If he wants something, he’ll figure out how to get it.”
    What David wanted was to watch his favorite scene from Pinocchio, the puppet show with the song “I’ve Got No Strings,” where Pinocchio dances clumsily around and gets his nose stuck in a floorboard. David watched that scene over and over and over again, laughing as Pinocchio’s legs got tangled up. Right in the middle of the dance, David pushed “rewind” and moved back thirty seconds or so to watch the same move again, and to laugh just as heartily. Our VHS tapes became worn out and tangled with all of the constant back-and-forth, because that’s how David always watched movies. We’re pretty sure the DVD was invented with him in mind.
    Besides skipping to his favorite scenes and watching them over and over ad nauseam or ad someone taking the remote away from him, David also loves to watch the special features of a DVD. Once, we were visiting my grandparents for a few days, and he had just received Shrek 2 as a gift. David, our friend Brian, and I were sleeping in my granddad’s trophy room, which is equipped with surround sound; this high-quality audio system is often turned up to a very high volume, since my granddad is too proud to admit to hearing loss. David had been watching all the special features of his new DVD on the previous day, like the interviews and the behind-the-scenes and, of course, the outtakes, until my dad had finally made him put the movie away. Apparently, David felt that he hadn’t exhausted all of the options available to him, so when he got up at some ungodly hour in the morning, he popped in the DVD and navigated to the section marked “Sneak Previews.”
    “HI, I’M BEN STILLER AND I’D LIKE TO TELL YOU ABOUT A NEW MOVIE CALLED MADAGASCAR!” blared out at Volume 60 in full surround-sound glory. Like a sped-up version of Nosferatu, Brian and I both awoke, shot up to 90° angles, and yelled, “David!” At our urging, David took the volume down and turned off the TV, but I was still annoyed. It was three years before I consented to watch Madagascar.
    One good thing about special features, I guess, is that they helped in the discussion about film versus reality. When David was young, around mid-elementary school age, that distinction was hard to grasp. The concept of “actors” was quite tricky, too. My mom was always trying to reinforce the idea that things can happen in movies that can’t happen in real life, like people surviving grievous bodily injury.
    “... and then the Black Knight gets both of his legs chopped off!” David told her with relish, retelling his favorite part of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    “Now, is that real, David?” my mom asked.
    “No, it isn’t real. People don’t actually cut other people’s limbs off, because that would be bad. That’s an actor pretending to be the Black Knight, and there are special effects to make it look like he’s really hurt.” My mom explained it all very slowly and carefully, wanting to make the point very clear. David dutifully repeated the facts to let her know he understood.
    “The blood’s not real blood?”
    “Just - pretend blood.”
    Honestly, I don’t think he really cared. David’s very able to ignore distinctions about reality and immerse himself in fiction, and movies are a great way to do that. I probably didn’t help by playing the make-believe games with him, when we were both past the acceptable age for make-believe. (That’s one of the advantages of being from a special needs family: you don’t have to act your age. Since David isn’t held to the same standards of maturity as other people, I can still occasionally watch Veggie Tales, have splash fights in the pool, and even play pretend, as long as I have him to do it with me.)
    “OK,” he commanded me, “You be the Black Knight, and I’m King Arthur.”
    “OK,” I said, and crossed my arms. “None shall pass,” I began, reciting the lines by heart. Like my dad before me, I was a bit of a Monty Python geek in junior high.
    “I have no quarrel with you, good sir knight,” said my brother in his English accent. He also had the lines memorized, but that wasn’t unusual for him. Ever since he was a little kid watching Pinocchio, David has had an awesome memory for movie quotes and song lyrics; it probably has something to do with all the re-playing that he does.
    We continued, King Arthur attempting to pass, the Black Knight blocking his way, until the fight began. Holding our hands around imaginary hilts, we swung at each other with little “huh” and “tch” sounds until David got me.
    “Cut your arm off!” he gloated, going off-script so I’d be aware of my own injuries. I groaned and let my arm drop limply to my side.
    “’Tis but a scratch,” I told him, and we carried on. Next I dropped my other arm to my side and charged him headfirst.
    David made a “sch!” sound effect as I barreled past. “Ha! Got your legs!” he told me. I knelt on the carpet. Normally, here King Arthur would pass by the head and torso of the Black Knight as he continued to shout, “I’ll bite your kneecaps off!”
    Instead, David did the same thing he’d do with a DVD. “OK, let’s start over,” he said. Rewind, replay, repeat.
    “You’re the Black Knight this time,” I told him.