This past Sunday was a monumental day in my life as a father. I took my son to his first movie in a theater. At just under 4-years-old, he is already a movie buff, but like most of his generation, he watches his movies on a variety of mobile devices. (He also stayed for the entire Gene Wilder retrospective at the JCC, which counts mostly for trauma.) But this was his first new release in a cineplex. He is a huge fan of the Pixar “Cars” series and was excited to see the third installment.
We got up early in the morning to catch a non-3D presentation of the film (I’m a purist) at the plush VIP seating of the 84th Street AMC. As we watched the movie, my son laughed and engaged, and when snuggling up in the cold theater he gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek.
I was so happy he was having such a positive experience. But towards the end of the film, I found myself in tears and truthfully, it had more to do with my 9-month-old daughter.
A major subplot of “Cars 3” follows Cruz Ramirez, a “female” (I’m not sure how car anatomy works) race car trainer who despite being very capable, was never given the opportunity to be a racer herself. There is something about someone not being included in something they love that strikes a deep chord in my soul.
This is what I stand up for, and this is what drives me to engage with festivals like ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival or the Other Israel Film Festival. Something happens to me when I hear that someone is excluded or told that they cannot do something or be a part of something.
About 8 months ago, at my daughter’s naming, I stood before many friends and family and cried as I spoke about Lia’s name. What moved me beyond the memories of our amazing grandmothers, her namesakes, whose legacies were kept alive, was an amazing feeling that Lia would grow up in a world where no one would tell her that there is something she can’t do because she is a woman.
But this was in a more innocent time when I had good faith that Hillary Clinton would be our next president.
Beyond the politics, one of the reasons I felt good about voting for Hillary was knowing that my daughter would never be told that she can’t be something she wants.
So I sat in “Cars 3” crying, because one of the things we lost in November, was that promise I made her.
Pixar does a beautiful job in bringing this point home as the hero of the film, Lightning McQueen himself realizes that he, too, is guilty of holding Ramirez back. We have all been guilty, knowingly or unknowingly, of excluding someone. Often exclusion does not come with bad intentions. Often it is as simple as the tone or perspective in which we present things.
Yet that means can do a better job at including absolutely everyone. This is the world I want both of my children to grow up in.