“What stupidness is that you’re watching?”
This was a common phrase from my mother as I grew up. You see, growing up in my West Indian household, liking anything that was in the realm of “supernatural” was met with a snide remark, and a look of disgust.
In Beetlejuice, Lydia Deetz meets the Maitlands and they ask her the question about understanding the book, Handbook For the Recently Deceased. She remarks, “I, myself, am strange and unusual.” That right there is me in a nutshell.
It was pretty obvious from early on that I was going to be a little different from the rest. When I was about 6 years old, I found myself enamored with The Nightmare Before Christmas, something that would typically be a source of fright for younger children. Instead, the grayscale claymation flick with its pop of colors cemented itself as my all-time favorite movie during the holidays. And my mother was not impressed.
She would grow even more concerned with me when at the tender age of 12, I decided I was going to be an Egyptologist after watching and falling in love with The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Again, a 3,000-year-old mummy looking to wreak havoc on mankind would scare others off. Instead, I wanted to find more mummies, with my aspiration for the years to follow being to find the actual Imhotep, who in real life wasn’t such a bad guy.
My mother, however, hated the idea and tried to dissuade me from a career in archeology (but that’s another story).
Vampires, witches, ghost stories. I enjoyed it all and mom liked none of it. Sure, she was proud of my voracious appetite for learning, but then when she saw it leading me to things like an interest in tarot cards and ancient myths, she’d roll her eyes in exasperation.
“Why can’t you like something we can all enjoy?” she asked me as I happily watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring over Thanksgiving dinner one year. She didn’t care if Frodo made it to Mordor while she ate her tender piece of turkey, so I turned it off. But it didn’t stop me from continuing to consume all the supernatural entertainment I enjoyed, in spite of her disdain.
As I got older, I came to understand why she wasn’t a fan of my supernatural fandom. My mom grew up not entirely religious, but definitely spiritual. On our island of Trinidad, tales of the soucouyant (which was actually mentioned on an episode of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow) and jumbies were very prevalent and believed to be real. My mother recalls stories from her youth of neighbors being haunted by the spirits, so for her, the supernatural and fantastical things I enjoyed for entertainment value were a reality in her younger years. To her, me being interested in it was not only odd, but scary.
Understanding this, I would do my best to not blatantly revel in my fandom in front of her, but eventually I had to stand my ground.
One day, while watching Harry Potter — of all things — on television, I explained to my mother the “stupid” things I watched appealed to me because of the storylines it presented aside from the gore, dark magic, or fantasy. The battles of good vs. evil, the love story, or a coming-of-age tales they all had with just with a vastly different vehicle. She didn’t care for it and still protested. That’s when I decided to make the internal decision to say, “tough.”
Though it was hard at first to be so boldly defiant with my mother on things that I loved, it was made easier during one slip of her tongue when she disclosed her father (who passed many years before I was born) was a fan of Dark Shadows in the ‘60s and she was sure he would be pleased by the film adaptation coming out (starring Johnny Depp and Eva Green). At that moment, I learned I was not the lone weirdo in the family — my grandfather was a fan of the undead, ghouls, and ghosts, too!
Now, I watch every single supernatural show or film that fits my fancy thinking this is the way he and I would’ve bonded were he alive. My mom, his daughter, would just have to deal.