Wonder: How the first movie we ever see shapes us as adults

The Secret of NIMH
The Secret of NIMH

Yesterday, Marc Maron had director Todd Haynes on his WTF podcast. They talked about the first movies they’d ever seen in a theater and how those movies shaped them. The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Secret of NIMH. I was 6. Right around that same time, my grandmother took me to see the original movie Annie. Those two movies shaped my love of powerful and personal narratives.

The Secret of NIMH fostered my already deep love for animals and my disdain for those who are cruel to them. The main character, Mrs. Brisby (a rat) was caring and compassionate, but also tough and brave. That was the first time I realized one person could be all of those things. She felt compelled to protect those she loved, and also to protect and rescue those who were being marginalized.

Annie showed me that we can define the word “family” on our terms, and demonstrated how music can unite people and move a story along. I also remember being completely wowed by the Indian character, Punjab, and I absolutely loved the dancing. If I close my eyes, I can still see that mansion. I couldn’t believe that anyone had a house that big and that extravagant.

I guess it’s no wonder that I ended up working in theater and environmental conservation, and why my passion for those causes continues to this day. It all started when the lights went down in a theater, and a light started to glow in me.

What was the first movie you saw in a theater and how did it shape you?