An Ogre Ate My Song

(First published in Le News edition 23, 1 – 7 May 2014)

I try not to be judgemental, I really do. Treasure can often be found in the most surprising places; truffles don’t immediately present themselves as edible, let alone delicious, and so on. But I must admit, I’m losing the battle – I’m complaining a lot and my family thinks I’m boring.

For example, it causes me great pain that my children will probably always refer to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as ‘that song from Shrek’.

Not that they like it very much.

‘I think it’s mean,’ the seven-year-old told me. ‘Someone tied someone else to a chair, and broke their throne and cut their hair. That’s not nice.’

‘Well,’ I rushed in, ‘it’s not really about that.’

‘What’s it about?’

What indeed. Passionate, destructive love. Bliss. Transcendence. Obsession.

Erm … nothing. You’re right. It’s just mean. Very mean!’

Anyway, my point is that, for the rest of their lives, every time they hear that beautiful, tortured song, the children are going to think of a green ogre. And every time they hear ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, they’re going to think of Pixar’s Up. Now, Up is lovely and I’m glad they saw it, but I wish they could experience this stuff in its original context before it’s used in a movie. Or worse, in an ad. You don’t get those out of your head. I don’t know what the situation is in the rest of the world, but there’s a generation of South Africans who struggle to think of Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ as anything other than ‘the song from the Old Spice ad’.

And yesterday I stumbled upon some information that froze my blood. The ZhuZhu Pets – fluffy toy things with names like Ipsy-Woo and Tiddly-Pop –  have released a CD of Beatles covers. I only managed to listen to the first five seconds of ‘All My Loving’ before my teeth fell out. Under no circumstances can the four-year-old  find out about this: I’m no musical purist but the first Beatles songs my children hear will not be sung in squeaky voices by toy hamsters.

Books can be a problem too. Just about every other week I have to lay down the law afresh about Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

‘Please, Mommy! We want to see it! Ple-e-ease,’ my daughters wail.

But they’re not allowed to until they’ve read the book. Honestly, there are some things that just should not be Disneyfied. It’s not that I think severe deformity, emotional pain, public hangings, betrayal and murder aren’t the stuff of great children’s movies. It’s just that I’d like them to experience the power of the book before they see Quasimodo dancing around and singing a duet with a cute little gargoyle friend.

Same with Monster High dolls, which the children are clamouring for.

‘If I buy you that Draculaura fashion doll,’ I explained, ‘I’ll be normalising the undead and robbing you of your chance to be scared silly by your first vampire movie.’

That was when they denounced me as boring, and I sloped off to my room to be old and grumpy by myself. Actually, I had a nice time: I listened to some music by the guy who wrote that song from Shrek.