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Great moments in (my) pop culture history: My Firestarter fixation.

July 4, 2010

I don’t recall exactly when I saw Firestarter – it was not in a movie theater but I wasn’t much older than I was when it originally came out in 1984 – but I somehow remember the first video store I rented it from. It was in one of the many Massachusetts towns my Dad lived in throughout my childhood/adolescence and, while I don’t remember which one, I remember it had a yellow exterior, it was across the street from a restaurant we frequently ate at and it was the place that introduced me to this wonderful, wonderful film. Now I know lots of people would disagree with me describing it as thus but I say so for two totally personal, totally biased reasons: 1) As a kid I wanted almost nothing more than to have superhuman powers and 2) The only thing I wanted more than that was to spend lots of time with my Dad. My parents divorced when I was 2 and I saw Dad on alternating weekends. But, despite a lot of glaringly obvious problems that a kid could overlook or ignore, I used to wish I could live with him. And if we could both also have super powers and be on the run from a shadowy government agency who made it possible for us to have said super powers to begin with? All the better! And David Keith who plays the father in Firestarter could totally have been my Dad!

1) He had facial scruff and kind of unruly hair. My Dad had both of those things!

2) He perpetually wore a beige/gold corduroy blazer and that was the only kind of blazer (or “sport coat” as he called them) that my Dad owned!

5) His daughter’s name was “Charlie” (Charlene) and my name is Chris! They both start with “Ch”!

4) He did that whole gruff and tough thing really well but then would be really sweet and loving to his kid when she needed sweet and loving father time. And my Dad was pretty much aces at that.

Sure, there were some differences. Like I don’t know if David Keith’s character’s favorite cocktail was a Manhattan (maybe he worked that in as part of his character building?) and my Dad did not get pinprick hemorrhage-induced nosebleeds from “pushing” people with his superior mental powers. But hey, I was willing to overlook those differences and that was all that mattered. I honestly must have rented Firestarter from that first video store, the one near my house in New Hampshire and subsequent video stores throughout my youth more than 2 dozen times. I think the only video I rented more was the G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra 5-parter until my Mom finally bought the video for me because she had basically already done so in video rental fees. I think the only reason she didn’t do the same with Firestarter is because she knew how much time I spent in my room staring at inanimate objects willing them to catch fire and probably figured I didn’t need any encouraging. But she should have realized that since I didn’t have enough hair to blow around while I tried to jumpstart my pyrokinesis that it would never actually happen.

My Dad died of lung cancer in September of 2008. And I realized I haven’t watched Firestarter since then – and I have a penchant for re-watching beloved films and TV shows as a way to comfort myself during difficult times. But I think it would have been too painful at first to see that cinematic avatar of my Dad – the one who got to spend every second with his kid even if they spent it on the run and fearing for their lives. And I know I certainly couldn’t handle the death scene at the end. Hell, I could barely handle it during the many viewings when my Dad was healthy and alive. But I like knowing that it’s sitting there on my DVD shelf waiting for me whenever I want to revisit my two childhood fantasies of super powers and an ever-present Dad.

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