This weekend I was sitting in a lakehouse by a fireplace with my family, enjoying the last moments of winter coziness, watching old Charlie Chaplin movies. They're just what you'd expect--the little tramp has a cute waddle-walk, and slapstick abounds. I wasn't expecting to reflect on our economy, necessarily, even though Chaplin was created for the Depression generation.
My five year old son Jamie loved the bits where Charlie ducks from taking punches from a Strong Man archetypal character, and the music made him dance. But a lot of the jokes flew directly over his typically adroit little head.
For example: In once scene, Charlie is a farm hand and his "master" comes into his tiny bedroom to room to kick his lazy arse out of bed. Charlie leaps up, only to fall back into bed. This happens like fifty times. Jamie says Ha Ha Ha. When finally having been coerced up, Charlie must make Master breakfast. He puts fifty sugar cubes into his own cup of tea, and a comparatively meager few in Master's cup. When the tea is poured, Charlie's is visibly dense. Master shouts (silently, with dramatic music only, of course) I Told You To Sweeten the Tea, Not Thicken the Tea!
Charlie's response? He takes one of the stale pieces of bread off the top of the stack (because that's breakfast, of course) and smears his bread with his thick tea.
Jamie's response? No five year old Ha Ha Ha; he just doesn't get the humor in wasted rations. Nor in the antics at the flophouse where Charlie had to smuggle a little orphan boy in order to have a place to sleep (played by the pint-sized Jackie Coogan, who was in real life being looted by his parents during the Depression). In the end, Chaplin gets to keep the Kid, even after being scrutinized by child welfare after Kid takes Ill and a sad state of affairs is found at home. No wonder no more Five year old Ha Ha Ha.