One of my favorite things to do with Paul when we travel for work is indulge in a movie. Something about meetings being done, no kids or cats to tie us down…it feels indulgent in a way that seeing a movie in San Francisco doesn’t.

In New York this past week, we saw Knives Out. TMI, I know, but I had to pee for most of the movie but dared not get up because I didn’t want to miss a single moment of it. It was not just one of those “Why don’t they make mysteries like this anymore?” sort of movies. It wasn’t simply a call back to the classic Agatha Christie-like genre, which Paul and I love; it was that genre perfected. 

Put another way, if I were a filmmaker, the success of Knives Out would make me less likely to make a murder mystery. Because it’d be near-impossible to get every element of it that perfect. For instance, it was far better than the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express which had the luxury of a great cast and excellent source material. 

Even Daniel Craig’s Southern accent was impeccable. And as a Southerner, I can’t think of the last time I said that of an actor. 

The film felt like a throwback, plucking all the right nostalgia notes. It was a superbly written, superbly cast, superbly acted film that was both gripping but had the courage to be funny in a way that could have come off as slapstick, but came off as endearing instead. There were no major special effects. There was little spectacle, save the story itself. 

And yet, it was modern and original at the same time. And I don’t just mean people were texting and there were references to Instagram. The family lived on both sides of the polarized racial divide in this country and some scenes were way too close to many folks’ Thanksgiving dinner conversations. (It exaggerated both sides, without falling into false equivalence.) 

Despite centering on a rich, white family, the movie managed to have a more diverse cast than the average, in terms of gender, experience, age, body type and race. (Not equivalent to diversity in society, which should be the bar, but more so than the genre has typically.) The challenge of being an immigrant was front and center in a way that felt like “yeah, this is just life for a lot of folks in this country,” not a movie about immigrants. Characters were mostly in those roles not because the role called for “a black character” but to mirror how society itself looks. 

This was fresh on my mind after we had a playdate with one of Evie’s friends and watched the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. One friend had never seen it before.

“Why aren’t there any brown or black people in this?” the six-year-old asked me. 

“Because it was made a long time ago, when filmmakers were mostly white, and they didn’t think that movies and TV shows needed to reflect the diversity in society. It’s weird to see, isn’t it? There’s something else weird about this film: Only the boy reindeers are allowed to pull Santa’s sleigh.”

“Whoa!” all three kids erupted. “What is up with THAT?” 
Our generation may note and applaud when films and television actually mirror the diversity of the world, but the kids of today are jarred and annoyed when it doesn’t. I’m excited to see where that expectation drives filmmakers as these kids edge into that coveted teen demo in another ten years or so. It’s our job as parents to keep them asking the uncomfortable questions about race, gender, and sanitized holidays like Thanksgiving.

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

* * * *