Tuesday, March 9, 2010

They Are Gardeners and Carpenters (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes)

There has been a recurring theme lately that can roughly be summarized as "my childhood was fucking weird." We will continue that theme. Somewhere in the vicinity of three, I watched Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

I asked my mother why I saw this movie at that age. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Me: Why did I see Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?
Mom: Dad and I were watching it.
Me: But why did you let me watch it?
Mom: Why not?

That would have been 1985. Five years later, someone had the deeply inept idea of making a Saturday morning cartoon out of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, which is really the opposite of what you should do. A year later the TV series was adapted to a video game. I ignored all of these developments, because I was nine and my consumption habits were much more due to chance than design.

Despite Attack of the Killer Tomatoes being a formative experience in various bizarre ways that I am not wholly suited to describe, it is not a well I've gone back to in my adult life, due mostly to having never gotten around to buying the movies. So there's a certain unfamiliar familiarity to the concept. This sense is in no way helped by the fact that, frankly, Nintendo games are a poor medium for narrative evocation. What I can glean from this game is basically "there are tomatoes, and touching them kills youth" which actually basically amounts to "it does what it says on the tin."

And yet still in all of this there is a strange appeal. There is a certain madcap brilliance to a substantial world where you jump on tomatoes, breaking them into little cherry tomatoes that scatter off. It is not a game that I would necessarily play at length today, with decades of backlog to catch up on. But I wish I'd stumbled upon it when I was nine and formed the associations needed to love it today.

I'm sure the movie itself is not great either. But on the other hand, I've little doubt I would love it were I to slip it into my DVD player. Childhood will do that to you.

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