Friday, June 21, 2013

Friendship Movie Magic

Three weeks back our girl asked me if we could go to the new My Little Pony movie.

At a theatre.
Despite crowds.
Despite popcorn smells.

She wanted, quite passionately, to see My Little Pony: Equestria Girls on the weekend of its premiere.

It would be hard for me to explain how unusual this is. Let's just say that I can't recall the last time we've gone to a movie theater. Possibly it was a screening of Monsters, Inc — the first one, not one of the sequels.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls was set to open on June 16th, Father's Day. That seemed an odd day to launch a movie if you actually wanted families to attend, but I put that out of my mind.  If her dad didn't want to come, he wouldn't mind our heading off to the movies and giving him an hour or two of peace.  

All week long our girl asked me, insistently, to get the tickets online. I had a busy week, so I put if off until Saturday, only to find that there were no online sales. Odd, I thought. But whatever, we'll just go to the movie a little early and get tickets at the box office.  

What I didn't know, and couldn't have imagined, was that the 11am screening at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema was the only one scheduled for the entire city of New York.  There was one the next day in Yonkers. And another in Montclair, New Jersey. But other than that, no screenings anywhere remotely nearby.

But no worries, I thought. We'll just get there early.  

When we arrived at 10:30, there was a huge line along 23rd Street with a few families with kids, but many adolescent and young adult men. We took our place at the end of the line and talked with a couple from Georgia who'd driven up to the city for the screening. They'd gotten their tickets online. That was when I realized I had a problem: we might have a Pony-less Sunday.  

I asked our girl to stay on line with the folks from Georgia and I went inside to find out what was up. The news wasn't good: Sold out. The only screening was sold out. I asked the usher if I could speak to the manager and she called her over. I explained briefly that I had a situation: 15-year-old ASD girl obsessed with MLP and no tickets for show. Could she do anything?

She wasn't sure, she said. She was trying to squeeze in an extra screening; she wasn't sure how that was going to work. But she told me she understood—she'd worked with kids on the spectrum. Then she offered, "It's really hot outside, your daughter probably can't tolerate heat, can she? Why don't you bring her inside, sit down in the lobby, and I'll see what I can do."  

I went outside to retrieve my girl and told the couple from Georgia that they didn't need to wait on the line because they had tickets. As the four of us walked in, many of the "bro-nies" booed as if we were jumping the queue. Very un-Lil'Pony-ish if you ask me, but we were undeterred.

Erin, the autism angel theater manager, did just what she'd hope to do: squeezed in an extra show just 15 minutes later. Bonus: extra tight scheduling precluded the usual reels of commercials and trailers.  

Our girl was completely enthralled throughout the movie: horrified at the misbehavior of Sunset Shimmer, terrified when the portal between worlds nearly closed before Twilight Sparkle could return to the Crystal Kingdom, and ecstatic when the ponies-turned-high-school-girls pulled together, stopped their bullying ways, and were getting the school auditorium ready for the senior prom.  

She was bursting with happiness—not just at the movie, but for days afterwards: "That movie was just awesome—what was your favorite part?" she'd ask me. She'd be grinning and laughing, and burst out: "I can't stop thinking about that movie!"  She told me it was so great that she couldn't get it out of her mind: she was playing it over and over again in her head in that way she can do that I can barely fathom.

This was a win. A big win. We have progress. We went to a movie. In a theatre. Without incident. (This last part, thanks to the extraordinary manager of the Chelsea Clearview Cinema. Thank you, Erin.)

But win or not, I find myself somehow forlorn, even bereft.

Perhaps it's just some maternal—and neurotypical—projection of mine that I mourn the reality that our girl is in high school and she has not yet made a friend, not a single one. Her pure pleasure at the sweetness of this movie, where friendship makes for magic, speaks to me of a longing to connect so vast as to be possibly unbridgeable. Will that magic ever happen for her? Will she find a way to connect? How do you connect when the things you love mark you as so young, so out-of-sync? 

She texted me when I was teaching yesterday.

It was an easy "yes."  I thought the screenings were over and the DVD release was set for August.  How could I know that the distributor had caught on to how many Lil' Pony fans there are in the city?

So tomorrow, 10am, Upper East Side, more Equestria Girls.

And who knows, maybe there'll be some other spectrum-y, oddball, equestria girls there. Somehow, somewhere, maybe we'll just find that posse of 15-year-old girls who still love the Lil' Ponies.


audball said...

My girl is 11 and loves MLP! How fantastic the manager understood your request and your *need* to get your gal to see the movie! :) I'm so touched to hear that maybe, just maybe, people are beginning to understand how challenging it can be when things don't go perfectly. And how, if they can manage, *any* help to those of us who have a child on the spectrum is so, so appreciated. Kudos to the staff at the theater for making your DD's movie night a magical one!

We had a similar issue when my daughter was obsessed with the Derpy Pony that was a limited release at Comic Con last year in San Diego. I had won an auction on ebay (although DD paid for the pony) for they pony that had yet to be procured (similar people attending the convention would "promise" to get certain collectible toys). Although I had prepped my girl for the possibility that we might not get a pony (the auction offered a "money-back guarantee", I asked the ebay seller how possible was it *really* to get this popular pony. After explaining my daughter's perseverance issues, the seller told me she completely understood; she had a relative on the spectrum and she knew how important a "promise made" was. This lady swore she would get me one LOL! She came through, but even if she hadn't been able to, just the understanding of the situation was amazing enough for me.

Yay for Ponies! :)

MothersVox said...

Wow, our girls are *so* alike! They should meet-up sometime.

And yes, the manager of this theater was completely fantastic. We really appreciated her thoughtfulness!

Do you all live in San Diego? We were thinking of visiting this year, possibly even to go to Comic Con. We went to the Comic Con in NYC last year -- our girl loved it. Especially because there was a MLP exhibition at a nearby space with ponies in all sorts of costumes. The ponies are amazing!

audball said...

Unfortunately, we aren't in CA; we're by Portland. Although we would love to go to Comic Con sometime! My son is really into Japanese Superheroes, so it would be pretty fun for all of us (I'm a big sci-fi fan, particularly Star Wars!). We'd just have to convince my DH :D!

Anonymous said...

I was the same age as your daughter at the time of the movie, and I enjoyed it when it came to my area. Did you know that there is a second Equestria Girls coming out? It should be in theaters September 27! But make sure you buy tickets for your daughter! I brought tickets already, and I can't wait for this movie!