One of the saddest things to me is that kids today don’t have movies tailored-made for them as much as they used to. Back in the day, for every ‘Dances with Wolves’, there were a plethora of random-ass kids’ movies dedicated to everything from sports to nonsense. Today, ‘The Mighty Ducks’ and ‘Blank Checks’ are not as rampant in the mainstream. Tough to say what’s to blame for that…Netflix had a hit with ‘The Baby-Sitter’s Club,’ but axed it after two seasons while at the same time renewing ‘Love is Blind’ for at least five.
Was I peeved? Hell yes, because at the end of the day – what the fuck are kids going to look back on and find solace in? A TikTok dance? That’s what was special about the ‘90s. It was the last big wave of pop culture that allowed for future childhood nostalgia. I’d consider the ‘00s more of a ripple with the big casholas on Disney Channel but as much as the world was impressed by Hannah Montana’s double life, she was nothing compared to the shit we had going on in the ‘90s, especially when it came to the movies. So when I went to ‘90s Con in March, one of my biggest goals was to talk to the one and only Mara Wilson. You may know her better as the girl with the powers who took on one of the scariest movie villains ever, yup – Matilda.
‘Matilda’ is the type of movie I wish was still being made today because it’s not just that it’s a fun time and based on a great children’s book – it’s that it stars someone young that kids can identify with. Yeah, it’s awesome to be able to see oneself in an Avenger or a Disney character, but it hits differently when it’s a real-life kid going through the motions. Not to take away from ‘Turning Red,’ that’s a necessary and wonderful movie but we had a period moment in ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ and that was stripped away from us before viewers even got to invest. This is why the likes of Kevin McCallister, Icebox, Matilda, and so many other characters from the ‘90s are so revered by people of a particular age. We legit got to see ourselves on TV struggling with everyday complications. Okay, so maybe we didn’t all have the powers to toss a newt on a bitch, but still. Matilda wasn’t just about a girl with powers, it was about a girl who didn’t fit in with the people she was biologically connected to.
On a personal level, ‘Matilda’ hit me as a kid because I was this nerdy child in a family that didn’t give two shits about school. I don’t think any kid is dumb – I just think our educational system handles everyone the same and that can discourage some. See, my brothers aren’t dumb, I just think they hated authority more than they liked getting good grades. As for my mom, she dropped out when my older brother surprised her as a teen. So yeah, I was the lone wolf with my nose in a book, so right from the start of the film I was singing some ‘90s version of what would become Demi Lovato’s “This Is Me” from the ‘Camp Rock’ soundtrack.
I cannot and am not the only person who felt some sort of connection to this movie as Mara Wilson’s line at 90s Con was consistent. Whether it be for ‘Matilda’ or ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ I’m not sure but if we think about just how this story could’ve been a saving grace for say…LGBTQ kids who struggled in their own families, but then found their chosen family the same way Matilda found Ms. Honey, we can see that this movie likely went above and beyond what the studio initially intended…and that was probably just to make a movie based on a children’s book to make some cashola. What they did was make a movie for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider in their own home, and that’s so many of us for one reason or another.
I wasn’t going to pay for the autographs or selfies that 90s Con had their guests providing because, why? However, with a lack of pop culture art to buy – you can hear more about that when the review episode drops later this week – I decided to go ahead and get an autograph from Mara Wilson. Which, I was peeved at myself because I already own her book but had to buy it again because like an idiot I didn’t take it along with me. The same with Melissa Joan Hart and Andrea Barber – mistakes were made.
So when I do get an autograph of a memoir, I do like to get a line from the book written out because it makes it seem a bit more special than just a signature. She obliged and wrote out a line from her memoir from the chapter in which she pens a letter to Matilda, “You did always seem a little no-nonsense.” I plan to take it out of the book, since this is my second copy, and frame it because why not put more stuff on my already packed walls?
Forever grateful to Mara Wilson for bringing Matilda to life all those years ago and giving 90s outsiders someone to admire and find strength in. Also, big thanks to 90s Con for having Mara, and all the other guests that allowed former 90s kids to feel young again, and to meet the people who made them feel a little less alone back in the day.