The Human Touch Circa 2010

I’ve been catching up on my reading while I recuperate from surgery, and last night I read Newsweek’s recent Interview issue. The discussion between film directors James Cameron and Peter Jackson included a section in which Cameron mentioned that he would make the film Titanic differently if he were making it today. Thanks to the kind of technology he embraces so completely in his latest film, Avatar, he says, “I wouldn’t have to wait seven days to get the perfect sunset for the kiss scene. We’d shoot it in front of a green screen, and we’d choose our sunset.”

That made me feel a little sad.

Of course, if Cameron had done that when he made Titanic, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all, but thinking about him doing it made the real, natural sunset seem important to me. And now that I know he waited seven days for a sunset, the idea of that seems important to me—romantic and artistic and obsessive in that way that only visionaries can obsess.

I think the concept of the “human touch” is a romantic ideal for most of us, especially once we become parents and measure our version of the human touch against the experiences of our children.

For example, I learned to type on a metal typewriter with very raised keys. It had been my aunt the secretary’s typewriter, and it was heavy, loud, and quite impressive to the ten-year-old me. My daughter learned to type on a Compaq keyboard (the same one I am typing on right now), which is light, clicky-sounding, and, in my opinion, not impressive at all.

But, for her, I imagine it held the same kind of wonder: it was something grown-ups used and it had a distinct feel and shape. I’m the one who doesn’t see it as the perfect image of a typing instrument—a natural sunset; to her, it’s what my old clunker was to me.

Am I making sense here?

When grown-ups like me say to kids like my daughter, “These new TV shows aren’t like the ones I watched,” what are we trying to prove? That our sunsets were better? That their sunsets are inherently inferior because they do not hold the ideas our sunsets held for us? That their experience of the human touch is dismissible because we can’t feel it?

I am grateful to my daughter for telling me, in her soft and wise way, that this is her world and her generation, and it isn’t my place to disparage them in front of her, because they belong to her. In other words, leave the kid’s sunset alone, Mom. Even if it’s computer-generated, it’s her “human touch,” so please don’t touch it!


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Darcel said,

    I found your blog through a link on
    I am enjoying it! This was a great post. My kids love the computer. I do, too. It’s opened up a whole new world for them, and for me.

    • 2

      sgaissert said,

      I’m so glad you found the blog and that you like it. Please consider submitting a post from your blog to the Carnival of Unschooled Life some time. As for, I need to explore that site some more.

      Take care, Susan

  2. 3

    Karen said,

    I often find this happens with music, so I know exactly what you are talking about. For the record, I prefer the idea of the real sunset too!
    Glad to hear your recovery is going well –

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