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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story is a documentary that explores the development and cultural impact of the Tony Hawk video game franchise. The film highlights the positive aspects of skateboarding and skateboarding culture, including how it's always been a hobby and outlet for nonconformists who are interested less in team sports and more in individual expression. There's some talk of inclusion -- both a Black skater and a female skater discuss being inspired to take up skateboarding after seeing player options that looked like them in the Tony Hawk games. There's some profanity, including "f--k," but it's not especially frequent. An interviewee discusses getting bullied and beaten up for skateboarding when he was a teenager. And there's talk of the sexism that female skateboarders have faced when trying to participate in an activity that was regarded as being strictly for boys, especially in the late 1970s. The movie also features extensive interviews with the designers of the various editions of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise, and the video game companies are frequently referenced.
What's the story?
In PRETENDING I'M A SUPERMAN: THE TONY HAWK VIDEO GAME STORY, Tony Hawk, pro skaters, and game designers discuss the history and impact of the popular and iconic turn-of-the-century game franchise. The documentary provides the necessary context by showing the growth and development of skateboarding culture since the 1970s, its ups and downs, and how Tony Hawk Pro Skater (and its many sequels) was intended to be a reflection of that culture. Tony Hawk, a marketable and accessible representative of this culture in light of his appearances on ESPN's X-Games, worked with the video game designers as well as other professional skateboarders to create a video game that could be enjoyed by nonskaters while also remaining true to the ethos and sensibility of skateboarding culture. Contemporary pro skaters reflect on how Tony Hawk Pro Skater inspired them to put down the controller and learn how to ride a skateboard in the real world as Hawk and everyone involved discuss the lasting impact the franchise has had on skating and video games.
Is it any good?
For those who grew up playing any of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games, this documentary will bring back warm, fuzzy memories. The parks, the streets, the tricks, the music. It's millennial nostalgia for an era that tends to provoke anti-nostalgia. It succinctly presents the history of the ups and downs of skateboarding culture since the 1970s, and how that culture developed and was then taken to new heights by Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It also connects the rise of the franchise to the growth and development of video games.
That said, it can get pretty dry at times, and the documentary's shortish length implies that there's only so much you can do with a story about a video game, no matter how beloved it may be. It also doesn't transcend either skateboarding or video game culture, so it's difficult to imagine anyone not already familiar with either to find any of this particularly interesting. But for those who grew up learning about bands like The Adolescents and Bad Religion from Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and learned about the difference between a nosegrab and a nosegrind from playing the game, it's an entertaining railslide down memory lane.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how documentaries tell stories. How does Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story tie skateboarding culture as a whole into the development of the Tony Hawk video game franchise?
Do you think this documentary could be interesting for viewers who didn't grow up riding skateboards and/or playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater? Why or why not?
How does this compare to other documentaries you've seen? What makes a documentary memorable?
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