Talking to your child about Bowie

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, a Young American.

David Bowie’s corporeal form has left this world. We all knew it was bound to happen, as he was never truly of this earth, but the world is shocked that it happened so soon. Thankfully, he left behind an immense body of work, a lasting legacy and the assurance that deep inside, we are all starmen and starwomen.

Although his output has been profound, it has been more rare in recent years and your child might not know why you’ve been crying lately. So how to introduce your child to rock’s great chameleon? (He really makes Lady Gaga look like an empty raw meat suit, doesn’t he?)

It’s problematic to find appropriate Bowie material for the little ones, as sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll are very much front and center of much of his output, and a lot of his stuff is SCARY. (Have you seen any of the “Blackstar” videos or his work with Trent Reznor? Don’t watch it in the dark alone!)

I love Bowie as an actor, but you likely won’t be showing your rugrats his turn as Pontius Pilate in “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Nikolai Tesla in “The Prestige,” or “The Man Who Fell to Earth” anytime too soon. (Maybe his turn as Warhol in “Basquiat.”) So start where many of us in Gen X started – with the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy, “Labyrinth!”

In “Labyrinth,” Bowie plays the “Goblin King” who kidnaps a baby and sends a girl (Jennifer Connelley) on a journey through a fantasy world of ghoulies and critters to retrieve her little brother. Now, “Labyrinth” exists squarely in that ‘80s subgenre of “scary puppet movies,” so know your kid’s limits (and their limits for handling seeing Bowie’s prominent codpiece), but this movie is probably less scary than “The Neverending Story” and “The Dark Crystal” and definitely tamer than those famously inappropriate ‘80s “family” films, “Gremlins,” “Ghostbusters” and “Howard the Duck.” (Oh, and in “Labyrinth” a Muppet pees at one point. I’m still a little scarred from that.)

Your kid needs to see “Labyrinth.”

On the music side, perhaps begin with the tamer and more friendly singles, and see where they lead. My daughter loves to get her catwalk on to “Fame” and the pop dance single, “Modern Love.” “Starman” is always a fun, “Hey, Jude”-esque ballad, and anyone with a pulse loves Bowie’s hooky collaboration with Queen, “Under Pressure.” (Don’t let your kid think Vanilla Ice wrote that bass line.) Even at two, Viva responded to Bowie’s Mott the Hoople jam, “All the Young Dudes,” and if your kid like sci-fi and arachnoids, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is a trip.

Bowie showed the world that all presentations are full of artifice, but that all artifice can be interesting and joyful when fully embraced. “Everything is rubbish, and all rubbish is wonderful,” he told Terry Gross. His gender fluidity has been a comfort to outsiders for decades, and he will no doubt continue to inspire for many more decades. Hopefully you and your glam fam will enjoy some of the Thin White Duke’s work this week.

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