It’s relatively rare to find fictional children who act like real children. More often than not, fictional children talk and act like miniature adults. Oftentimes, this is a deliberate artistic choice, which may either be played for laughs (as in Rugrats, The Simpsons, or South Park, for example), or used to show that there is something seriously wrong with the child in question (as in The Umbrella Academy, and many anime series). On the other hand, some creators seem genuinely unable to fathom how children think and behave, and so write them behaving like adults by default.
What are some examples of stories that portray children this way? What, if any, differences are there between stories that portray children acting like adults for artistic reasons, and those whose writers simply don’t know any better? What effects, if any, do fictional portrayals of unrealistically-mature children have on how people view children in the real world?
Oh, cool topic. Interestingly enough, the first examples I thought of regarding children who don't act like children, are from PBS (whose programs are all geared toward young children). Arthur, one of the longest runners, is an example. You'll also find some of this in older shows like Wishbone. Outside of PBS, the phenomenon exists on networks you mentioned, like Nickelodeon, or Disney Channel. Sometimes it works great (see the older show Fillmore for an example of unchildlike behavior as an artistic choice). Other times, the kids just act like brats (i.e., Hannah Montana). – Stephanie M.7 months ago
Coraline, IT, Stranger Things, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Babadook…the Gothic and horror genres appear to have a fascination with children. Does it stem from our primal instinct to protect our offspring from threat? Does it illustrate how our childish fears never really leave us? Also, are these texts really geared towards children, or to the adults watching with their children? Or both? So many questions with some possibly fascinating answers.
Great topic. There are a /lot/ of examples, including Henry James' long short story "The Turn of the Screw" or the film The Village of the Damned. My initial guess is that there's some sort of play on the oppositions of innocence and monstrosity. (Children can be at least a little monstrous in some ways. One of the characters in Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof calls the children in the play "no-neck monsters.") – JamesBKelley4 years ago
There's certainly an aspect of empowering, encouraging wish fulfillment in that the kids face the manifestations of their fears and defeat the nightmare monsters. – noahspud4 years ago
Another aspect might be the trope that children are more perceptive than adults, as in It, where only children can see Pennywise. – tedytak3 years ago
Love this topic, and the construct goes back a lot further than you think. The actual name escapes me, but there is an entire collection of ancient German stories, passed down through generations, that show disobedient children meeting horribly grim fates. You could start there, go into Grimm's Fairytales, and then discuss some of the other examples you mention (Coraline is a great one). You might also consider discussing some examples that aren't classic "horror," but do place children in significant and ongoing peril. The example that comes to my mind is Matilda, wherein the protagonist and her schoolmates are physically and emotionally tortured by an over-the-top headmistress. – Stephanie M.3 years ago
I, for one, was an angst child - partly due to the fact that I had absolutely no life experience. I loved horror, but didn't actually understand all of it. I grew up when I understood that horror and darkness exists everywhere. Especially in a dead end desk job. Those are the real goths. – nolarmade693 years ago
Lemony Snicket immediately comes to mind, but I wonder if you could also talk about modern day spoofs? For instance Scooby Doo deals with a lot of traditional gothic elements but shows that monsters don't exist -- it is only humans that are monsters – Mela3 years ago
This is such an interesting topic to consider! I have actually never thought about it but I do agree with previous comments about Grimm's fairytales and how they stem from that. Also, maybe because they do have children in the stories, it can kind of be more relatable to an audience? – ambermakx3 years ago
It is interesting how nowadays technology has revolutionized the way children play. Children are engaging – more and more, day by day- in watching other children play on Youtube videos rather than playing with their own toys. Is it considerable that by doing this children become less social, do not excel well with hands-on learning, lack of imagination, develop motor skills slower than children who play with their own toys or play games non involving technology?
I think context is important - for example, people say the same thing about video games, but it was one of the only was I was social as a child. Looking at the reasons why a child might be spending a lot of time watching videos or how they interact with them would be important to note. – LoganG3 years ago
This is an interesting topic that ties in to larger conversations about the effect of an increase in voyeurism that has appeared through the proliferation of the internet and social media. On the surface, it doesn't seem too much different than a super keen football fan that never misses a game all season. However, this phenomenon seems particular to a younger demographic. I doubt there is much research that has examined this question, but perhaps there is some information on the psychological effects of compulsive reality TV or sports watching that could translate. On the surface, the answer to your question seems to intuitively be "yes" - but there may be other skills that they are developing through the act of watching and being involved in that community which may well be valued at some point in the future. Either way, a fascinating topic to explore that has links to all sorts of larger societal questions (so much so that it might almost need to be scoped down more!). – petethicke3 years ago
During the creating of "The Fox and the Hound" Don Bluth and several animators left Disney, disheartened with the direction things were going. In the years to come they would produce several critically-acclaimed children’s animated films (to call them cartoons seems rather derogatory in the face of such praise) which not only presented kids with a vastly different group of films to watch, but ones that contained elements different than the Disney pictures of the same time frame. With graphic death, scary scenes and dark lessons, Bluth (often quoted as saying "Kids can accept anything as long as there is a happy ending") has been criticized for going against the grain of what children’s films should contain. Examining this unusual event in film history, as well as other "children’s films" that have been controversial (including Disney’s own "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves"), discern what merits both sides of children’s filmmaking have (traditional and new age) and whether it is more beneficial to take a darker path or only allow happy endings and bright stories to fill the screens of young impressionable human beings.