Why Are So Many Gothic Stories Geared Towards/Concentrated on Children?

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.") – JamesBKelley 5 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. – noahspud 5 years ago
  • Another aspect might be the trope that children are more perceptive than adults, as in It, where only children can see Pennywise. – tedytak 4 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. 4 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. – nolarmade69 4 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 – Mela 4 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? – ambermakx 4 years ago

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