You are Very Small but You are Very Brave; The Child Protagonist

matilda gif

I’m not sure if this is quite incredibly unusual, but I very rarely am drawn into adult protagonists in both film, books, videogames and essentially any form of media.

The strangest is that this had never occurred to me until about a year ago, that I nearly always lose interest in a story if the main cast is over eighteen-years-old. This was of course when I picked up a book and read across the back about how it involved two children, it sounded very interesting. Then it hit a point in the description where it jumped these characters twenty years forward where they are adults. I put the book back on the shelf and looked for another.

Stephen King’s IT (1990) ©Stephen King & Warner Bros. Television

A perfect example is with one of my favorite films, Stephen King’s IT (1990), which involves a group of kids trying to escape an evil creature disguised as a clown (the the adults can’t see of course). This film has two parts, the second of which is almost entirely told with the kids as adults. At that point I grow tired and often don’t finish it. How is adults fighting a killer clown any fun?

Another would be the film Now and Then (1995). It’s a simple story about a group of girls in the 1960s, growing up and experiencing life. But half of it is told from them as adults and that half is incredibly boring. I just want more of their childhood experiences. I don’t care about them as adults. I want more clubhouses, seances and best friends forever.

Now and Then (1995) ©New Line Cinema

This isn’t a thing I mean to do intentionally, it just happens. Of course I’m not completely against media centered on adults. I like quite a few of them, it’s just that I suppose I find the child and teen protagonists far more interesting.

I think it has something to do with the situations children often find themselves in. They are, for the most part, dependent on adults. This puts them in a strange predicament. Especially when you then add some sort of obstacle they must overcome (a pet alien, a murderous witch, a war), while simultaneously escaping the tyranny of adults.

Matilda (1996) ©TriStar Pictures

Some great examples are essentially anything Roald Dahl has ever written. From my all time favorite novel and film Matilda, to James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and on. They have a message that says, even when things are bad and you are very small, you can still do it. You can still triumph. This is also common in the films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, with Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and so on.

Many of the stories I enjoy could be classified as “coming of age” stories. These are in which the sanctity and innocence of childhood comes face to face with the grim realities of adulthood. Or at least that’s how I put it.

In some this may be more apparent than others. Because, in a sense almost all stories involving kids and teens can be coming of age stories. The thing about kids is that they’re in this transition period, they’re in a place they won’t be forever, they’re a person they won’t be forever, in a place they won’t be forever. Everything is changing and everything is temporary and everything is new and amazing and enlightening.

The stories centered on adults that I find myself enjoying often include multiple references or flashbacks to their childhood or they involve a side character that happens to be one. Or in some way interact with a kid. For example, Jurassic Park (1993). You wouldn’t think of that as a movie about kids, but they do play a large part in the film. The brother and sister trapped in the park with the adults and rampaging dinosaurs is what kept me watching the film. I don’t care about grown men fighting of prehistoric beasts, but make it two kids and you grabbed my attention.

Jurassic Park (1993) ©Universal Pictures

These two kids have no idea what’s going on or any experience with these creatures and I think that adds a whole new level of fear. Do you really expect a ten-year-old girl and eight-year-old boy to escape a T-Rex? No. But when they do, it’s so much more rewarding.

I’m just wondering, has anybody else felt this way? Or am I simply an evergrowing enigma?

Until next time!

damian alexander

One thought on “You are Very Small but You are Very Brave; The Child Protagonist

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