Where Are the Good Children?

         Everyone has heard the statement: Children should be seen and not heard. But why is that the case? Movies tend to have this attitude also. Besides movies made specifically for children are rarely seen on screen; and, if they are, they are portrayed as evil little devils. Out of all the movies we have seen this semester, three of them stand out in my mind. The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton in 1961; A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland in 1973; and Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler in 1939, are all movies that either depict children as evil, or simply do not depict them as anything because they barely get any screen time.

         In The Innocents, based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of The Screw, the children are believed to be possessed by ghosts or spirits. Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) act in dishonest and ruthless ways, justifying the idea that children should be seen and not heard. No one takes the idea into consideration that, during childhood, we have active imaginations and are the most vulnerable when getting into sticky situations. Instead, as in this film, the children are labeled "bad" and therefore increasing their negative reputation.

         In A Doll's House, based on Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, the children are mentioned, but where are they? Torvald and Nora have a nurse to take care of their children, and Nora's only interaction with them is during short episodes of "playtime." The fact that a nurse watches after the children implies the need for medical help. Are children really that bad for our health? Finally, in Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, the only children to be represented are Catherine (Sarita Wooten), Heathcliff (Rex Downing), and Hindley (Douglas Scott) when they are younger. The movie opens when the main characters are children. However, not much time is devoted to them, and the only good we see is the developing friendship between Catherine and Heathcliff. In the 1847 novel by Emily Brontë, Mr. Earnshaw dies in his daughter's arms. In the film version, Catherine is not present with her father. With just one difference during the adaptation, a gentle, caring character trait is taken away from Catherine.

         To sum this up, one can see that it is evident in just these three films how children are unjustly portrayed on screen. The question is, why? What is so wrong with children being children? Is it fair to say then that the only place for children on screen is in films such as Home Alone and Dennis the Menace? Even here, the children are conniving and troublesome. It just seems that, in today's world, there is no room for the innocence and peacefulness of a child.

Barbara Kern

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