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SF/F fans and kids - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
SF/F fans and kids
What is it with SF/F fans and kids?

Honestly, I was just Wiki-surfing around and ended up looking at the entry on Ke Hey Quan (Short Round from IJ) and it linked to an article talking about how the presence of an "annoying kid" was what made ToD the weakest episode. I remember when TPM came out, people whining at the top of their lungs about having a kid in SW as well, and it seems to be relatively common thing--"Ick! Kid!"

Personally, I liked the Indy-Short Round relationship, and thought it added something to Indy to have him invested in a kid's life. It made sense with the subsequent revelation about how badly he got along with his own father. But even assuming you don't like that aspect of Indy as Indy... what's the deal with the hatred of the concept of a kid on screen? This makes no sense. People honestly don't appear full grown at eighteen and retreat from life, adopting a wizened mentor role, when the gray hairs start to come in.
33 comments or Leave a comment
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: July 1st, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked Short Round. In fact, I liked him a lot better than the girl, whose name I can't remember and whose presence I could have done happily without...

sea_thoughts From: sea_thoughts Date: July 2nd, 2006 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked Short Round, too. He was a smart, sassy kid, and a great deal more bearable than Willie. Anakin, on the other hand, was written poorly (because GL wrote the script, unfortunately). His actor wasn't too bad but he wasn't given much to work with.

I think the problem is that most (but not all) of the time, child characters tend to be irritatingly written, with the script writers relying on the cuteness of the actors to carry the character. It's rare that you have a child written well (ET is an honorable exception). And SF/F fans tend to be men, generally single men, who don't interact with kids and prefer to avoid them. I'm not saying all SF/F fans are men, nor are all single men child haters, but I've seen the tendency.

Feel free to pull this apart, Fern. ^^
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: July 2nd, 2006 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll completely agree on the writing part; the problem is not children, the problem is that the children are usually completely unlike kids in real life, and sickeningly sweet to boot. When a child is in there exclusively to make you go "awwww", it's just...irritating. Well-written kids, on the other hand, are wonderful. I was particularly impressed by the four-year-old in Superman Returns, who was both integral to the story and not annoying. More kids like that, please.
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Short Round was awesome! I think the problem is not "Ew! Kids!" so much as the entirely reasonable expectation that the screenwriter is using the presence of a child as a shortcut to character development in the main character/s. Also, the kid so rarely acts like an actual person that they come off as slightly creepy. I have the same reaction to the love interest 25-year-old supermodel nuclear physicist types - again, the screenwriters rarely bother to invest them with any actual character.

Anakin had a somewhat different role in the plot, although the writing was still dreadful, so he gets a pass from me.
ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:11 am (UTC) (Link)
OH my goodness! Who doens't like Short Round? He was adorable in that movie.

But, I think so many movies use kids as kinda cheap sentimentality factor that some people have a knee jerk reaction to seeing them "butt in" on their favorite characters. Sometimes they can be their for "the cute" and not much else.

It depends on the kid for me.
Short Round I like, but well Yulie in Samuria Trooper, I usually want to pound into the ground.

"The Kid" is kinda like "The Girl"
I love the girl if she as a brain.
If she's just there to make the scenery look prettier, I wish she'd go away. Same with "The Kid" If they've got a personality and a point beyound "Some studio head felt a kid would bring in more money" that's fine.

If not .. irritating as hell!

Funny you should post this as I was writing something on "The Girl" in ation movies (ok specifically the A-Team, but guy type movies in general)

sea_thoughts From: sea_thoughts Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
The Kid" is kinda like "The Girl"
I love the girl if she as a brain.
If she's just there to make the scenery look prettier, I wish she'd go away. Same with "The Kid" If they've got a personality and a point beyound "Some studio head felt a kid would bring in more money" that's fine.

Good comparison, I hadn't thought of it like that, but you're right. It's all about ticking boxes, isn't it?
alchemine From: alchemine Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a small but vocal subset of the population that just doesn't want to see a kid anywhere, ever. (Don't even get me started on the adult HP fans who complain that they went to see one of the movies and OMG there were kids in the theater! Gosh, I wonder why? [/sarcasm]) That being said, I agree that the role of The Kid in any given movie is often fairly useless and just there for the cute factor. Not Short Round, though -- he was awesome. :-)
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes there are irritating children in movies but there are also irritating adults.

Frankly, many SF/F fans loathe children. Especially the baby boomer aged fans. Maybe kids are too mundania for them or something. They'd rather lavish love and attention on cats or ferrets.
timesink From: timesink Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
many SF/F fans loathe children. Especially the baby boomer aged fans.

Hey, hey, point that generalization somewhere else. {g} I thought Jake Lloyd and Jar Jar were horrible, too, but my son (then 5) loved them so much I sucked it up and kept my mouth shut.

Although, you know, a ferret does smell better than the average child...
timesink From: timesink Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
People were bugged by the kid? I was far more bugged when Indy *hit* the kid. Yeah, I know, Indy was drugged or under a spell or something, but it still offended me. As did the future Mrs. Spielberg, whose screaming was easily the most irritating thing about the movie. Well, except for Indy going after "glory and fame" or whatever shallow goal he had that was not in character with the Raiders of the Lost Ark Indy. I hated Temple of Doom so badly that I nearly walked out, and that was at the peak of my Harrison Ford lurve.

{shudder} Terrible movie.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 2nd, 2006 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Willie couldn't hold a candle to Marion.

On a sidenote, Temple of Doom was originally supposed to feature the French Guy (can't remember his name) but that fell through. Otherwise, I never understood why that was supposed to be a prequel to Raiders. Then again, Indy lost his hat at the end of Raiders. ;)

I agree that while there are some irritating kids, there are some irritating adults too. Sci-Fi is just weird when it comes to these things. I thought Short Round was a good character.

leeflower From: leeflower Date: July 2nd, 2006 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it's exclusive to fandom-- child haters are everywhere. There are whole LJ communities dedicated to them, and that's the one that bugs me-- if ever there was a comm that violated the hate speach rules, those ones do (they refer to children as 'sperm trophies,' 'spawn,' 'lawn apes,' etc, and to mothers as 'Moos.' How mature).

I can understand people choosing to be childfree- there are a lot of people who just don't feel like having kids, and honestly good for them that they recognize that they don't want to be parents. But that's very different from being a child *hater.* When someone gets to the point where they can't even look at a picture of a toddler without pulling out some graphic epithet (a la drama over at the babyanimals comm), that's well beyond 'resenting societal pressure to procreate' and well into flat out bigotry and (dare I say) childishness.
saeva From: saeva Date: July 2nd, 2006 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
They refer to *some* children as spawn, lawn apes, etc. and *some* parents as Moos, Duhs, and Breeders. A somewhat vocal -- and *small* -- subset refers to all children and all parents as such. A decidedly less small -- and also less vocal -- subset of that group *are* parents or people who work with children with a living, very often good parents or people who enjoy the company of kids.

Please, please do not generalize a group based on what it's most virulent members do. That's why fandom gets refered to as "freaks" and feminists as "feminazis" and those on welfare as, well, any number of things. That generalize is not cool. Thank you.

To answer your question, Fern, as someone who often doesn't enjoy children in film (but does enjoy children, even if I have the noise tolerance of nothing and never want to raise one primarily ever anyway), I have to agree with the commentors who've said it's about the children being poorly written, poorly acting, and relying on the cute factor. Notably, this complaint occurs a lot more in movies than it does in TV because producers know they can't run a series with a child character on the basis of the child being cute.

And then you get into seeing the same faces over and over, or having them on TV in something in particular.

Dakota Fanning, for example, is in everything and a half right now because she's talented (and probably will grow into that talent as she gets older), well poised (in interviews and the like), and can hold up half a script on her own if she has to (see: Taken). Cameron Bright's also one of those faces, though he's more type cast than Fanning (seriously, he's played the same role -- mysterious, important agent of Conspiracy or Plot, a la his role in X-Men III or even SG-1 -- about six times now).

Whereas Cochita Campbell, who could act rings around both of them (and neither Fanning or Bright are bad actors), is over on the 4400 with entire plot arcs being centered around her and relying on her acting. No one I know who's seen 4400 and liked it disliked her or wished for her character to have less presence, even when they're generally against the addition of children into plotty things as a whole.

It's, like, so many of the actors/actresses we see are only mediocre or decent persons of their crafts and that includes that same ratio of children actors (if not a few more because children do tend to have shorter attention spans and there's issues with doing things over and over because of work-hour laws); only, the adult mediocre actors have something else going for them too in the fact that they're pretty. Smallville succeeds not because it's good but because it's pretty and because something about the trainwreck aspect appeals to some people. Children have something else going for them, I suppose, in that they're cute. But hot is going to keep a lot more people sticking around, especially if they don't typically find children cute, than cute is.

Does that make sense? I think it's a combination of factors, including experience.

I mean, like I said, no one I've seen thinks Cochita Campbell is anything but great. But, then, she can *act* and she's given scripts that do far more than work with her cuteness. But I do know people who were wary to give her a chance because they've seen this before and they've seen it where the kid was cast for being cute and not for skill, just like they've seen people cast for being hot and not for ability. And, again, hot holds more than cute.

[Why do I have no Maia Skouris icons? I should rectify that.]

- Andrea.
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: July 2nd, 2006 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I never saw more than maybe fifteen minutes of Temple of Doom, so I have no opinion on Short Round, but I personally like having kids in serious movies. Anakin I wanted to like but really didn't because he was so poorly acted, but I liked...well, let's see...whatever else might be said about the movie, I thought Dakota Fanning was quite good in War of the Worlds, and both kids were also good in Signs. I write sf/f, too, and I think all my protagonists are in the 13-16 age range--could be because I'm only 19, I suppose, but I tend to like reading about young protags.

From: (Anonymous) Date: July 2nd, 2006 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I saw Jake Lloyd in whatever that movie was with Arnold (whose last name I can't spell at this time of night), and he could act!

Still, I'd guess that child actors generally need stronger direction than adult actors, especially ones with enough experience to be confident in their acting with less feedback than most adult actors expect.

Of course, I have a major "Aww, CUTE!!!" button that's easily pushed, so I'm not the person to ask why other people have the opposite reaction.

Besides, my initial reaction to Jar-Jar was to be logical about him (sometimes, I overthink to the point of missing the obvious). I was wondering about things like how his people came to have lingua franca that was a pidgeon or creole of the humans' language and things like that (since they seemed to have their own language, I was guessing that language and dialect varied strongly from city to city with strong regional overtones while the pidgeon had evolved as a trade tongue that was seen as more politically neutral. This implied an awful lot about their relations with humans being positive to neutral and probably limited to trade). On and on I went.

Then, I was watching the second movie and realized Jar-Jar was not a really impressive character.

galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: July 2nd, 2006 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the people saying that kids in movies often tend to be poorly-written or token characters used to draw in a younger audience (it's always suspect to me when a kid suddenly shows up in a popular show...but there are times when that works out well, too, so I can't generalize.) I have no explanation for when fans cry out against EVERY kid character, though. Like I never understood the seething hate for Wesley Crusher. He wasn't THAT annoying (and I didn't find him annoying at all later on...had quite the crush, actually.) And I definitely don't understand any hate toward Short Round. Buh?
foxfire74 From: foxfire74 Date: July 3rd, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Personally, my Wesley-hate is primarily because he apparently started out as a Leslie, and I would have so loved to see a GIRL whiz-kid once. (Though Dr. Who had the occasional geekette, if you count Ace.) The secondary reason is that he's something of a Mary Sue IMO...he has Sue-ish qualities, and the way he was written off the show had me searching for something to throw at the TV. "Too advanced..." um, yeah.

Wil Wheaton is another matter. :-)
willowbough From: willowbough Date: July 2nd, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm. I have never seen ToD, but the reason for that had nothing to do with Short Round and everything to do with Indy's love interest, who reportedly did nothing but shriek and kvetch for more than two hours. Hearing about the monkey brains didn't help either.

In the abstract, I don't have problems with kids in SF/F movies or TV shows--as long as they're there to serve a real purpose and if they're well-written, well-acted, and well-developed. When they're just there as plot devices or to bring The Cute(sy), I tend to get irritated and tune out. And yet there are several kid/teen characters that I enjoy very much, including but not limited to Bryce Lynch ("Max Headroom"), Jeffrey Jones ("Voyagers!"), Kevin, Winnie, & Paul ("The Wonder Years"), Elliot ("ET"), Rogue (X-Men movies). And it's probably because all of them come across as having more than one dimension.

On further considereation, I think it's easier to give kids their due in fiction. There are tons of child-characters in books whom I love unreservedly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 2nd, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
No comment except "Voyagers! Yayz!" :p
From: almostsophie Date: July 3rd, 2006 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
ToD was the weakest episode because of bad writing. (The gross misrepresentation of Kali really annoyed me, but maybe that doesn't irritate other people as much as it does me.)

For me, the main problem with having kids in movies is that it is very difficult to find good child actors. Acting is one of those skills that can take years to really develop. The other problem is that a lot of writers project their own image of what kids should be on the character rather than writing a real child character.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 3rd, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
There were actually quite a few people who were annoyed by the Kali representation. It wasn't something that occurred to me at the age of twelve, though. As an adult, I personally just tear at my hair over Willie hanging six feet over molten lava and coming out of it without any burns. Even her hair survives.

But I liked the business with Short Round. I thought it added some nice dimension to Indy's character. Also, I had an insane crush on KHQ when I was little.
foxfire74 From: foxfire74 Date: July 3rd, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm going to second what several people have said here and say that the kid-hate comes from too many "cute kid as convenient cipher/plot device" experiences. But whining about a kid in TPM is a bit...didn't they see the part where this was supposed to be about, y'know, Anakin?

That, and liking kids is a bit too mainstream for lots of SF fans I've known, who want to preserve their self-image as cynical, edgy types. Me, I've got a five-month-old at home and have settled for unabashed doting. :-)
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