The Children (2008)

My Take on “Evil Children”

I’m writing a book on evil children in the popular imagination.

Wait–that’s not quite right.

Right now, I’m writing a proposal for a book I intend to write on evil children in the popular imagination. Anyone who has tried to write a book proposal (or a thesis/fellowship/dissertation proposal) knows that it is a counter-intuitive process. You are essentially writing a summary of what you think you will eventually argue. However, you can’t possibly know what you’re going to argue because you haven’t done the research yet. And most of us figure out what we’re trying to argue in the middle of writing the argument anyway, right?

What I’ve come up with so far is that the evil child has no singular meaning. Rather, there are categories of evil children, and they each perform different cultural work. My book is broken down into chapters based on these categories, which so far are

1) The Antichrist as Child (e.g., Damien from The Omen [1976, 2006])

2) The Monstrous Newborn (yeah, they exist; see It’s Alive! [1974, 2008], and I’ll talk about Grace [2009] soon enough)

3) The Possessed Child (e.g., The Exorcist [1973])

4) The “Gifted” Child (e.g., psychic kids, genius kids, or otherwise supernaturally empowered adolescents and young adults; think Carrie [1974, 1976, 2002, 2013])

5) Vengeful Child Ghosts (The Changeling [1980])

6) The Feral Child (Mama [2013])

7) The Serial Killer as Child (Rhoda Penmark, Rob Zombie’s version of Michael Myers)

8) School Shooters and Other Killers (We Need to Talk about Kevin [novel, film])

9) Lolitas and Nikitas (Hit Girl from Kick-Ass [2010])

10) Monsters that Masquerade as Kids (Case 39)

I might also consider issues of genre. What does it mean to have an evil child depicted in a young adult novel, for example? Why are there so many evil children in video games? Why were 1980s horror paperbacks filled with scary kids?

Anyway, that’s what’s behind the evil children posts.

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One thought on “My Take on “Evil Children”

  1. Good call going for Hit Girl from Kick-ass over Lolita herself. If I learned anything from doing a paper on Lolita, it’s that there’s way too much Lolita scholarship.

    And my naïve and off the cuff opinion on why scary kids became a dominant genre in its own right is that the age gap became a much more prominent worry with increasing technology. Starting in the 50s, children suddenly had entirely different opportunities than their parents based on the rise of tech culture, even if it was just a record player or the cheaper availability of automobiles. With each generation, the people producing the evil children works are adapting to the children who are, perhaps, just ten years younger than themselves. Everyone is starting to get radically different childhood experiences based solely on the technology available. Kids can still go outside like I did but now they have a plethora of other game-changing alternatives. I already see how differently my nieces and nephews think about the world than I do. An iPad can make a lot of difference, and in a way that could be considered a special, intuitive power. Either that, or it makes them impatient as hell on a ten minute car ride without that iPad.

    This all sounds like a good project sharing idea–a good motivator for your work and, potentially, a chance for people with more informed opinions than myself to speak up and give you brainwaves.

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