It stands to reason that most babies are only alive because despite the fact that they cry and sit in their own fecal matter all day, they are fucking adorable. SO adorable that people joke about wanting to eat them up- which we tend to do to cute animals (piglets, baby calves, and in China dogs). This is why, in order to make a child more interesting whether they are just a teeny, weeny baby or one of the annoying angst ridden teens- television shows often give something that sets them apart makes them a little bit more than average and for science fiction that tends to mean make them a child prodigy, a genius, or just a powerful mutant of some sort. And it seems that is happens all too often.
Obviously for series such as X-Men, or even Power Rangers the focus is on teenagers or kids in general who have extraordinary abilities- that is not the issue. It is series that have an entire cast of older actors and the children are just out of place and with these shows I tend to wonder, isn’t the point of having a teenager or younger child within the story to have a younger child or teenager partake in the story, not necessarily feed into all children are special category. And even in series that make use of kids as protagonists, it always appears that the younger they are- the more powerful they will be. You can see this in X-Men: The Last Stand as the youngest person on cast has the ability to stop any mutants power and is the source for the cure, The Anointed One within the first season of Buffy being a child of about 8, and Stephen King makes great use of kids as the ones to see into the truth of things, and even in the first season of Digimon where TK, whose whininess only rivaled that of Mimi, was paired with the most powerful digimon in the bunch. Of course, children as a whole have a long standing tradition of being the only ones in the human species to really see into things. Something about innocence, not becoming cynical, that sort of thing. The fact of the matter is though, we’re now living in an age where the innocence of children is sort of being called into question- in fact a lot of criminal/rape/detective shows are shifting less from your typical white male as the serial killer and looking for a good twist with the kid or girlfriend as the real fiend.
The big question is when will a kid just be a kid in the science fiction genre? Rather than have them be a super genius that knows tactical war time strategies, make them be the janitor just looking to earn a few extra bucks and have them get kidnapped or something to make them more involved with the other characters. Better yet, why not actually make them related to the other characters? In a lot of situations, where the kid is all powerful, all knowing, sent to either tear the universe down or build it back up, they are utterly alone. No parent or sibling. They travel with the crew or team because they have duty and leave the loved ones at home. Maybe in some new show or new science fiction and fantasy element have the a teen in cast, but don’t make them overly powerful, but the son or daughter of the captain or navigator or technical analyst- something than the all-powerful key that opens some mystical portal or gate. Make them average. I think it is a little sad that really the only example I can think of in regards to teenagers in science fiction as pretty much being teenagers is Serena from Sailor Moon, Clumsy, unpleasantly annoying and sad, you really want to smack her. Of course that comes with the territory of being a Moon Princess.
It really is okay to have the kid not be the most powerful, not have something all that special about them because that is what makes them more interesting as characters. As you may know from previous posts, I happen to adore Joss Whedon and my favorite character that he’s written happens to be Xander. No powers in the first seasons as a teenager, nothing that makes him special, just a teen that grows up with super powered friends and becomes nothing than really a glorified brick layer. And he happens to be one of the most interesting.
Not all teens or, not all kids in fantasy and science fiction have to be overpowered, cute but could kick your ass characters. They can be a little annoying, a little slow, and clumsy, a bit of dick. Just so long as they aren’t Carl from Walking Dead, you’re good. Because he is borderline retarded and no one would watch that because it’d be depressing and politically incorrect in some way.
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