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May 28, 2012 / milesandhisfavorites

Why The Kid Villains Aren’t Villains

Carrie was abused by her hyper-religious mother.  Alex was subjected to psychological torture.  Reagan was possessed.  Anthony was six years old and didn’t know any better.  Who am I talking about here?  Four of the greatest child villains from all of cinema/television!  Or are they?

The way I see it, when a kid is a villain, he or she really isn’t a villain at all.  The kid is A) a person who has had a rough past and takes out their emotions in a negative way, B) isn’t in control of his or herself, or C) is too young to be a true villain.  To illustrate this fact, let me take you on a whirlwind ride through three movies and a famous episode of a famous TV series to show you that kids just aren’t villains!

Let’s start with Carrie White, from the Stephen King novel Carrie, and one or two subsequent films.  Carrie has telekinetic powers, and in a rage, she uses those powers to blow up a town and kill several thousand.  She dies in the process.  Most people would consider mass murder and the complete destruction of a town to be something only a villain would do.  But this conclusion can only be drawn if you skip to the parts where Carrie actually does this.  If you actually read the book, you’d realize that Carrie, if anything, is the victim here.

Carrie is constantly physically and psychologically abused by her mother, who is religious beyond the bounds of human comprehension.  I’m really not kidding when I say that.  She beats and hurts Carrie, locks her in the “prayer closet” for hours on end, and before being killed by Carrie, actually tries to kill her own daughter.  And all in the name of the Lord!  SOMEONE CALL CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES ON THIS NUTJOB!!!!!!!  The other contributing factor to Carrie’s emotional rage are the bullies at her school.  Cliche, I know, but these are some cruel bullies.  When she’s voted prom queen (which in itself was a setup), they pour pig’s blood on her!  So, is Carrie the villain of the piece?  Sort of, but not really.  Carrie is a tormented and abused individual, who eventually lost control of her emotions, and whose supernatural powers led to mass destruction, as well as her own death.  And it’s pretty obvious that  that was what Stephen King was trying to convey this whole time.

Now let’s go from abused supernatural high school girl to vicious, sadistic high school boy!  That’s right, we’re talking about none other than:

Alex DeLarge, from A Clockwork Orange.  I’m not going to waste a whole lot of time defending this kid’s actions, because, well, those actions are psychotic and cruel, no doubt about it.  He breaks and enters, lies, beats people up, and even murders them!  So why am I listing him here?  Because of what happens to him as a result.  He’s forced to watch violent movies while drugged.  And yes-this is done by the government.  So, while he starts out as a villain, he’s mentally degraded as a result.  This is actually very relevant today, because of the Guantanamo Bay torture accusations (This doesn’t help my already tarnished opinion of the United States).  Yes, Alex does terrible things, but the government turns out to be just as much of a villain as he is.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This pretty much sums up what little I’ve actually seen of The Exorcist, and what little I’ve seen has disturbed me.  For those of you who don’t know the plot (you lucky saps), it’s about a twelve-year-old girl who is possessed by a demon, and so a couple of pastors have to exorcise the unearthly creature.  Okay, so the girl, Reagan, says some nasty things that don’t bear repeating, tries to murder people, and it’s implied that at one point she actually does so.  But-and here’s the Captain Obvious moment-SHE WAS POSSESSED BY AN EVIL SPIRIT!  Doing something that was beyond your control does not make you a villain!

Being possessed also doesn’t mean that people get to do horrible things to you.  I.e., the hospital scene, and of course, the pastors beating up Reagan and tying her down.  Okay, the tying down thing I get, but think of the physical trauma that would most likely occur afterwards!  I mean, most parents in horror movies are messed up, but come on!  NO REAL PARENT WOULD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN TO THEIR KID, NO MATTER WHAT!  If my mother did that to me, I would force HER to watch The Exorcist!  After having her eat a jar of rancid mayonnaise!  And then I would sue.  Note: I got the mayonnaise thing from a Big Nate comic.  No kidding.

And now to the one who arguably did the most damage, and is the most powerful.

Dee-dee-dee-dee, dee-dee-dee-dee.  Yes, it’s Anthony Fremont, from The Twilight Zone!  This six-year-old is basically God, and has isolated his entire town from the rest of the world, as well as banishing anybody he doesn’t like to a supernatural cornfield.  No, there shall be no Children of the Corn jokes.  But of course, like Reagan’s possession, the reason he isn’t a true villain is pretty obvious-he’s six years old!  In other words, he doesn’t know his own strength and, like Carrie, sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him.  Yeah, he’s done bad stuff, but some adults in town try to kill him!  I would calmly try to help him control his powers for the greater good.  Say… what am I doing in this cornfield?

And that’s why I think most child villains aren’t really villains at all!  And no: I will not do a follow-up essay with those girls from The Shining or that king-child from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  And nothing from a certain terrifying zombie movie named after a want for revenge!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Leave a Comment
  1. Greg / May 29 2012 9:20 pm

    So let’s say these kids grow up and remain villainous adults. Can they be villains then? If you can tell a story that explains the psychological factors and causal history that go into the evil/immoral/hurtful actions of a person, does it matter what age they are? So, is age the only distinguishing factor, or is there something else that allows adults to be villains? Or do you think that adults are not really villains either?

    • milesandhisfavorites / May 30 2012 2:03 am

      Good point, Greg. I’m not saying that you can justify things like murder and banishing people to a place of no return. What I’m saying is that, in Carrie and Anthony’s cases at least, their emotions get the better of them. This is roughly the equivalent of sentencing a teenager to death (and that has happened, and I really hate it), Carrie especially. Let’s use her as an example. Carrie didn’t have to go on her destructive rampage. Even if her mother (who is really the villain of the piece) didn’t take her to a psychologist, it would be simple and justified for Miss Desjardins (the gym teacher) to locate and talk to her mother about this. The thing I would do would be to call child protective services. What I’m saying is, when you’re a kid, you often want it your way or the highway, and are susceptible to bullying and peer pressure. That was mainly what set both Carrie and Alex off. Reagan I think we can skip, mainly because she was under a demonic influence. If Alex grew up the way he might have, then yes, he would be a true villain. But he’s a minor, and has serious psychological problems. You aren’t going to help him by torturing him and making him hate the one thing he loves that is normal! Point is, you make a very good point. Age isn’t the only distinguishing factor, but to me, it’s the largest.

      • Greg / Jun 6 2012 8:16 pm

        Thanks for responding Miles, I completely forgot to check back in here.

        Right, so, I guess I would go even further than you, and say that given the kinds of explanations you give for why kids can’t be real villains, I’d say the same considerations can be given to adults. You want someone; parents, teachers, society, etc…to intervene and help get these kids off the path they’re on. I agree. But if no one intervenes, that psychological damage just builds and builds and they become a evil adult. But torturing that adult isn’t going to help him any more than torturing that kid, right?. And if we understand how that adult got to be the way they are, we can try to help him be a better person.

        I guess, in the same way that you don’t want to give up on kids, I don’t want to give up on adults. If we truly understand why someone acts the way they do, and how they got to be that way, it becomes much harder to view them as an evil villain, and it forces us to have some empathy for them. I think age tends to be such a large factor because we expect people to go through certain cognitive changes as they get older to allow for the responsibility for their actions to shift from external influences on a person, to internal considerations that the person entertains. And don’t get me wrong, I do think that’s important, but it shouldn’t make us forget how strong those influences are, even when someone grows up. Especially when they’re ingrained at an early age.

        That might not make for great hollywood movies, but it would certainly have a big impact on how our justice system works.

      • milesandhisfavorites / Jun 8 2012 2:10 am

        I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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