Since my family spends most of its money on trivialities such as food and health insurance, we turn to free preview weekends of premium channels as our main sources of entertainment. As I watch now, the film Real Steel is about to wrap up. Now, I've seen it once before; it's not terrible, it's just another unmemorable and predictable summer blockbuster chock full of product placement that came and went. However, something about the movie causes an undeniable sense of rage to well up inside me: that abysmal child actor.
|You son of a bitch.|
"But Payton, you wouldn't attack a child, would you?" said anyone who hasn't sat through Real Steel. And yes, I would - I'm bigger than he is, and that's how things work in the land of the free and the home of the brave. One could argue that he's just doing his job and trying to pay the bills, that his terrible acting wasn't completely his fault. As true as that may be, he represents something more than a reason to screen your child for ADHD. He represents something much more unsettling, much more unnecessary than that: the film industry's empowerment of children.
Though you may not notice it, this kind of crap happens all the time. Kids already lack the cynicism to know how little they are in this world, and movies like Real Steel only serve to fuel their egos. This usually starts with a boy, because girls have received the notion that they need to be kind and sweet. Call it sexist if you want, but you'll be just as annoying as the kids. We then give the boy a name that suggests a fun and carefree personality, such as Jake, Max, or Anakin. Lastly, we top off this character building with a rambunctious personality and a quirk that's supposed to make him lovable in the eyes of the audience. As an example, let's take Max from Real Steel. He curses, he disrespects his parents, and he dances to hip-hop with a robot (yep). He's also way too articulate for an eleven year-old. He's everything that pisses me off about children.
Why is this such a problem? It never ends well for the children involved. Very little of the time does the kid go on to be a successful adult actor; Joseph Gordon-Levitt is about the only subject I can think of where this is the case. Otherwise, one of two things happens. The first is that they drop off the face of the earth completely, and we never hear from them again. I dare you to tell me, without using IMDb, the last thing Frankie Muniz (his stroke doesn't count as an acting gig) or that dick Jake Lloyd did. The other option for these doomed debutants, and the impressionable adolescents who follow them, is to turn into the jerks they were crafted to be. I wonder how many guys used films from their childhood such as Max Keeble's Big Move as inspiration to turn into the Project X a-holes who make high school a nightmare for others today.
|Pictured: The one character with depth.|
Child acting isn't always terrible. It works best when there's a sense of innocence at play, such as Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. If they start off endearing, they just might end that way. But in the meantime, this imagery of "kids with attitude" does little more than to frustrate me and, I assume, others sitting in the audience.