As I sat in the darkened movie theater with my husband last Friday night, without our children and slowly unwinding from the week of working very, very hard, I couldn't help but notice all the coming attractions for horror movies (okay, we were going to see one ourselves, but still) that had children as the main carriers of horror.
Throughout time, children have been used as vehicles for horror because some of our most intense, vivid sensations of being afraid, vulnerable and powerless occurred during childhood. Also, the juxtaposition of our collective notion that children are innocent, loving and attached to us with the idea that they are actually demonic is effectively manipulative to the point of really freaking us out. Which is what horror movies are intended to do.
But it was quite disturbing to see the children in the trailers were, for the most part, not twelve, thirteen or seventeen-year-olds, but really small kids, like five, six, seven and eight-year-olds, carrying the evil baggage of our societal horror around like a sack of dreaded stones.
I felt that if I saw one more five-year-old turn into a vampire or crawl out from under a rock, I was just going to leave the movie theater. It was depressing. When I mentioned this to my husband, he nodded and said to me, "But honey, it's not just kids, it's little girls." It took my breath away. He was right. There were far fewer Damiens than young Carries in these clips and I felt really sad and needed to think about why.
There's something about it that makes me feel we're trashing little girls here, in 2010, and that in our hearts there's a disdain and a fear and a de-valuing of girls which turns into a de-valuing of women not unlike so many other cultures we point fingers at, or our own, fifty years ago. The fact that little girls are supposed to represent for us the essence of innocence means that to put them in the position, in a horror movie, of being the ultimate evil is to get a good horror story going.
But why, I wondered, did we still put little girls in the role of the ultimate innocent?