Friday, August 09, 2013

Rant: Ender's game and child soldiers

I have written elsewhere that the basic premise of Ender's game was using child soldiers to outwit the enemy, and I oppose the use of child soldiers, (Ender is six years old when he is "recruited").

The story is supposed to be about his brilliant tactical ability, but when I read it I got the impression most of it was about surviving boarding school bullies. Since I was bullied in school (you try being a smart nerdish girl who all the boys seek out to help them with their chemistry homework), I didn't enjoy the book at all. (BBC article says half of people were bullied in school, so it is a common problem.)

The new film trailer seems to show a routine "shoot 'em up/save the world",  but the point of the first book was that Ender was sick and tired of being bullied and stressed, and thought if he won the wargame they'd let him go home. He didn't know he was actually fighting the war, and ended up winning it, to his astonishment.

And in the movie, he appears a few years older than in the book.

I didn't read the rest of the series (I have only two in my library, from the used book kiosk) but apparently later he finds an insect pod and saves the species...and it turns out that the bugs killed earthmen not because they were evil insects, but because they didn't understand that sentient beings could be individuals, not just in a central hive intelligence.

But why the spate of movies about children fighting wars? Or children saving the world?

Did it start with harry Potter? Is a common theme in all of this trend in kids' books/movies about monsters/bullies/bad guys who kill kids?

As I wrote earlier, these are potentially good role models for children, but why the spate of films? Is this to do with the danger children face from bullies? School shootings? The fact that kids return home, not to mother with cookies but an empty house, and know they are on their own?

And do the movies posit that the only way for the kids to survive is to kill others (another disturbing part of Ender's game) ? Did Trayvon Martin turn around a beat up Zimmerman because he was high, or because in the culture of the streets he thought he was being dissed, and on the street you fight anyone who disses you? No alternative scenarios, such as run home, turn the other cheek, or making a joke seem to have been considered...

In the Hunger Games, the point is that Katniss doesn't kill the innocent, only in self defense, even when she is told to kill Peeta if she wants to live she chooses suicide. Indeed Rue's death is the pivotal point in the film: a protest against the system that asks children to kill.

On the other hand, Percy Jackson is opening in Manila, and takes on the Bermuda triangle...this time he is played as 17 (not 14 as in the book)...most of those he kills are monsters, who can regenerate, so that doesn't the book, he actually releases a half blood fighting for the other side, and tells him to warn the other humans to get off the ship before the bomb goes off...wonder if this made it into the movie...

on the other hand, the Jackson series, like the Hobbit, has a lot of humor: can't wait to see if they do the satryr in the wedding dress part...Again, the backstory of the young halfbloods being killed or maimed with monsters is played down in the books and ignored in the movies, but at least the movie lets Percy be as old as Audie Murphy.

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