Changing ages

21Apr10

Monica Edinger at Educating Alice posted about the epidemic of shifting ages in main characters of children’s books turned movies. She mentioned the aging of Beezus in the upcoming Ramona and Beezus movie, and that Percy Jackson (The Lightning Thief) and Harriet Welsch (Harriet the Spy) both moved to high school. I haven’t seen either of those movies. I understand that there’s a recent Disney Channel remake of the Harriet the Spy movie called Blog Wars, which I haven’t seen either, but also has Harriet older than the 11 years old she was in the book.

I’ve written here about Where The Wild Things Are . . . both the book and the movie (and here and here), but not specifically about aging Max. An older character brings more to the plate, more resources and more history, as well as a different set of developmental challenges. As I said, I haven’t seen the Harriet the Spy or Lightning Thief movies, but there are huge changes between 11 years old and high school age. I understand that Percy Jackson in the movie is 17. I know that part of the issue of changing ages is appealing to a more desirable demographic group, but it does change the heart of a story.

At 11 years old, you’re trying to define your relationship with your peer group, working on changing the center of your life from your parents and family to the peer group in many ways. At 17, the central issue for most kids is becoming sexuality and separating from the family, getting ready for graduating from high school, getting to college or a job and living on their own.

So movies that have 17 year old protagonists deal with different developmental issues and, I’m sure have subplots that explore some of those issues.

As for Max, in the book at four years old he was dealing primarily with mastery of aggression and having to obey rules, and with oedipal issues (that’s why dinner was still waiting for him and still hot). By eight years old he’s in latency age and wants desperately to fit in, to be accepted by the older kids his sister was with. He’s also trying to deal with divorce and loss of a father, which would contribute to his need for acceptance by the older boys. And, yes, oedipal jealousy toward the boys relationship with his sister, echoed by his mother having dinner with her boyfriend.

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