October 31, 2016

If I Stay

We’re reading a lot of books and seeing a lot of movies these days about dead children. Mia is young, beautiful, talented, and madly in love. She’s about to be admitted to Julliard. A car accident intervenes.

We’ve also got The Fault In Our Stars, Allegiant, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and I don’t know what else.

We’ve had similar outbreaks before. In the 1980s, we killed a lot of kids in horror movies and thrillers: Jaws, Nightmare on Elm Street, all the slasher movies. But those were about fear and resentment of teenagers, about old folks getting revenge on kids who dared to use those excellent low-mileage bodies.

This is different, I think. None of these kids does anything wrong, or even mildly transgressive; Mia’s fatal mistake is to go along with the family on an outing instead of rebelliously pouting at home. Tris in Divergent was asked to express her true nature, answered honestly that she was dauntless, and she was not wrong. In The Fault In Our Stars, Hazel Lancaster has metastatic thyroid cancer. It’s not their fault.

If the dead children of the 80s were an expression of generational resentment, Archie Bunker’s imagined revenge for losing the arguments on civil rights and Vietnam, I guess the dead children of the teens concern global warming, ecological catastrophe, and the sense – shared I guess by boomers and millennial – that in the long run we’re all dead and they don’t make “long” runs like they used to.

One reason I notice this is I’ve just finished a big hypertext fiction, Those Trojan Kids, based on The Trojan Women. It’s set in an elite boarding school in a contemporary, post-colonial, occupied country. Bad things happen after the fall of Troy, and sometimes they happen to kids. I spent a lot of time trying to write around and through this. So, I think, did Seneca.