Face to Face with Terror: Children in Film



A pamphlet, Kidstuff: Childhood and Cinema, produced to accompany an extensive season of films at the ICA London, to mark the 1979 International Year of the Child, focuses in its introductory essay on how certain images of ‘childhood’ (the child as innocent, as silent, as a site of memory, or as an anterior to rational thought and so on) amount to a ‘set of ideological assumptions about childhood, as a transcendental period of human life’. Such unproblematized idealizations do not address issues of childhood so much as issues of adulthood. ‘The ideological work of cinema’, that is to say, ‘is to systematically and unconsciously rule out the intervention of actual children in the range of attitudes available to them to make sense of their lives’.2 We might say, a certain fantasmatic child labour is put into operation, whereby surplus value is returned to adults in terms of symbolic capital, as our own heuristic investment. The child’s work is to carry, unwittingly, the burden of signification.


Symbolic Capital Ideological Work Primal Scene Child Figure Pirate Ship 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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