It's been bothering me of late. I've been mulling it over.
When exactly did it happen, this sudden shift to entitlement in fiction - and the world at large? When exactly did we shift to this belief that we were destined for greatness? That we wouldn't have to work for it?
I don't blame Harry Potter, but it certainly didn't help.
The whiny little wizard who had greatness handed to him on a plate (I know he had some troubles because of it, but really... point stands).
But there's a difference I think between the way childrens fiction does this sort of thing today, and the basic set up as it was before.
Through the 60's and 70's and early 80's it was normal kids, unimportannt, nothing special everyday kids falling into spectacular events and having to muddle through. To find something within them WORTHY of the adventure they'd been thrust into. Find the strength to deal with extraordinary and often dangerous events.
These days the kids in such a tale are likely to be 'chosen ones' whose destiny it is to put the world to rights; to be the greatest wizard; to be the lynchpin/the fulcrum that will tip events in a certain direction. No matter what they do - they're special.
And there's something about that, that I think is having a bad effect on kids.
No doubt they're getting the same sort of shit from elswhere too - X-Factor and the like are even worse - but this kind of paradigm in childrens fiction is more insidious. It gets in early. And it gets in deep.
In the stories of Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones and the like, it's much more likely to be thhe case that the children in the tales are ordinary. Nothing special as such - but that the WORLD around them is shown to be a great deal more special than they thought. They stumble into fantasy, into magic, into wonder, and they have to live up to it. Have to rise to the challenge set before them to be worthy of being part of the tale.
Even when - as with Will in The Dark Is Rising - there is something inherently special about the child that they were unaware of, it's dealt with in a way that still doesn't give him any fundamental right to superiority. It's a potential within him, that he still has to earn. To - again - live UP to.
My thoughts on all of this remain ill-formed and tangled, but it's nagging at me.
Something about this set up really isn't right.
It sets kids up with the wrong kind of attitude and the wrong kind of relationship with the world in which they live - the other people living there, the landscape all around. It puts THEM at the centre of importance. Rather than the story - the magic, the wonder. It sets the child as being of greater importance than anything else. The locus point. The source of power. It's sort of babyish and infantile in that respect.
The other way is to make them part of something greater than themselves, to instigate a sense within the child that they must grow and earn and learn to better themseves, to be something extraordinary. Something wonderful.
It's not a god given gift. It's fought for, tooth an nail.
Someday I'll get a hold of this idea and clarify. But for now... I'll keep on pondering and chewing on it. I'll break it down eventually.