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Tylim, I. (1997). Images Of Children In Films: Idealization And Filicide. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(5):717-725.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(5):717-725

Images Of Children In Films: Idealization And Filicide

Isaac Tylim, Psy.D.

Representation Of Children

Representations of children in contemporary films seem to recapitulate the evolution of representations of children in the history of Western art. From omission, to idealization, and overt exploitation, the cinema—the revolutionary art form of the twentieth century—has reaffirmed the nineteenth century's “discovery” of childhood and the subsequent acceptance of this stage as a legitimated stage of human development.

Childhood as a stage of development is a relative new one in the history of ideas. This distinctive, differentiated, and well-marked period of the life span has been shaped and transformed through centuries of contradictory and conflicting ideologies that reflected the shifting value society has placed on childhood. From medieval neglect, to the romantic recognition of childhood as a stage of bliss, up to the modern psychoanalytical declaration of its perversity, the idea of childhood seemed to have emerged out of a progressive and gradual reconciliation of opposite representations of children's nature which condensed both good and bad, innocence and guilt.

The scarcity of childhood representations in the artistic expressions of most cultures betrays an early indifferent attitude toward small human creatures. The paucity of childhood representations during the Middle Ages was attributed to the fact that children were not expected to survive their tender years. The early portraits of children were almost exclusively of dead infants, signifying the evasive and ephemeral nature of childhood (Aries, 1962). With the exception of Greek art, one encounters few depictions of children in sculpture, painting, and poetry before the thirteenth century.

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