What is it about little boys? I just enjoyed a book about one. I went to see a play about one based on a film I love yesterday, and several of my other favourite films are about them. Why boys? I don’t know. Maybe it’s that I’ve spent a lot more time with little girls, both as a teaching assistant at a girls school, and as a former little girl myself. They are, of course, wonderful – but they’re also quite familiar to me.
Without wishing to over-analyse this (it’s just a five-minute blog post), I’ve noticed the little boy stories I like are often concerned with some kind of brotherhood… Oliver and the pickpockets, Jamie and the Japanese soldiers in Empire of the Sun. Dancing aside, the story of Billy Elliot’s all-male family and the solidarity of the miners is pure kitchen sink. And there’s often a woman – often not the actual mum, but a mother figure. Oliver had Nancy, Billy Elliot his dance teacher, Jamie was taken under the wing of Mrs Victor. Even Donnie Darko had Drew Barrymore. Maybe that innocent cross-gender mentoring role is what I really enjoy about these stories. As a dynamic it tends to lose out to parent-child and lover-lover.
I’ve noticed the little girls in our stories are often so much fancier. Alice is already a lady of leisure. The Railway Children are ingenious and loveable, but they’re not poor, even when they think they are. Andrew Lloyd Webber wouldn’t cast a Dorothy who looks like she has a habit, but the tweenaged Jamie Bell and Christian Bale could’ve stepped out of Trainspotting. Of course, I’m comparing apples and pears somewhat. Heidi might be an exception. I always liked Heidi and her straw bed and simple life. Could take or leave Peter.