Bless the Child:
Finally, the Child is not the Evil One
Bless the Child (2000) Starring Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Holliston Coleman, and Christina Ricci. Directed by Chuck Russell. Written by Tom Rickman, Clifford Green, and Ellen Green.
- It may be a lack of ... compassion that has led some writers to create children who are evil simply because they're children, surely the most deplorable cliché of the field.
- — horror novelist Ramsey Campbell
Bless the Child is a supernatural thriller in which Satan and his minions face off against Christians. At the center is a powerful child. Not again, I groaned as I looked at the video box. But watching the film, I was in for a surprise: the child is a supernatural force of good, not a force of evil! Yes, you read that right.
Usually in these films, Hollywood takes the opportunity to demonize children literally. In The Omen, the demonic villain is a toddler whose mere presence causes innocent people to suffer painful deaths. The film is almost a 90-minute commercial for child-abuse. Its message to parents and other adults is: if something bad happens and a child is nearby, it's alright to take it out on the child; the child deserves it. Naturally, The Omen II followed a similar pattern.
This cliché is not limited to cheesy horror films. Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ ends with Satan appearing before Jesus as a child. It is this child who delivers the last temptation and tricks Jesus into betraying humanity.
Dean R. Koontz's bestseller The Servants of Twilight has a cult trying to kill a child because they believe he is the anti-Christ. In the "surprise" ending, it turns out the cult is right: the child is evil and must be killed. Big surprise. Rosemary's Baby ended with the same "surprise" ending.*
Divine entities, on the other hand, are nearly always depicted as adults. In the recent comedy Bruce Almighty, the role of God is played alternately by Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman. A geriatric George Burns portrayed the Lord in Oh, God! and both of its sequels. In "The Simpsons"'s episode where Homer meets God, God is drawn with a white beard. The film Dogma has God portrayed by Alanis Morissette. But I've never once seen God portrayed as a child or a teenager.
Depictions of Jesus likewise show him as an adult. The only exceptions are those nativity scenes that show baby Jesus lying passively in a blanket while the adults do all the action. It's true the Gospels tell us little about Jesus's childhood, but they do tell us something. The Gospel According to Luke tells us that when Jesus was 12, he ran away from home. His parents hunted for three days, then finally found him in Jerusalem's temple, talking with a group of religious scholars. (Luke does not clarify whether Jesus was eagerly pursuing his education or was in fact the one teaching the scholars.) When his mother chewed him out for running away, Jesus refused to apologize and even scoffed at her for needing three days to find him. He said she should have known immediately he would be here, a statement suggesting this was not the first time he pulled something like this. Yet this story of Jesus, this grand statement of how much he valued education, is left out of all the movies, as though the filmmakers want us to forget Jesus was ever young, or that a disobedient youth could ever be our Savior.
Renaissance artists sometimes depicted angels as children, but in today's anti-youth climate, angels in movies are more likely to resemble the graying Danny Aiello in Jacob's Ladder. The standard message of modern entertainment seems to be: children who have power should be feared, not cherished or respected.
Bless the Child is a bold exception. Here, young Holliston Coleman is a force of good. The film never clarifies what Coleman is exactly. (There are hints she is the second coming of Christ.) But she can perform hocus-pocus. Unlike supernatural youth in other stories, this girl does not use her power to burn down a school prom or turn her father into a jack-in-the-box. She heals the sick and gives spiritual comfort to the forlorn.
In another twist, the cult-members who want to kill this child are portrayed as the bad guys, and the woman who wants to protect the child is the good guy. Usually, adults (other than parents) who stand up for children are vilified almost as harshly as children themselves. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, two men see Arnold Schwarzenegger get rough with a child. When the two men voice objection, they are portrayed as nosey people stepping out of line. On "The Simpsons," bureaucrats from Child Protective Services "wrongly" accuse the Simpson parents of mistreating their children. (We're supposed to forget the hundreds of episodes where Homer strangled Bart.) These bureaucrats coldly break up the "happy" home. In Bless the Child, however, Kim Basinger steps in to protect a child from her cult-member mother among other baddies, and the film presents Basinger as the heroine.
A film like this is long overdue.
These filmmakers apparently did not want to be "too" youth-friendly. Half of the devil-worshipping cult-members are teenagers. (The filmmakers balance this somewhat by offering Christina Ricci as a bratty teenager trying to leave the cult and help Basinger save the child.) And sadly, Bless the Child did make our list of "hit movies."
But on the whole, this is a film worth watching.