A couple weeks ago Cracked ran this article of mine about how the son from the show Homeland is a psycho. But that’s not the only version of that article. There exists a secret second version only a few people had a chance to read.
The version I originally pitched is the one that was eventually published on Cracked; the one you can read at the link above. A couple days after I pitched it, the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy happened, and there was a consensus between me, Cracked editor Adam Brown, and Cracked Editor-in-Chief Jack O’Brien, that we should delay the article for a little bit because of the subject matter. We originally wanted the article go up just before the Homeland season finale.
In an effort to save the article from being about a subject people (myself most certainly included) were too depressed to think about in any way, Jack suggested I re-write the whole thing with a new angle centered around how TV writers have no idea how to write child characters.
I wrote it up, liked it a lot, and I submitted it. About a week later I got an IM from Adam. He tells me he finally started watching Homeland and that I’m absolutely right about how shitty that kid is. Neither he nor Jack had ever seen the show, so they didn’t understand the profound uselessness of that kid. So, Adam ran the original version of the article.
And now I present to you the second version. Read’em both and compare!
Writers for TV dramas are all people who understand a character’s failing marriage better than they understand their own. If a character isn’t experiencing some profound level of adult-centric pain, sometimes it’s obvious they have no clue what to do with them. It’s apparent on a lot of dramas, but none moreso than on Homeland, which features one of the most poorly written kids on TV, Chris Brody, the son of the Marine-turned-terrorist Nick Brody.
As inept as he is, Carl from The Walking Dead has potential. He might do something interesting. Maybe he’ll do a backflip or something? Chris Brody’s thing is being so oblivious to all of the horrible shit his horrible family goes through (rampant infidelity, terrorism, dirty politics, murder, conspiracy, etc.) that he comes off as a delusional secret psycho who’s so good at repressing his emotions that he might one day transition into a different Showtime series.
Homeland’s writers have no idea how a 12-year old boy would react to troubling news, so they brush him aside. Sometimes by literally telling him to leave the room, or with Mike, the guy Chris’ mom is banging on the side. Here’s Mike running interference when mom and big sis need some privacy to talk about a homicide.
And here are the writers again throwing Mike at Chris like a towel over a vibrator when Grandma drops by. This time it’s when the Brody’s — who are all scared shitless — are placed in a lavish CIA safehouse.
The writers for The Walking Dead clearly had no idea what to do with Carl for a while, so they had him occasionally wander off so they didn’t have to make him do things. In Dexter, Dexter’s kids were an integral part of the show for years, until the writers realized they were getting in the way of all the ritual murdering; so they were shipped off to live with their grandparents. On Lost, Walt looked like he was going to be important, and then he was promptly kidnapped by smoke numbers and was rarely heard of again.
Writing children can be difficult, especially if most of your writing sessions involve talking about new ways the characters can fuck and murder this week. Writers often confuse innocence with stupidity, so they either write kids as oblivious or they over-compensate and make them borderline evil child geniuses.
There’s an incredible chance that some of Homeland’s writers have kids, just like the writers of The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter. Yet kids might as well be dogs the writers tie to a bike rack while the adults grab a latte, or worse, used as props to raise the stakes for the adults.
In the penultimate episode in Homeland’s second season, the Brody family reaches a boiling point. In one scene, all of their anxieties spill out and it’s impossible for any of them to escape from the truth anymore – they suck.
So Chris immediately storms away and starts playing video games.
You’ve probably turned to video games as a distraction from the harshness of life, but Chris’ version of it is so goddamn ridiculous you have to wonder if the writers gained their understanding of pre-teens by asking old people what they think of kids today.
If today’s TV drama writers made a show specifically about kids and how they deal with life, by the third episode we’d see all the kids evaporate into clouds and float away as an engine revved up in the background and the writers fled the scene.