August 4, 1906 [The Terrible Kids]

I've committed a grave parental error, and allowed my children to see The Terrible Kids—which will undoubtedly make them terrible as well. In Porter's motion picture, the two little anarchists are joined by a vigorous dog, whose keen attention to their mayhem gives him a decidedly knowing air; this canine understands chaos, and larceny, and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat—of course, with his own jaws.

Porter's camera gives us close-up images of the boys, and we see their non-moral world through their—and their dog's—eyes. They steal a puppy, tug on Chinese pigtails, bound with boundless energy down the otherworldly empty streets of the filmed comedy (as though official society has receded, leaving only the grinning revolutionaries) and the police who pursue them, all rolling uphill in the "eternal delight" of pure energy. And captured in the Black Maria (a literal one, not merely the nickname for Edison's studio!), the boys still find comedic justice—which in the end is, simply, freedom—as their loyal hell-hound frees them, and off they go, taking with them our surprised affection.

I watch my own kids closely now, but of yet have seen no overt sign that they will turn the tables and and disorder the Temple. Then again, like the cinematic terrible kids, all children live in secret, and tell us only those stories we wish to hear. I wish them well—and remind them, no matter where they roam, to take the dog.


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