I have 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, allowing for immediate identification with them--does that make us all terrible kids? Or is there a shift in moral perception, as I come to believe they do not live in an immoral or even amoral world; the more we see it through the boys' (and dog's) eyes, the more we understand it has its own rules--of merriment and even justice--skewing, re-aligning all expectations, in favor of the boys. They steal a puppy, tug on Chinese pigtails, disrupt the workday of apple vendors and billposters--bounding with boundless energy down those typically empty streets of the filmed comedy--an otherworldly effect, 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 effects their escape, and off they go, taking with them our surprised affection.
I am watching my own kids closely now, but as of yet have seen no overt sign that they will turn the tables and scatter all order. Then again, like their cinematic counterparts, children live in secret, and tell us only those stories they deem us ready to hear. I wish them well--and remind them, no matter where they roam, to take the dog.