What Is “Kid World,”and Why Are My Favorite Movies Set There?

Ben Kassoy

Ben Kassoy

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Ben Kassoy has written for the websites of Elle, GQ, Women’s Health, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Maxim, Details, and a host of others. He is also the Editor-in-chief of DoSomething.org and the coauthor of eight books.

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8 Comments
  • Andrew

    3 months

    Ba Da Ba Ba Bah I’m loving it. Spot on with this piece.

    Another big thing that I get enjoyment out of is the nicknames. All these movies have great ones, but The Sandlot takes the cake in my opinion. As you mentioned above: “Smalls”, “Benny the Jet”, “Yeah Yeah”, “Squints”, and “Porter” to name a few.

    Similar to how you took on nicknames and characters in your basement as a kid, I don’t think my friends and I ever referred to each other by our actual names when we were away from our parents. You’ll be playing with you’ve been calling “Zordon” all day and then their dad shows up to pick them up and says “Alright Collin time to head out”. And you’re thinking,”Who the hell is Collin??”

    Nicknames are one of the few things that do make the transition from Kid World over to adult world. In my life David is “Rigs”, Justin is “Jet”, Kiefer is “Kiebler”, and Lyndsey is “Lyndo”. These names better express my relationship with each of these people. And in return having a nickname makes you feel accepted and it gives you a brief escape from yourself.

    And don’t forget the #1 rule of nicknames: You can’t give one to yourself.

    ‘Til Next Time,
    Scoop Yardine

    • Ben Kassoy

      2 months

      Thanks for the comment, Scoop!

      You make a great point about nicknames in The Sandlot, and it occurs to me that they play a big role in other Kid World movies, too. “3 Ninjas”: Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum. “The Goonies”: Chunk and Data. And then there’s pretty much every other Kid World sports movie, too: “Rookie of the Year”: Chet “The Rocket” Steadman. “Little Giants”: “The Icebox.” And of course The Bash Brothers in “D2″…which were later referenced in real life: the NBA’s Splash Brothers and ‘Stache Brothers as well.

      Great point that these nicknames we take on in childhood carry over into adulthood. Just another way we keep parts of our childhood selves alive. Or — to your other point — another way *others* do that for us.

  • Ian

    2 months

    Love this piece – even though you took almost all of my kid movies…..

    But I think you hit the nail on the head when talking about the possibility of possibility and desire for adventure. I love movies, I really do – but they also make real-life pretty tough to bear sometimes. Real life has such little actual romance or adventure in the moment. You are either imagining what a romantic, movie-like life would be, where you are incredibly accomplished, every conversation is thrilling and there is always a soundtrack (basically just picturing your life in montage form with music behind it – thank god for the ipod!) – or, if you are not imagining a romanticized version of life and are actually living in a moment where the closest thing to that romance is happening, you aren’t actually appreciating it or are aware of it because you are in it….

    The Prestige (not a kids movie, but great for adults!) captures this want of wonder when talking about why people like magic so much. Even though we know it is fake and there is some logical explanation behind every trick, we all want to believe that there are things unseen in the world that keep it interesting. The show Heroes presented a world where people’s superpowers didn’t happen until a solar eclipse occurred, which immediately gave all of us new hope that we will get a superpower some day soon (please please please let me get time travel, fingers crossed!). Next solar eclipse is August 21st in case you are wondering and its supposed to be a big one (do eclipses have sizes?).

    The reality is (literally) that all we have is the present moment – the past is nostalgic, the future is romantic – but the present is mostly mundane (self-medication anyone?!). Like let’s not forget that Steve Jobs did laundry, Einstein had to make dinner, and Benny the Jet probably developed arthritis – and all of them lived lives where music was rarely playing in the background.

    Kids movies remind us how simple it is to imagine wonder in our lives, but many would probably argue that “growing up” is really just the gradual erosion of that wonder (see Hook) or a redirecting of it towards worldly things like a mansion that isn’t actually filled with awesome parties every day.

    I’ll finish with this – several years ago some high school friends and I had an old-fashion sleep over at one of our places because a solid snow storm. My buddy’s place was equipped with a living room that featured huge windows, allowing us to gaze out at the falling snow in the night. It was really beautiful actually….and then one of us brought up the Nutcracker ballet and that signature song we all know for some reason. From there, we said, ‘hey, how cool would it be to go out and sit in the snow while listening to the Nutcracker song?!’

    So we donned winter gear, grabbed beach chairs and a speaker and some umbrellas and went out into the driveway. The song played for about 30 seconds before we all quickly realized that what our imagination did not include was how cold it was, how wet snow is, how hard it is to hear music outside when it is windy, etc….

    We tried to bring our imaginations to life like the good ol’ days, but were rudely interrupted by our senses. That being said, I still feel nostalgic about that story and the fact that we actually did it! Memory is like our own little movie studio where we can add effects, music, and purpose that reality did not or cannot provide – and kids movies and movies in general I guess are just sharing that human experience of imagination with a bunch of people.

    ‘The Jet’s lost a step or two over the years……………………..the Jet stole home, the Jet stole home!”

    -Saturn aka EZE aka Coborg

    • Ben Kassoy

      2 months

      Saturn,

      Such a thoughtful response as always. Thank you. I really connected to this:

      “Kids movies remind us how simple it is to imagine wonder in our lives, but many would probably argue that “growing up” is really just the gradual erosion of that wonder (see Hook) or a redirecting of it towards worldly things like a mansion that isn’t actually filled with awesome parties every day.”

      I think it’s interesting — and correct — that growing up often involves that erosion of wonder (great phrase). Something your Nutcracker story addresses is that, even while adulthood doesn’t provide the wonder that childhood does, we can actively seek it and create it for ourselves. Sure, it helps to live vicariously through Kid World characters, but it’s always more fun and more powerful to live vicariously through former versions of yourself.

      Love this, too.

      “Memory is like our own little movie studio where we can add effects, music, and purpose that reality did not or cannot provide – and kids movies and movies in general I guess are just sharing that human experience of imagination with a bunch of people.”

      Lastly, I’d love to know what you thought of The Prestige. I watched it when I delirious with a fever, and all I can remember is that Hugh Jackman turned Nikola Tesla into a cat. Right?

      Get ready for that big eclipse!

  • Matt

    2 months

    First of all, I feel it necessary to begin this response by acknowledging that I’m wearing my Make Believe Boys shirt (required uniform for writing responses henceforth?).

    You picked quite the who’s-who of Kids World movies, but to touch on some not mentioned, I loved Little Giants, The Mighty Ducks, E.T., and Home Alone’s far superior sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The first two, as sports movies, captured a magic I never experienced but always yearned for as a kid: the love-hate relationship of underdog camaraderie. The kids from the Little Giants and the Mighty Ducks kinda hated each other, and they weren’t shy about telling each other as such. An entire pushing brawl breaks out in the Little Giants when one teammate utters to the other “oh yeah? Well you can’t come to my birthday party,” ultimately resulting in the entire team walking out of practice. When one of the best hockey players in the city, Adam Banks, is forced to join the Ducks due to the redrawing of district lines, he may as well have been radioactive. The Ducks despised him. And on top of the interpersonal turmoil, these teams were absolute garbage. The Little Giants included a kid wrapped in shipping padding, a kid who asks not to be passed the ball, and a kid who straight up tells his coach he has no interesting in even playing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeWWOdY3oto). But these teams beat the odds to win the big game. Obviously this makes for compelling storytelling and really can only happen in movies that take place in Kid World. Nevertheless, I sort of lamented that for the most part my little league teams were full of kids that mostly got alone and had a .500 record. E.T. probably warrants its own essay, but it’s narrative component most emblematic of Kid World is that of a kid who understands life better than adults without any realization of that fact. It’s the purity and innocence placed in stark contrast to the cynical opportunism of the adults. Finally, HA2 has all the strengths of Home Alone with the added plus of the city of New York.

    As a kid, I sought solace in a similar kids world as you, Ben. Most of it was within the confines of my own head or with action figures. One of my favorite childhood toys was a Fisher Price video camera, and I would set up my action figures in front of it in elaborate scene set ups. I was so pissed, even as a five year old, that that thing didn’t actually record video. Occasionally I would play some make believe universe with my sister or a few friends, and as I got older I would convince my friends to work on movies in my basement with me — though it was very clear looking back on it that I took it way more serious them.

    One thing that I think is important in the Kid World canon is the idea that Kid World was not limited to our entertainment or the games we’d play. We tried desperately to make it our real lives. We had neighborhood myths and legends (there was one about a house near ours that we all had heard that the family living there had a pet pot-bellied pig that was over 100 years old). We had the scary neighbors no one knew anything about, so stories flew around ranging from the believable to the realistic. I so identify with Smalls from The Sandlot because from my own childhood experience, before I ever even saw the film, I was always the kid who had to be told these legendary stories of the neighborhood. I spent my childhood in a constant state of feeling like every kid I met had knowledge I didn’t. In some ways, I feel like I’ve never really out grown that. Then again, in some ways you could say my that making my living/dedicating myself to storytelling is also an indicator that I haven’t out grown it, which is probably a more positive way of looking at it.

    • Ben Kassoy

      2 months

      Matt (ooh!)

      1. Make Believe Boys shirt: not required but strongly recommended. (Pants still optional.)

      2. Yes, I also love the trope of the hodgepodge team that begin as dysfunctional losers and emerge and cohesive champions. Pretty much all these sports movies employ that narrative: The Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, The Little Giants, The Big Green, etc. I think lots of these movies are making a statement about diversity and the American ideal of people from different backgrounds coming together to win. It’s awesome, though a little problematic these days looking back on some of the cultural tokenization they use.

      3. “E.T. probably warrants its own essay, but it’s narrative component most emblematic of Kid World is that of a kid who understands life better than adults without any realization of that fact. It’s the purity and innocence placed in stark contrast to the cynical opportunism of the adults.”

      Great point (and well written) about E.T.! You’re spot on, and I definitely need to re-watch that one.

      4. Action figures, yes! Great example of another way we created Kid Worlds for ourselves. Also: “I was so pissed, even as a five year old, that that thing didn’t actually record video” — so entertaining and so not surprising, considering everything I know about you now.

      5. Yes! Those neighborhood stories, both in movies and in real life are so full of wonder and possibility and awe. Seems like The Sandlot’s Mr. Myrtle is that film’s Boo Radley, and I’m sure there are tons of other examples in movies…and countless ones in countless neighborhoods in real life.

  • Justin

    2 months

    I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never watched The Sandlot from beginning to end. Any other movie, Ben, and I would’ve been right there with you. Unfortunately I missed the boat on this one. However, I like to think that I have enough of an arsenal of kid world classics, between the others that you mentioned (The Mighty Ducks, Hook, Little Giants), and of course the vast assortment of Disney Channel Original Movies that I would consider my own Kid World playground. Or maybe those were more of the teen world realm, in which angsty teenagers spend more time trying to find themselves than enjoying the whimsical lives they lead.

    For some reason I have this memory of 6 year old Justin acting out a scene from Hocus Pocus. At the very beginning of the movie, a boy is running through the forest, trips on a branch, and tumbles down a huge hill until he lands on the doorstep of the witches’ cabin. My memory is a little foggy regarding what happens to the kid at this point (I think he gets seduced into some sort of spell in which Bette Midler [I had no idea that ginger witch was played by Bette Midler until this moment] inhales his soul). The rest of the movie aside, that scene stuck, my friends and I would take turns taking a spill down the hill, each of us adding our own flair and creativity. Why that scene? No idea, but in kid world you don’t need reasons.

    On a side note, I saw Hans Zimmer perform with his orchestra last night. Would love a piece about the music from movies. I’ll save the rest of my comments for that.

    • Ben Kassoy

      2 months

      Jet!

      Thanks so much for your comment — and your patience on my response.

      It goes without saying, but I’d highly recommend checking out “The Sandlot” when you have the chance — Kid World movies are still amazing, even after we’re kids.

      That “Hocus Pocus” story is hilarious, and that movie is officially on my list. I’ve never seen it, but I know it’s a real classic for lots of folks our age. Interestingly, the fact that Bette Midler is in it is the *only* thing I know about it, so there you go.

      Hans! Legendary. Definitely need to hear about your experience there, both for my personal enjoyment and potential fodder for, as you suggested, another piece.

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