When author Gary D. Schmidt give his talk at Western WA University's Children's Lit Conference, he spoke of how most of his novels focus on what it means to to turn from the ease of childhood to adulthood. His interest lies in that moment, or series of events in which "we turn our faces toward adulthood and why." I found that Super 8 also explored this common theme, and did so in a beautifully, poignant manner. And it didn't hurt that the kid actors were all incredibly gifted. Really, they blew me away! Such raw talent, intuition and unself-conscious performances from such young people is really awe inspiring. Not only that, but the characters they play are these awesome kids with drive and ambition. They taught themsleves to make movies on a Super 8 camera, and instead of sitting inside all summer playing video games, they run around town filming and following their passion and chasing down grand adventures. I loved that. I hope to instill that kind of active moxie in my own children someday. And they were brave. Even when they were scared. It was really heartwarming to see kids with that kind of courage.
My Uncle John reminded me that this period of turning toward adulthood has always played an integral part in literature throughout history. "In German, the coming of age story is called a bildungsroman. Every culture has them, probably because it's such a fundamental part of the human condition. Moving from the prebuescent to the mature adult stage of life has more than mere physical manifestations. There are social, economic, and even political implications when a person enters the adult community. It underlies the Jewish tradition of bar mitzvah. Even Katniss Everdean comes of age in the arena (Hunger Games)."
We are drawn to coming of age stories because it is something we have all experienced, and it can often be an emotionally turbulent time. The wonder lost and the awareness found in this in-between moment in a child's life is definitely bittersweet. And that is something we all remember well.