There are certain child characters that give you the chills. There is something just “off” about them. It might be the dull gleam in their eyes. It might be the odd curve of their mouth when they smile. It might be the way they laugh uncontrollably - at nothing. It might be anything. But, when we meet them, we just know that they are on a course set for evil. There are many such characters I can name; Oliver from The Brady Bunch (creepy lurker), Wayne from The Wonder Years (psychopathic bully), and Danny Partridge (umm, he grew up to be Danny Bonaduce. 'Nuf said). But, in my mind there are two characters that just reeked of the cologne Red Flag. They are:
Judy Hensler from Leave it to Beaver
Granted, at first blush little Judy Hensler with her tight pigtails and lips permanently pursed in stern disapproval at any sign of childhood high-jinks doesn’t seem the killing type, but all the warning signs are there. Her over-the-top do-good behavior is nothing more than a cry for attention from authority figures. However, Judy’s inability to get the “The Beaver” into any real trouble or, more importantly, get Miss Landers’ much sought after approval eventually begins to chip away Judy’s soul. By high school, Judy embarks on a campaign to “out” her rule-breaking classmates and sends anonymous notes to her teachers detailing all her classmates “crimes.” When her efforts are ignored and in some cases openly mocked, she takes matters into her own hands. At first, her “punishments” are petty – slashed tires, spray painted taunts, egged homes. However, when those efforts fail to get the hoped for results, Judy ups the ante. Bodies begin to pile up and soon the residents of Mayfield are terrified – none more so than The Beaver and his old pal, Lumpy.
I know, I know. How, you wonder, could this seemingly harmless little boy be a killer? Well, I’ll tell you. It begins at home with simply horrible parenting. Seemingly every episode of Caillou begins with a voice over observation such as “Caillou was unhappy.” Caillou’s unhappiness could be triggered by just about anything; his sister Rosie inheriting an old shirt of his or his inability to trash his room with his toys. Rather than sit his ass down and explain to him that he cannot fly into a tantrum or sulk every time he doesn’t get his way, his parents hug him and tell him that they are sorry for not better understanding his feelings. Really? Are you kidding me? By age seven, Caillou is a full-fledged brat who is shunned by the other children. By middle school, his constant tantrums and disruptive behavior result in his expulsion from the public school system. His parents, still drinking from the cup of denial, place him in an expensive private school. Their budget already stretched with court mandated therapy sessions, his mother is forced to return to work, which in turn results in a cessation of adult supervision (not that it was great to begin with). Both parents end up on various prescription drugs to help them deal with their feelings of failure; drugs that Caillou steals and uses himself. By senior year, Caillou is an addict, a bully, and a thief. When he is arrested for drunk driving and grand theft auto, he is sentenced to five months in prison. His parents use this time to sell their house, change their names, and leave town. Upon his release, Caillou flies into a rage at the realization that his family has abandoned him. He spends the rest of his days traveling from town to town killing men in sweater vests and women in shapeless clothes.
The signs are there. Wake up and smell the cologne. And lock your doors.