Why the Kerfuffle About “Pecuilar Children” is Absurd

If you’ve read the Ransom Riggs series upon which the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie was based (and I have), you’d know that it’s set in WWII-era England, and it’s based on sensational, somewhat scary, “freak show”-style photographs written into the storyline. It’s a best-selling fantasy series targeted at Young Adults but has also been eagerly devoured by adult fans of the genre.

That doesn’t mean it’s an easy trilogy to get through.  It’s quite disturbing and challenging, in its own way.

The Big Racial Diversity Issue, and Why It Doesn’t Apply Here

It’s fair to say that Hollywood has a lot of changes to make in order to more fairly represent the demographics of this country in film.  That’s not to say that it’s always appropriate or even sensible to do it just for the sake of doing it.  Make the right film with the right actors, and do it the right way and you’ll be helping balance those scales.

If critics contend that the movie lacks ethnic diversity, it might be helpful to consider this: it does offer something perhaps equally accessible in terms of message, and, certainly, is quite fitting for the genre.  The labels that define us are seen for the restrictive and artificial constructs they really are.  And you will most certainly find diversity (read: unique peculiarities, hence the title) in the books.  It underscores many sad and beautiful truths by laying them bare, but it does so slantwise.

It’s not about race at all, but it very much expounds on the value of individuals who must work together to survive and prosper.  At its core, it’s about what brings us together, and why we must see our differences as strengths, and not something to divide us.  It is about the protection of a threatened and diverse group of people who are often exploited, but rise above it.

Fantasy is a wonderful way to introduce abstract concepts to a young audience without Spelling It Out In Capital Letters.

And I can see why Burton wanted it so.  It’s macabre, dark, and it still celebrates the beauty in little things, and the precious core of what makes us all human.  So, he got that right.

The story is terrifying and really quite nightmarish at times…at least, the books are. I read lots of grimdark fantasy (in truth, I’m not a huge fan of that sub-genre descriptor, but it is accurate, if a bit corny…but I digress).  Peculiar Children still unnerved me at points. This series is about children — a diverse group from all walks of life in Britain. They come together, first to hide, and then to fight their exploitation and persecution using their talents, which some see as a blessing, and others, a curse, but they all contribute. Burton’s a celebrity and clearly either doesn’t care or isn’t thinking about what he says in response to the criticisms, but as far as this film adaptation goes, it’s not likely a valid point at all.

The books are beautiful and terrifying, even as they were written as Young Adult fantasy, and that’s what Burton adapted for the screen. To criticize the film because of its lack of ethnic diversity is, frankly, stupid. It’s a valid criticism in other films, perhaps, but in this case, it seems rather like people searching for bones to pick.

Tim Burton is not my favorite director. I like some of his work, but I’m not a huge fan. However, this kerfuffle seems to me just a lot of noise about something that really isn’t an issue. I’ve seen his comments on the lack of racial and ethnic representation in his films, and he’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m not going to knock this film for it.  If you dish it out for this film, you must do the same for the novels.  And I’m not going to do that.  Dictating to authors what they should or shouldn’t write on the grounds that fiction should necessarily promote social order and fairness is called censorship. Again, not a fan.

When all else fails… read the book.


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