Kids With Agency: Rushmore and the Child Civilization

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This past weekend, my sister and I dove back into the wonderful world of Wes Anderson and came out with another gem. This was great, considering the previous film, The Royal Tenenbaums, rubbed us both the wrong way. We were starting to worry that all of the early Anderson would be that way. But Rushmore laid those worries to rest. It was a beautiful thing. And it brought to mind a theme common in some of our most beloved childhood cartoons.

Rushmore follows the character of Max Fischer, a fifteen-year-old attending Rushmore Academy. Max is something of a go-getter at his school, taking on more extracurricular activities than he probably has classes. On top of everything, Max is also a brilliant playwright, and he takes on the role of director in just about everything he sets out to do. He becomes the de facto leader of any activity he takes up and all those involved gladly follow him.

But I don’t want to write specifically about him, much as I loved his character. Instead, I wanted to focus on one of the film’s themes; a vibe it gives off that has worked well in many films and TV shows. That theme is the representation of kids having more agency in their world than would be usually assumed, or of a world run by kids — a Kid Civilization.

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