"Children should never be seen nor heard from -- ever again." - W.C. Fields
Last week, an article was published on Salon.com proclaiming now to be "Child acting's new golden age," citing the surge of kid characters in popular movies and TV shows. But the writer is confusing sheer volume with talent: For every Chloe Grace Moretz there are 10 mindless Disney Channel stars. It would be more appropriate to deem the current era a dark age for viewers, with some child actors so exasperatingly irritating that watching them is like swimming the English Channel in water wings.
Here are my top five contenders for headache of the year:
1. Carl -- The Walking Dead
Carl is the most obvious choice for this list. Let's be honest - how many times have you wished it was his entrails that were ripped out instead of Dale's? It may not be fair to blame every obstacle faced by Rick and Co. on Carl, but his behavior alone is responsible for the death of at least two characters in the most recent season. And even though he may be the last kid on Earth, one feels hard-pressed to feel sorry for him when he spends all his time sulking beneath that over-sized cowboy hat. If and when (fingers crossed!) a walker finally does reduce him to a stumbling, drooling shell, I think I'll appreciate his character infinitely more. What if they have zombie Otis come back to do the deed? What delicious irony.
2. Joffrey -- Game of Thrones
First, let's begin by admiring the fact that, for a child of incest, Joff is surprisingly free of physical abnormality, with no visible clubbed foot or jaw disorder to speak of (See: Hapsburg, House of). However, the inbreeding clearly manifests itself psychologically, as this flaxen-haired teen tyrant is the embodiment of all evil. Whether the Lannister is lopping off the limbs of lords or hurling vats of hot oil on hungry subjects, nothing seems capable of wiping that sadistic smirk off of his face. I think it's safe to say that if his head were to find its way on top of a pike in King's Landing, the people of Westeros wouldn't exactly weep for their loss. And neither would we.
3. Manny -- Modern Family
I know, I know -- this one is controversial, but hear me out. Sure, Manny's "old soul, young body" gimmick is adorable in small segments: playing parent at Haley's party, trading fake stock via Blackberry in Disneyland, etc. But take a moment to put yourself in Jay's shoes. How would you tolerate being lectured on everything from romance to parenting by your wife's 13-year-old? Mark my words -- as soon as that kid hits puberty, his act will go from charming to chafing before you can say Delgado-Pritchett. Gloria is gorgeous, but is putting up with Manny really worth it? I see boarding school in his future (or maybe just a summer job on a rural dude ranch).
4. Ellie -- The League
This one is my dark horse -- the unexpected contender, lurking beneath the surface of FX's The League like a strand of hair in your lasagna. If Ellie's speech impediment doesn't grate on your nerves like Yobogoya! on your bowels, then the way this cherubic dictator orders around her parents surely will. Men everywhere grumbled angrily when she demanded Jenny wear a frog costume for Halloween instead of the "sexy Brownie" outfit, and the way Ellie mindlessly absorbs the bad habits of those around her (swearing, not washing hands in the bathroom) results in many the condemning parent-teacher conference for Kevin. Here's to hoping that in the season four premier, Mr. McGibblets steals her away in the middle of the night.
5. Henry -- Once Upon a Time
I get why this kid is upset. Every time Henry tries to tell someone that his town is full of fairy tale characters trapped by the evil witch from Snow White, they just think he's crying wolf. But even that doesn't justify the amount of relentless whining this little wisp puts forth. When he gets trapped in a sink hole, the writers should've just pulled a Cave-of-Wonders and had it eat him alive. All seemed right in the world when we thought (hoped) that the poison apple turnover had finished him off. But then he awoke, and even blind mice could sense the collective groan of viewers everywhere.