Heavy Metal Jr. is a twenty-five minute light-hearted Scottish documentary about a heavy metal band consisting of kids of about age 10-12. The band is called “Hatred.” They are shown rehearsing for and then playing in their first ever gig, which looks to be at some sort of county fair or outdoor event.
It’s mostly played for laughs, and there are indeed some decent moments of humor in it. There’s the band member who always keeps his scarf over his face (even wanting to do so while singing, and then looking mortified when their “manager”–one of their dads–insists he uncover his mouth), that same manager demonstrating for them how to sing one of their songs and getting an icy reception for it, the sometimes painful auditions for a new bass player when their existing one walks out on the band for reasons unspecified, etc. But the funniest is when one of the moms presents them with the shirts she’s gone to the trouble and expense of having made for them, and they shoot awkward glances at each other, uncertain how best to tell her there’s something not quite right about the shirts saying “Hatrid.”
The film is edited in a staccato style of a brief scene of them doing something silly, then a bumper of a few seconds of one of them posed in an overly serious “metal” posture that contrasts with the funny clip while you hear a few notes of their music, followed by another brief scene, etc., like Laugh-In.
I was slightly uncomfortable that the film was laughing at these kids. When I was that age, I took myself pretty seriously, and I knew a fair number of kids who were pretty bright, talented people who could operate at least close to the level of an adult, in the areas that engaged them. We certainly wouldn’t have appreciated being patronized with an attitude of “Oh look how cute and funny those little kids are, going through all those mishaps with their band!”
Especially since the reason the film comes across that way is because of the editing. They obviously cherry picked the most absurd moments that would get laughs and strung them together. The material doesn’t compel that. They could just as easily have taken it in a serious direction by showing them at their best, interviewing them in a serious way about their music, etc.
So it’s a little different laughing at this than laughing at a fictional documentary (i.e., mockumentary).
Another thought I had watching it is I don’t know that it sits all that well with me when I see children being imitation adults rather than genuine children. That is, music of this genre presumably is meant to be informed by certain kinds of life experiences, to express emotions and sexuality associated with at least adolescence if not adulthood, etc. So it’s almost like someone who speaks no English learning a few passages of Shakespeare phonetically and reciting them. It’s an imitation of the externals without the corresponding internals.
But maybe that’s what a lot of growing up is. You start by going through the motions of older activities, and eventually the rest of it comes. (Or perhaps it doesn’t, because there is nothing else. Maybe the behaviorists are right that there’s just the externals.)
I don’t know what to think about it. There’s just something “off” about, say, five year olds in a beauty pageant in heels and make-up and all the conventional sexualized accoutrements. They don’t have the ideas, the emotions, the desires, the experiences that make sense of looking that way.
Well, no big deal I guess. These kids like this music and want to play it, for whatever reasons they’re capable of having at this stage of their development. So that’s cool.
It gets them chicks too; they’ll learn that pretty quick. After their gig, they’re surrounded by girls their age oohing and aahing over which is their favorite, and wanting autographs and wanting to talk to them.