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This phenomenon is one I associate with the educational system in the US. I suspect it is also common to other educational systems. In the US, almost everyone in their youth is exposed to the educational system. Public education is required unless there are alternatives employed such as home schooling. The vast majority of children cycle through the 'state school' system.

From kindergarten onward, kids learn where they fit into the pecking order. It's a natural process where everyone figures out who they are in relation to everyone else. Joe learns that he's good at games and sports, and Shana figures out she's one of the pretty girls. That's where we finally get the groupings we all recognize. There are the jocks, the cheerleaders, the nerds, the freaks, etc. Almost everyone falls into a group which can be labeled. People, by and large, are herd animals. The true lone wolf is an exception, not the rule.

One such group is the one I label the golden child group. You know who they are. They are the ones who, when the perks and goodies come around, make off with about 90% of them. That is exceptional, as the golden child group is limited to about 10% of any class. In every class you can name the smart ones, the ones tapped by their fairy godmother, selected for success. They cruise through school, loved by the faculty and their peers, having only to exist to reap their rightful due from everyone else. Many of them don't have to hit the books, enjoying a natural osmotic effect, absorbing information from the very air. They all have nice clothes, clear skin, wonderful dentistry. They're fit, able, and a joy to look upon. Every good thing that life has to give falls into their lap.

The remaining 90% of their class are like mongrel pups, fighting over the meager 10% of goodies left after the golden child has feasted. No apologies are made for the disparity of goodies. It's assumed by everyone that it's the natural order of things, the way things should be. The 'have-nots' don't look upon their golden child classmates with jealousy. That would somehow be a betrayal of all that's good and right in the world.

The parents of the golden child certainly recognize that their child is one. They expect everyone else to recognize it also. They can be absolutely shameless in promoting the interests of their progeny over those of other children. They seem to regard largesse showered upon a child not their own as a terrible waste of resources. These are the parents who, if left to their own devices, become the subject of made-for-tv movies such as Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story. Remember that story? It's the one where the mother of a girl in Texas, in order to insure her precious little seedling makes the squad, decides to eliminate the competition. When you hear of such happenings you tend to sit a moment in stunned disbefief that such a thing could actually happen.

The fun part of the whole thing gets going when the golden child competes with the others in the group. After all, in every kingdom there can be only one king or queen. Just as in European history, the scene is replete with skullduggery, dirty deeds done dirt cheap, all in the interest of someone attaining the throne. It seems that the males will compete, but it's a straight-up battle based on abilities, but seldom with the Machiavelian sideshows involved. The girls, however, are much more entertaining. They jockey for position, keep score and always look for the advantage over their competitors. Every girl has her coterie of supporters, trusted to run interference for her or to simply promote her interests. That is another way to score the contest. Observe who has the most powerful clique, the best court to draw upon. The weaker rivals will invariably have a lesser pool of talent surrounding them.

The fems also will use the males to bolster their bid for supremacy. The strongest fem must have the most popular guy at her beck and call. What good could it possibly serve to associate with the dregs of the lower classes? No, that won't work at all. If she must be a headhunter, it's prime scalp all the way.

How do I know so much about this phemonena? Was I used and abused in this raw system? The answer is no, I wasn't. My experience comes from being the parent of a golden child.

My step-daughter was certifiably one of the elect. She was pretty, popular, and loved by everyone. She took it all in stride, accepting it as the natural order, as any true golden child must. She never lacked a date, never got left out when the gravy train made its run, dispensing goodies to the deserving and the undeserving alike. She competed with the others, sometimes winning, sometimes not.

She was in dance class for years, going to many competitions where she was recognized for her talents. I remember hearing the war stories relayed by her Mom of the goings-on backstage. Tales of how mothers refused to help other children with odds and ends. Some kid's parents couldn't always make the trip to help their offspring. It would have been easy enough for the 'responsible' adults to pitch in, help all the kids, but did it pan out that way? No way! There were moms who brought ironing boards and irons to freshly press their kid's costumes but would they share with others? Not even! The mothers were the true cutthroats, far worse than their kids ever dreamed of being. One mom would go into the greenroom and unplug whatever appliance a kid was using to plug her own daughter's equipment in. No "excuse me, I'm sorry, can we borrow this?" or any other social grace. Mom would barge in like the prow of a battleship, scattering bodies in her wake, oblivious and uncaring of anyone else's needs.

I invite you to look back at your time in school. I'll wager you can name every golden child in your class. You either know them or you were one of them.

The pendulum does swing both ways, though. Once out of the insular system of school, many of the blessed fail to attain the heights expected of them. Life stops delivering its largesse, and the golden child has no experience with having to scratch for their sustenance. When the cold wind of reality blows, many of them wither and fade away.

The have-nots often attain much more than the ones with all the early advantages. They often don't expect much, having never had much. They just keep moving along, like Ol' Aesop's turtle, and finally win the race. Life sometimes has poetic justice that way. Things over the long haul tend to even out.

I've wondered sometimes about the hidden horror involved in being born a golden child.


"So, I gotta go to Tibet, because I'm the Chosen One. Why can't anybody choose me to go to the Bahamas?"

Back in a time called the eighties, things now unthinkable would happen quite regularly: Chevy Chase was a hot A List actor who made his studio 155 million cool bucks by starring in three comedies within only one year. Michael Ritchie was a sought after director. George Lucas made Howard the Duck (why?). Kurt Russell and John Carpenter made a comedy about slavery, mysticism and human sacrifice in San Francisco. Eddie Murphy was deemed funny, and only really big movies would have a Harold Faltermeyer sound track. With other words: Hollywood was a more naive and less cynical place than today, where producers find nothing wrong with making five 'Scary Movie' films.

And still ask people to pay for admission.

So, the genre of the Comic/Horror/Thriller genre was still around then. And why not? Notable examples of this were still present in people's minds: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, The Raven, An American Werewolf in London and Roman Polanski's divine The Fearless Vampire Killers were all movies that worked very well and still hold up relatively favourably compared to some of the trash that was produced in the eighties, but the golden child was doomed from its conception. Initially set to star Mel Gibson and directed by John Carpenter, the scriptwriters of this 1986 hit had to quickly turn it around into a comedy/horror thing with the arrival of Murphy and Ritchie as replacements. The movie never recovered from that schism. Genuinely bizarre special effects straight out of the Ray Harryhausen school of horror (done by ILM), sadistic demons and scantily clad nymphic asian girls are being interspersed by Murphy's wisecracking.

"Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine's is such an ass, then I shall have it."

Spoilers ahead

The story? Oh yes. The story. Wait a minute, er....

Eddie Murphy plays Chandler Jarrel, a social worker cum detective specialising in the finding and retrieval of lost children. One day he is approached by beautiful seductress Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) to help her find 'The Golden Child', a little Tibetan semi/demi/three quarter god that has been kidnapped by the dastardly daemon Charles Dance, er, 'Sardo Numspar' (great name for a baddy) and is being held in suburban L.A. by a hellish biker gang that attempts feeding the child pudding mixed with the blood of a kidnapped prostitute. To equip himself with the right weapon, he makes a pilgrimage to a secret temple in Tibet to retrieve a sacred knife (with me so far?), finds Numspy, kills all the baddies and saves the kid, the day and gets the girl.

Ok, so far, so weird. But what's the movie like?
Well, it's a mess. But a charming one. While the story is utter tosh, Uncle Murphy keeps the laughs coming with his oxymoronic little one-liners and keeps hamming it up for the audience. The dozen or so distinguished asian typecasts (exactly the same ensemble that worked on Big trouble in little China) keep their dignity, and some of the locations are marvellous.

Worth watching? Well, better than Scary Movie 4 and perfect for a rainy sunday afternoon on the couch with a nice glass of wine and a liberal mood.

Sources: imdb.com, rottentomatoes.com and my own patchy memory

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