The role of orphans has played a unique role in screenwriting. Orphans symbolize more than parentless children. They represent vulnerability, fear and strength because they are forced to make tough decisions regarding their futures. Good screenwriters understand this.
Orphans are warriors, battlers and ultimately heroes. These are powerful human characters that resonate with film audiences.
The status quo is no longer an option for orphans because they forced to accept responsibility, they become stronger people regardless of whether they ultimately succeed or fail. Their character growth lies in their journey more than their final destination. Initially, they commence either unwillingly, or with a naive bravado. Never with the full knowledge of the danger and greatness that awaits.
Orphans create empathy in movie audiences because they represent basic human fears; fears and loss of abandonment, comfort and nurturing, social contact and survival. Despite the seemingly overwhelming obstacles and danger, the orphan main characters still undertake their perilous journey until the bitter end.
Orphans generally refer to children because they represent purity and hope. Children are naive enough to want to explore the world with wonder, yet strong enough to have a sense of morality and desire to reach that goal. They often find surrogate parents because they are initially incapable of taking care of themselves. Later, they may even save the world. This is their rite of passage into adulthood.
Orphans are often represented in screenplays as being alone and living in financial and emotional hardship. Even in stories where they have been adopted, the specter of the evil uncle or aunt is ever present. Just look at Harry Potter who was forced to live under the stairs.
The humble beginnings of orphans also amplify the importance of achieving their destiny. They find their true guidance outside their parents. They look deep inside themselves for answers.
Upon the death of their parents, children go beyond their survival instincts. They display remarkable resilience and find their true purpose in life, even if they don’t realize it until much later. Their destiny will unsettle them because they don’t understand its true magnitude.
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