University of Texas at Austin
The Nuevo Cine Español often employed the gaze of children as an effective strategy to show the traumatic effects of events such as the Civil War and Francoism on the Spanish society. Spanish film critics considered children apt figures to be constructed as political allegories. The children, like Spain itself, were haunted by the repressive past and, simultaneously, constituted the hope for an emerging future. This view assumes that these films are stories of “childhood innocence.” This essay argues that this scholarly discourse has become prevailing at the expense of overlooking significant aspects of the subjectivity of these celluloid children. One of those aspects is their sexuality, which has been virtually erased to privilege the myth of childhood innocence. Drawing on the critical lens of queer theory, I analyze three films that question the heteronormative implications of this myth of childhood innocence. In Cría cuervos (1976), Carlos Saura delineates a queer portrait of the “innocent girl” by presenting her sexuality not necessarily tied to the logic of reproduction that underpins the heterosocial order. In the last section of the essay, I examine how Jaime de Armiñán offers in El amor del capitán Brando (1974) and El nido (1980) a rethinking of cross-generational relationships dislodged from the spectre of child sexual abuse (and from gothic narratives of villains and victims) through which these bonds are usually conceptualized. Questioning the sequential model of sexual development, these two films represent children as desiring subjects in their own right with agency to express and negotiate their affects and sexual impulses.
Keywords: queer child; childhood; innocence; infantile sexuality; Carlos Saura; Nuevo Cine Español; Jaime de Armiñán; intergenerational sex