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Child Soldiers / Live-Action TV

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Child Soldiers in live-action TV.

Precociously Talented

  • American Odyssey: A teenage boy named Aslam is given a gun and told to guard Odelle, the prisoner. It's implied he already knows how to use the weapon.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978): "The Young Lords".
    At the bridge the youngest daughter—drops tin cans into the water
  • Firefly: River is adorable, despite being a solider. Luckily, Simon was able to save her from the ominous Academy so she has a chance to be helped, and he would never let The Academy threaten her safety. Ever.
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  • Frasier: Frasier and Niles' Greek aunt Zora.
    Niles: Have you forgotten that when Hitler invaded Greece, she joined the partisans so she could strangle Nazis?
    Frasier: I have never believed that. She would have been five at the time.
    Niles: That's why the legend says they were strangled with jump ropes.
  • Power Rangers Turbo: Justin Stewart, the Blue Ranger.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Nog is a sci-fi version of Plucky Middie.
    • The Jem'hadar are a race engineered to fight for the Dominion, and to grow to adult size very rapidly. One seasoned veteran spoke with pride of how he'd attained the ripe old age of eight. Being 20 means you're an Honored Elder.
  • The Umbrella Academy: In an effort to mold them into the best possible superheroes to "fight against evil", Reginald Hargreeves trains his adopted, superpowered children to fight and kill from at least elementary school age. And he then starts sending them into fights against armed, adult criminals (some of which they kill very messily) when they are only 13 years old. Nobody on the show seems to see a problem with this - on the contrary, the public cheers and adores them and they get merchandising contracts.


Just Plain Tragic

  • 24: Redemption: Sees Jack Bauer rescuing the pupils of school from becoming Child Soldiers and also features them.
  • The 100: The kids sent down to the Earth are forced to become these to protect themselves from the Grounders and later from the Mountain Men. Child soldiers also seem to be an accepted practice among the Grounders (though their idea of when adulthood begins may be different from ours); Clarke is horrified to learn that one of Grounder warriors her people killed is a young girl, and even more horrified to learn that said young girl already had several kills under her belt.
  • The titular character from Agent Carter discovered the Black Widow Ops program during one of her mission. Her fellow Howling Commando underestimated one of them. He paid dearly. It's disturbing to see girls who barely reached their teen got brainwashed to snapped each other necks and slept with their wrist cupped to their bed and some even continue to blindly serve the program into their adulthood, such as Dottie Underwood.
  • Band of Brothers:
    • Touches on this a couple times:
    • In episode 4, intelligence for Operation Market Garden stated that the German soldiers in the Netherlands were mostly "children and old men". This turned out to be inaccurate and contributed to the failure of the operation.
    • Pvt. Jackson, who died by his own grenade in episode 8, was noted to have lied about his age when he joined the army at 16.
    • In episode 5, Winters is haunted by the memory of shooting a German soldier who looked no older than 18.
  • The Bones episode “The Survivor in the Soap” has a victim who was a former child soldier from Africa. The killer was one of the men who had run the operation. Arastoo gets angry at one point at the problems with the case because he knew his cousin had been taken to be one in Iran.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy leads the potential slayers into what is essentially a hopeless war in season seven, with many or most of them being under 18. For that matter, though it was more of a lone warrior gig prior to season seven any slayer would probably qualify, since 15-16 seems to be the usual age to be called, and 16 to 17 the usual age to be killed.
  • On Criminal Minds, the unsub from "Distress" is a veteran of the Somalia conflict who's suffering from PTSD and is flashing back to being stranded in Mogadishu. Specifically, he's reliving a traumatic incident in which he had to kill an eleven-year-old "technical" fighter in defense of his companion.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Family of Blood", schoolboys at a Boarding School are armed with guns to fight a powerful and dangerous enemy. Even the nastiest bully is relieved when it turns out they only shot up a bunch of scarecrows. This episode is set in 1913, by the way, and it's noted that a year later, some of those boys will be at war for real.
  • Falling Skies: Since most of the country's military was wiped out in the aliens' initial invasion, most of the fighting now has to be done by the remaining civilians, including young children.
    • In particular, there's Jimmy who's only 13. He acts as a Morality Pet to Weaver, who treats him both as a child and a soldier, and occasionally laments that he has to be a soldier at all.
    • The aliens also use harnessed kids as this, presumably expecting that the humans will be unwilling to shoot a child.
  • Farscape: Peacekeeper training starts young. Some recruits are the result of an "assigned birthing to fill the ranks" and others are conscripted from Sebacean colonies. Those born into service never get to know their parents as it is against the rules for parents to make any contact with their children.
  • Firefly: If the School for Scheming's plan had worked, River Tam would have become one of these. She was sent to an Alliance-controlled Academy, aged fourteen, for what she and her family thought was a more challenging curriculum than normal high schools. Instead, she got the Training from Hell, and it's implied that she isn't the only one to get it, just one of the only ones to actually live through the process, and there very likely were other kids screwed just as much as she did (only the series couldn't get deep enough for being cancelled). By the time she's rescued from the facility by her brother Simon, she's only seventeen years old.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Although not a soldier per se, Arya Stark resembles one more and more as the horrors of war leave her a hardened killer seeking vengeance. She was created in part to represent the trauma and struggle of child soldiers.
    • Squires such as Willem and Martyn Lannister are expected to accompany the knights they serve into battle even though they are still boys even by Westerosi standards.
    • King Jon Snow is forced to use this trope for the White Walker invasion since the North has lost many adult soldiers in the War of the Five Kings. He orders all children, both boys and girls who are at least 10 years old, to be armed and trained to be a soldier. In a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance, the other lords are eager to have their young sons see "real battle", but are appalled when they learn their daughters will be conscripted as well and are only convinced when Lyanna Mormont points out that the enemy certainly won't discriminate based on age or gender.
  • Hanna: The Utrax girls are all teenagers whom the CIA acquired while infants, modified their DNA, then drugged, indoctrinated and trained them as assassins.
  • Horrible Histories' Hitler Youth sketch.
    Adolf Hitler: Yes, join the Hitler Youth, and if you're lucky, we'll run so short of men that we'll send you off to fight und get killed for ze fatherland!
    German Boy: But I'm only ten.
    Hitler: [Gives Nazi salute] Talk to ze hand, 'cause ze face ain't listening.
  • Hornblower: In this miniseries adaptation of the books, this trope doesn't appear very prominently, but there are some children aboard ships, both British and their enemies. Series two featured some powder monkeys. In "Loyalty" (series three), there's a memorable gory scene when young Midshipman Jack Hammond freaked out because he got splattered with blood of one little powder boy who got blown up to smithereens with a cannon ball. There are also many characters who fall into the naval type, and those Plucky Middies got explored more and viewers got to know them better. Alas, they made us root for them, only to let them suffer later and then let them die tragically.
  • JAG: The series finale had one of the officers dealing with a marine who is actually only 16 years who lied about his age signing up. To resolve the situation, the lawyer talks the Marine Corps into making the kid an honorary Marine before he is sent home to his mother with a promise that they would be delighted to recruit him legally when the time is right.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Hell" centered around two Ugandan refugees: a little girl who had been kept as a sex slave until she was so badly broken that she was Left for Dead, and a former Lord's Resistance Army child soldier that was conscripted as a little boy before escaping as a young man. When the girl is attacked and nearly killed, the man is the primary suspect, but it's revealed that the two were Like Brother and Sister, and he was actually trying to protect her from the real culprit, a third refugee who turned out to be the one who had enslaved the girl, and had tried to kill her so she couldn't reveal his true identity. While the detectives manage to arrest the man who did it, the former child soldier is slated for deportation since he is staying illegally in America. He ultimately commits Suicide by Cop, since he would rather die than return to Uganda, and also in hopes that this would force the world to recognize the plight of other child soldiers.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Dealt with in several later-season episodes:
    • Famously, in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet":
      Wendell: I'm never gonna forgive you for this! Not for the rest of my life!
      Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and healthy hate.
      • However, Hawkeye also arranges for him to have Frank Burns' inappropriately bestowed Purple Heart to soften the blow.
  • Revolution: As episode 7 reveals, Mooks employed by the Monroe Militia start out as such, being forcibly conscripted from their homes and families.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the alternate timeline of "Yesterday's Enterprise", Wesley Crusher is given the full commission of ensign and is assigned to be part of the Enterprise bridge crew, possibly to show how desperate the Federation is in the history where it is losing to the Klingons.
    • In "The High Ground", the Ansata terrorists have children as part of their group to fight off the occupying Rutian forces.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Kira Nerys joined the Bajoran resistance at the age of twelve or thirteen. While she was willing (indeed, eager) to join the fight against the Cardassians who were occupying her planet and her side was generally the "good guys", this show fully exploited War Is Hell and The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized, meaning that much of what she saw and did allows her to qualify as this.
  • The Wire: A looser example, but during season 4, Michael (who was only 13 or 14 at time) was forced to become this for Marlo's drug crew. It was the only way for him to escape his worsening circumstances at home. While Michael could handle taking his finances from his junkie mother, the return of his step-father made him feel threatened (and for good reason, if he was really molested by him). By requesting the help of the local gangsters, it gave Michael their protection and housing to get him and his step-brother away from home. The Wire implies that many young inner-city kids (including Bodie and Wallace) got their start in the drug game through similar circumstances. Even Calvin lampshades this in season 4 when he stated that by 18, kids are too deep into the drug game to be reformed, let alone act civilized to authorities.
  • The Umbrella Academy: In an effort to mold them into the best possible superheroes to "fight against evil", Reginald Hargreeves trains his adopted, superpowered children to fight and kill from at least elementary school age. And he then starts sending them into fights against armed, adult criminals (some of which they kill very messily) when they are only 13 years old. Unsurprisingly, the kids grow up to become very messed-up adults, and one of them dies during their missions while he's still a teenager. However, while the writing of the show points out that their father's training methods were psychologically abusive, it never seems to see the age of their first missions as a problem in itself.
  • Key & Peele: Parodied in one skit, in which a charity's mission is to provide fake beards for African children so that they won't be conscripted. It works


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