The Children in M3GAN Are Scarier Than the Killer Doll


Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the film M3GAN.


Scary children in movies are nothing new. The horror genre has always played on the fear of innocent children turning horribly bad, perhaps even evil. For instance, there’s Michael Myers from Halloween (1978), the boy who killed his babysitter and grew up to be a maniacally silent serial killer in a mask. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has its fair share of scary children, between Danny Torrence himself and the twin Grady Girls. That fear of children breaking bad is even extended to their toys. Dolls specifically are meant to teach children to be kind and caring. But what happens when those dolls become killer toys? That’s when we get Chucky the Doll from Child’s Play (1988), or Annabelle from The Conjuring movies — dolls that evoke children’s innocence but are ultimately corrupted by evil.

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M3GAN, the newest horror movie focused on a killer doll, follows in that tradition. And it seems that audiences haven’t tired of the trope just yet, as the film is making a profit to kick off the new year. Part of that might be how the film updated the killer doll for modern audiences, embedding artificial intelligence in the titular “Model 3 Generative Android.” M3GAN also captures what it means to be a Gen-Z kid, as her dance moves easily became a TikTok trend. But as much as M3GAN does all the killing in the movie, the film doesn’t shy away from how scary the children themselves can be. Between M3GAN’s child companion Cady (Violet McGraw) and her kid camp bully Brandon (Jack Cassidy), the film still draws from the fear of children going from harmlessly innocent to dangerously violent.

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Cady’s Simmering Anger

Although Cady elicits our sympathy considering her tragic circumstances, her simmering anger and her eventual violent outbursts show how threatening children can be. At the beginning of the film, we see how Cady already has an attachment to her technology. As her family drives through in the snow, Cady is completely enthralled by her iPad and “Perpetual Pet” toy — a tech-infused, Furby knockoff. Her parents are frustrated by Cady’s “screentime,” and the tension of their argument ultimately leads to a car accident. Cady is the only survivor.

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Image via Blumhouse

Cady’s parents represent the traditional kind of parenthood, one that involves a sense of control over a child’s daily activities. But when Cady is taken into her aunt Gemma’s care (Allison Williams), Gemma loosens those “parental controls” by giving her M3GAN. M3GAN not only takes up parental roles such as teaching Cady manners or watching her play outside, but as her therapist had warned, M3GAN has become the object of Cady’s attachment following the loss of her parents. By the time Gemma wants to gain some sense of control back, such as trying to enroll Cady in a traditional school for its social setting, it’s too late. Cady resists entirely, ignoring Gemma’s wishes and going back to having fun with M3GAN.

So it’s no surprise that when Gemma takes M3GAN away from Cady, Cady erupts in an outburst. When she is confronted by her therapist, Cady takes up a pair of scissors to threaten her. Even when Gemma herself intervenes, Cady slaps her aunt in the face. All that anger and grief built up since her parents’ deaths leads to a truly dangerous and, for the therapist, life-threatening situation. This situation shows how no matter how many toys or devices a parent gives to their children, there are no parental controls for a child’s raw, unfiltered, and uncontrollable emotions. Especially for someone like Gemma, a young woman who had no intention of taking on a daughter, trying to appeal to a child’s feelings is no easy task. In fact, it can lead to a more dangerous situation.

Brandon the Douchebag

On the other hand, there’s Brandon, the camp bully whom we feel no sympathy for. Even though his mom calls him a “sensitive soul,” Brandon’s response shows the complete opposite, telling his mother to F-off and calling her by her first name, “Holly.” “You never know what they’re going to say next,” his mother tells Gemma. But it’s not just what children say that might be surprising, but also what they can do, especially when parents aren’t around. When another child at the camp is paired up with Brandon, the child’s refusal to be his partner speaks volumes. And we soon find out why the other boy is scared of Brandon.

M3GAN Megan 2023

Brandon is instead paired up with Cady. Out in the woods with no parents or teachers around, Brandon takes the opportunity to bully Cady. He gives Cady a spiked plant but presses it against her hand making sure the spikes dig into her skin. Brandon’s towering presence over Cady is also quite menacing. When Brandon sees M3GAN, he runs off with the doll, throws it onto the ground, and puts himself on top. The image of the scene is again quite menacing. Brandon’s aggressive, towering demeanor is not at all like an innocent child but is more like a forceful, physical man.

When M3GAN awakens from his hold, she says exactly what we, the audience, are thinking: “You need to learn some manners, Brandon.” M3GAN proceeds to pull off Brandon’s ear and chases him through the woods, leading to his death in a car accident. Brandon embodies the worst of what “boys will be boys” means. He’s more than just a brat – he’s a douchebag and a brute, and there’s no telling what kind of monster or man he would grow up to be if M3GAN didn’t kill him.

Lesson Learned: Beware of Scary Children

Whether it’s Cady’s angry outbursts or Brandon’s brutish jerk attitude, they show how children can be scary in their own right: Cady represents how uncontrollable some children can be when they don’t get what they want, and Brandon represents the worst of what children can be when the parents aren’t looking. Contrary to toys and devices (killer dolls included) children don’t have an on-and-off switch. M3GAN might have given us a new horror icon with its titular toy, but it also reminds us of how innocent children can quickly turn rotten. They can act up anytime, and that’s what makes them scary.



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