Are child geniuses actually ulcer-plagued über-geeks like Little Man Fred Tate? To verify the depiction of gifted youth in Jodie Foster’s film, we talked to 13-year-old Jennifer Jong, a seventh grader at New York City’s Hunter College High School, a public school for gifted students.
”I liked that [Fred] was so smart that he understood things and worried about them,” Jennifer says. ”Gifted children can comprehend issues such as global warming, homelessness, or human emotions on an almost adult level. But with a child’s perception of the world, that leaves many questions unanswered and is often very scary.”
While most of her friends also attend Hunter, Jennifer says, ”In many situations I feel more comfortable around adults. They’re not as judgmental.” That doesn’t mean she’s unhappy with her special status, though. ”I didn’t like when Fred went on the talk show and pretended he wasn’t smart. It bothered me that he pretended to be somebody else — the kid he admired — instead of being himself.” On balance, however, Jennifer was satisfied with the film. ”I watched it five times!” she enthuses. ”All Fred wanted was to have friends and be happy, and at the end he was.”