|“||Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge.||„|
|~ Anthony's presentation during the introduction speech by Rod Serling.|
Anthony Fremont is the villain of the short story It's a Good Life, which was adapted in an episode of television series The Twilight Zone in 1961. He is a three-year-old (six-year-old in the TV adaptation, played by Billy Mumy) child with unlimited powers, which he uses to dictate his will to his entire town.
He is referred to as a "monster" in the episode's introduction and the story describes him with an "odd shadow" and a "bright, wet purple gaze," hinting a supernatural and possibly demonic origin. The short story also states that the obstetrician who helped his mother to give birth screamed and tried to kill him, only to meet his own demise.
Anthony Fremont was born in the little town of Peaksville, Ohio in the USA. He soon displayed unexplained god-like powers and from then on, the life of everyone in Peaksville became a living nightmare. First, he isolated the entire village and its immediate surroundings in another dimension. (Whether the town was removed or the entire world around disappeared is not explained.) Then he banished automobiles, machines and electricity itself, simply because he did not like them, forcing every citizen to work and to live in a nearly Middle-Ages fashion.
The radios and TV sets still exist but they work only when he wants them to and broadcast only what he wants them to, unleashing his wrath on anyone who does not follow the broadcast with the utmost attention. He controls the weather and he decides every day what good will be available in the town's grocery. Anything and anyone who displeases or annoys him either suffers an awful transformation or is wished away to the cornfield, which can mean that they find there a very painful demise, or more likely that he merely erases them from existence.
Even worse, he automatically knows what anyone around him has in mind, forcing all those who approach him to act positive, to praise what he is doing (even though much of what he does is bad) and to think they are happy every time, concealing their true feelings as much as they can when this is not the case, because he HATES bad thoughts. Anthony likes to play with other children but he often wishes them away when he is done playing, so no child in town is allowed to come near him. He also entertains himself by creating strange creatures, like a three-headed gopher, or more often by transforms existing things or animals to give them a "funnier" appearance.
To put it simply, Anthony controls everything, he decides everything, and those who disagree with him, or who simply think about something that annoys him, can make their prayers, (if he leaves them enough time). Anthony is omnipotent. He can do absolutely anything he wants, even resurrecting dead people or bending nature and the laws of physics to his will. Apparently, the only thing he cannot do is to revert something he has done.
Personality wise, he is not malevolent or evil, but rather a capricious and short-tempered brat, who does not realize the full extent of his actions. He is just a child, with the same limited grasp of the world as any other child of his age. As such, he tends to follow his whims, to see the world from his perspective alone, to lose interest quickly, to hold childish grudges and to imagine that someone unhappy with him or in his presence does not like him. But given his incredible power, his whims and grudges have much direr consequences than any other child's. When irked, his anger gets the best of him and he unleashes it, no matter how much he cared for the person he "punishes". He loved his aunt Amy, who was said to have more control over him than anyone else, but he hates songs, so when he heard her singing carelessly, he turned her into a mute and nearly vegetative woman.
No one is safe from him, even his own family. As such, no one ever dared to scold him, or simply to set some limits or rules for him to follow. Because of this, he always did as he pleases and his development was rather stunted, resulting in a slightly sociopathic, self-centered behavior. He genuinely likes the people around him though, and he loves his relatives. As long as he is in a good mood he will listen to them.
In the short story, he wants people to be happy and tries to help people. But since he does not fully understand how the world, let alone other people, works, he almost always worsens the situation. Even when he does regret what he has done, he cannot fully undo it, and whenever he tries to, things go awry. The adaptation however, focuses solely on his scariest aspects.
The first part of It's a Good Life presents the settings, the characters and the tyranny of Anthony Fremont. Later the Fremonts throw a surprise birthday party for their neighbor Dan Hollis in their farmhouse. The guests first have to watch one of Anthony's compulsory TV broadcasts, which shows dinosaurs fighting. Everyone but Anthony find it boring, but dare not express it and, as usual, they tell him that it was much better than the TV from before. Dan then receives a bottle of whisky (from before Anthony's birth, as he banished alcohol) and a rare record, but they advise him to wait until he is away from Anthony to play it. Anthony then asks someone to play the piano, much to Dan's dismay.Dan starts drinking alone and singing "Happy Birthday" to himself, which annoys Anthony. Finally Dan, who got drunk, cannot stand it anymore and he openly insults the boy, calling him a "monster" and a "murderer." He then exhorts the guests to kill Anthony from behind and to end his reign of terror, but while everyone present is tempted to do so, they are too scared to do anything.
Furious, Anthony ends up turning Dan into a jack-in-the-box that retains Dan's face, and then wishes him to the cornfield upon his father's pleas. In his rage, Anthony causes a blizzard, which destroys at least half of the crops, much to the adults' horror. Everyone is horror struck and grieving, but they resign themselves to endure Anthony's tyrannical rule for the rest of their lives, and Anthony's father tells him that he did well and that "tomorrow's gonna be a... real good day!"
In the short story, Anthony is not present at first during the birthday party, but the guests are too afraid to play the record and to sing "Happy Birthday." Dan gets drunk and exhorts them to sing, before ranting curses about Anthony and angrily pleading his parents to get rid of him. An angry Anthony then enters the room, having perceived Dan's "bad thoughts" and turns Dan into an unfathomable horror that is never described, which he wishes away. Once again, the citizens have no other choice than to resign themselves.
In the 2002 Twilight Zone revival, a sequel called "It's Still a Good Life" aired, with Bill Mumy reprising the role. It shows a 46-year-old Anthony Fremont, who still dictates his will to Peaksville, and his daughter Audrey, who is even more powerful than him and can bring back what he wished away. Audrey is torn between her father, her friends and her grandmother, whom she all loves deeply. When her grandmother tries to convince her to end Anthony's reign, she ends up banishing everyone in the town, before returning Peaksville to the normal world and departing to New York City with her father.
It's a Good Life, (and especially its Twilight Zone adaptation) inspired many other works of art in music or literature, as well as other TV shows: for example.
- In The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror II, Springfield and Bart are presented in the exact same fashion as Peaksville and Anthony Fremont. Bart wields unlimited powers, which he uses to bend reality (and school programs) to his will, to dictate his will to Springfield and to transform anyone without happy thoughts, ultimately turning Homer into a Jack-in-the-box.
- In the Johnny Bravo episode "Johnny Real Good", Johnny babysits Timmy, a nasty, all-powerful, six-year-old brat, who perceives any thought, punishes everyone who thinks badly and tyrannizes his parents. Timmy gives Johnny a real hard time and teleports him several times to the cornfield next to his house.
- On an episode of Lost In Space, young Will Robinson becomes angry at his family and friends, who start disappearing one by one. Wondering at first whether he caused it, Will eventually confronts the culprit: an entity who describes itself as a "bad little boy", who tapped into his resentment of his being the aboard. By fighting against his fears, Will defeats it and restores his family. Will Robinson was played by Bill Mumy, who also played Anthony Fremont in The Twilight Zone.