When my son was born a little over three years agowhere-the-wild-things-are my good friend Mark brought over a selection of books he thought to be essential “must read” tomes for any little boy. Where The Wild Things Are was in there and I’ve read those 200 or so words to Odin  probably a thousand times. We love that book and we love the pictures and my toddler sees no psychological complexity to a boy in a wolf suit. Why then did Spike Jonze feel it necessary to turn it into something all Jungian and dark and disturbing.

Look, every once in a great while I can appreciate a movie like this…once in a great while. My real problem is the way a piece of joy and sweetness and innocence from my life has been hijacked to sell some kind of overburdened hyper-symbolic look into the pathos of a troubled tween.

I feel like there is a kind of a war going on in our culture about what’s ‘real.’ The ascendant viewpoint is that somehow darkness and pain, brokenness and sorrow are the truer and more reliable aspects of this world; that happiness and light are ultimately illusions. In fairness, I know this worldview well, and from personal experience. Not too many years ago I lived for movies like this and all the auto-adulation we smart people got from seeing the deeper meanings in things.

But I’ve come to see things differently these days. Yes the world is deeply broken and to draw breath here is to deal with suffering – but the darkness of this world is not the deepest, truest thing about it – quite the opposite. When I read this book to Odin and we jump up and down in the living room to play out the wild rumpus there is nothing truer than his innocence and our joy and the magic of the word ‘daddy.’

And perhaps that’s why I was so ticked off when I got out of this movie. Somebody took something dear and precious to me and suggested that pain was more real than hope, that misery is out lot, and that death is stronger than Life. To all those sad creatures who  resent the simplicity of ‘good’ I will stare into your yellow eyes without blinking once and cry ‘No!’ – then send you to bed without your dinners….

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5 Comments
  1. @August Bergquist

    Sometimes I refrain from watching the movie to keep the book from getting spoiled.

    Also, how does that even work?

  2. August Bergquist

    Don’t make books into movies unless you stick to the book. It ruins the book and the movie.

  3. I remember the Giving Tree. That was a wonderful story. And I hate to say it but somewhere in my distant memory I do remember somebody deconstructing that book and making all about the ‘internal struggle with selfishness’ or environmental exploitation or some such rot. It totally ticked me off.

    Even Frued said ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”

  4. I couldn’t agree more! I came out of that movie so irritated. I tweeted that I hated it and so many people were disappointed in *me*, as though I were the one hacking apart their lovely childhood memory! I’m glad someone understands and agrees with me. It’d be like taking my other childhood fave – The Giving Tree – and turning it into that Poltergeist tree that breaks through the window and grabs you to show you the way life evolves….

    • Chris (Perkett) – I remember that tweet. Where The Wild Things Are is one of my childhood faves. This trend for me is intolerable. We took our kids to The polar Express because we love the book. It is so tattered from being loved. The film though (I loved the parts that were in the book) was filled with ridiculous plot additions. Come on, a ghost hobo? give me a break. The kids actually gave it a thumbs down. My opinion, don’t embellish on masterpieces. Ugh.
      -John

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