When my son was born a little over three years ago 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….