Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Before the Rumpus Begins

Let me say this right here, right now, and then I will forever be silent on the issue.

I am not excited for the forthcoming cinematic version of Where the Wild Things Are.

There I said it - let hellfire rain down from on high.

I have little doubt that Mr. Spike Jonze's flick will we a resounding success, both critically and with audiences. The trailers have been stirring and enchanting. It has been blessed on high from the great Sendak.

So what, you may be saying, is the big deal. The cast is stellar. Mr. Jonze had proved himself to be imaginative and adept at nonconformist storytelling. The screenwriter, David Eggers, has written at least one other movie that I personally adored. What I have heard of the soundtrack is alluring enough to make it necessary to fatten my CD collection. And in a big sigh of relief from discriminating picture book activists everywhere, Jim Carey and Mike Meyers have been kept far, far, away from all things Wild.

My issue is this: After October 16, 2009 –

Millions of Maxes will die.

In the few sentences we have about Sendak’s hero we are given very few concrete facts:

He was up to no good. (he made mischief of one kind and another. . . )

He had a mother. (. . . his mother called him wild thing.)

He was made of the stuff that would allow him to meet his foes and ultimately reign as conqueror. (. . .they made him King of all the Wild Things.)

He was loved. (. . .he found his dinner waiting for him, and it was still hot.)

Up to this point Max could have been any kid between the ages of 3 and 10.

He could live with a mother and father and 12 siblings, a mother and a grandmother and a great-aunt Gertrude, two mothers and a hamster, or a single mother with a boyfriend.

He could be an ADHD kid going through his nightly routine harassment of the household. He could be a previously shy child objecting to changes in his life outside his control. He could be an autistic child experimenting with all things canine. He could be a socially-conscious kid acting out his objection to Sarah Palin's stance on wolves in the wild.

He could be a kid, who from the day he emerged into the world, had the confidence to confront any large and hairy beast with yellow eyes and terrible claws. He could be a kid who was forever hiding beneath the covers hoping someone else would come to his rescue, but ultimately found the ability within himself. He could be a kid with delusions of grandeur, who longed one day to become Homecoming King of his Senior Class.

From this Friday on Max will be what Spike Jonez and David Eggars decide he is.

R. I. P. Maxes everywhere from around the world.


  1. *wipes a tear from his cheek*

    I know you didn't mean this to be sad. But it is - because you are right. You still find ways to amaze me.


  2. But isn't this true of the many book characters incarnated on celluloid? Harry Potter? Frodo Baggins? The Grinch? I don't think it follows that a movie Max will somehow become THE Max and annihilate all the others. I don't think the movie version of Max will kill my version of Max. He'll just be someone else's vision of the character. And it can be fun and interesting to compare notes. ("Oh, that's how you saw him? I saw him this way...") But I am apprehensive of the movie for other reasons, but excited at the same time.

  3. I think it is true that adults will be able to hold onto their Max. But I think (and who would ever dare to challenge this source of wisdom?) kids who will see the movie first and then go to the book will be locked into their first exposure. I know many a kid that thinks the Wesely twins are tall and lanky, and Frodo was in his teens, and not 30 something, when set out to conquer evil.

    In the scheme of things this is not a huge issue. I have always loved WTWTA for the simple fact of its possibilities. Who am I to say that the making of a major motion picture is just not one more possibility

  4. That's a good point about it being a *child's* first exposure. I hadn't thought about that side of it.

  5. I read the book to my third graders before it came out and enjoyed my favorite part making a wild rumpus. Everyone has a favorite part and I don't think the movie can take that away.