I've never gravitated toward Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." I know, terrible. As a kid I thought the 338-word masterpiece was creepy, and imagined myself being punished by my mother much more severely, had I spazzed out like Max did in the book. Curious then, that I have three copies of the Caldecott Medal award-winning story in my home - the embossed gold sticker on the edition I had as a kid, ironically, made the book a premium in my developing library. Two other copies were given to my son a few years ago and are on a shelf in his room.
Anyway, Max was a bad kid, man. And he was rewarded by getting to hang out with big Muppets: exactly how I imagined the creatures then, and, in a cool coincidence, the way Spike Jonez had Jim Henson's Creature Shop make them in his new "Where the Wild Things Are" flick, being released today. (...continue reading)
To the point, then: The story of Where the Wild Things Are is just not mine, but interwoven into the American psyche. How else might we explain our fascination with the 'wild rumpus' that happened yesterday in Colorado, each of us following a Mylar balloon, hoping that Falcon Heene, the six-year-old thought to be inside, was safe. Unknown to us at the time was that the Max-in-training was actually in his own attic, playing with toys and sleeping.
The story is bonkers. No matter, though; Wolf Blitzer on CNN, among others, tried desperately to capture some sense of it all from the odd family as the three sons played to the camera, contorting their bodies and making faces to the transfixed millions.
And we're the Wild Things - the media, the viewers, the Heene family - that are rewarding and embracing this fantastic adventure and this childish, shadow self (as renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung might call it) with celebration and praise and supper.
Still, Where the Wild Things Are is not my cup of coffee. And my mother would have bathed me and made me take off that wacky wolf suit before going to bed if it were. Curious though, I'm listening to Karen O and the Kids sing the soundtrack to the movie as I write these words. It's pretty good.
So I guess, as the young folk say, "I feel" Sendak's archetypal tome. Though I have pronounced distance from the particulars, Max is someone I know. Surely the Balloon Boy knows him too, and don't we all; that vexed kid -- wanting to wild-out but also wanting a safe dinner, wanting a balloon ride but also a retreat to a favorite hiding place.
The trick is to keep this childlike, impulsive id in check. Make a movie of it, chase it down, parent it, but take it off TV.
And please don't normalize it.