Sigh. I knew it was a major gamble, but I had to go see Where the Wild Things Are. I just love the work of Maurice Sendak, Spike Jonze and the Henson Company. And I must say, Henson has not let me down. The creatures are wonderful as is the production design. But the joy ends there I’m afraid.
Max is the most miserable character! I grew up on Where the Wild Things Are and this is not the story I understood at all. My interpretation was that Max is hit with a case of what Holly Golightly refers to as ‘the mean reds.’ He feels compelled to rage against everything and everybody. But, pro-active guy that he is, he sets sail to Where the Wild things Are where he can raise a proper rumpus.
However, he soon learns that one can only bitch and moan for so long before it gets boring. He is ultimately reminded that despite the hassles that inevitably accompany having other people in one’s life, true friends are worth a little compromise and understanding. Having worked through his rage issues, he can once again return to his loved ones and appreciate the good thing he has with them and be good to them right back.
Sadly, the new interpretation makes Max a poster child for why maybe some mothers should drown their kids in the bathtub. What a whiny, entitled, spoiled brat! His Mom is so good to him. She understands when he acts out and, rather than punish him, even helps him clean a mess he’s made of his sister’s bedroom when he feels slighted by his older sibling. Then, Mom makes him feel special by indulging him in story time, despite a looming work deadline that clearly has her all stressed out. And how does he repay her for this kindness? He goes all Michael Meyer on her ass when she has a date, throwing a major temper tantrum in the kitchen, presumably jealous that she’s paying attention to somebody other than himself for a change. Oh, and because she has the audacity to serve frozen corn instead of fresh. Really? That is the impetus for his outburst? What a wuss!
This new post-post-modern, “Prozac Nation Max” is more evidence to support my theory that “boys are the new girls.” The original Max had edge. He was a Rebel Without a Cause, but with a style all his own. He earned his wolf suit. However, this needy little, prissy boy might be more aptly attired in a girlie pink dress with ruffles. He’s all mopey and miserable because he feels he’s not getting enough attention – boo-hoo! So he puts on a fancy outfit (which looks more like a pussy cat, than a wolf appropriately) to make him feel better about himself and creates an attention-grabbing fuss. When that backfires, he runs off to join these manic-depressive, whiny monsters foolish enough to believe his claims that he’s a king with magic powers.
Of course when he ultimately fails to deliver a single one of his promises, and, in fact, leaves the sorry creatures in far worse shape than in which he first found them (one armless, another wounded, and all even more hopeless and passionless), he runs back home to Mommy who rewards him with chocolate cake. Yuck! (not the cake, the movie – that is. Chocolate cake rocks!)
One of the few moments that rang true for me is when Carol, the main Wild Thing, asks Max “If you’re not a king, then what are you?” Max responds, “I’m Max.” Carol looks unimpressed and comments, “That’s not much, is it?” Max looks defeated in this moment. No, it really isn’t. My Max would have proven himself. But this one knew he just didn’t have the chops. It was time to stop pretending and run home to Mommy in defeat.
Interestingly, this movie is awfully reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s “W.” In fact, if this were intended as a scathing indictment of the Bush Administration, I might just be impressed. Max starts a pointless war that leaves the Wild Things in far worse devastation than in which he found them, but why should he care? He never has to take responsibility for his actions and he doesn’t seem to feel any particular remorse for what he’s done. Instead, his doormat of a mom will undoubtedly forevermore make everything better with hugs and sweets.
Did I say “yuck” yet? I’ve met far too many people like Max of late and I shudder to think how many of them will relate to this story and think that somebody finally “gets them.” If one should find himself depressed or feeling unloved or misunderstood, perhaps he should think about taking responsibility for his own actions and his own happiness. Whatever the case, I assure you the answer does not lie in finding folks worse off than himself and kicking them when they’re down in order to feel better about his own life. Geez! If Max ever faced off with Jizz in trippin’ she would so kick his sorry, whiny ass!