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Where the Wild Things Are: Deck or Fin?

It seems that much of our generation's contribution to pop culture is rooted heavily in nostalgia. Yes, each generation has the same sense of "weren't things so much better during whatever decade I happened to be 10 years old" but I personally feel like our generation is sometimes running on nostalgia overload. One thing that most overtly belies our generation's need for some sort of return to the womb is evident in all the hip t-shirts that sport '80's cartoon characters. It's cool to admit that you're still into Rainbow Brite, right? And that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt is not a reason to get beat up at the bar. Rather, a man in his mid to late 20s wearing a child's television show has a certain hip sex appeal that I'm not sure is entirely healthy. And I completely fall into this category--I LOVE anything from my pop culture childhood. I'm guilty of buying those cartoon shirts for my husband as well as for myself. And now another memory is becoming a hip comodity, with the theatrical release of Where the Wild Things Are.

(You can buy all your very reasonably priced Wild Things accessories and appearal here)

Another tricky thing about my generation is that as soon as things get too popular, they cease to be cool. So, if I want to wear a Jem and the Holligrams t-shirt because I've always been a fan, that just shows my hip "I don't even care that I'm wearing a child's shirt I'm so comfortable with my own quirkiness" personality. Once I can buy that shirt en masse from Ragstock? No, thank you. So where does that leave us with this new film? Surely, we all want to see it...right? But do we want to see it knowing that every other pseudo hip 20 something will also see it? Wouldn't it be cooler if it was just me and my friends...oh, and, I gues also the children and families who are actually part of the target demographic...Or are we the target market? Why haven't we moved beyond our own childhoods? What would Freud say? (Oh, and JSYK, I totally bought Qualler his Where the Wild Things Are t-shirt like, years before this movie was coming out, so, yeah. I guess that makes it pretty authentic, right? RIGHT?!)

With Halloween just around the corner, you can bet that many young adults and children alike (particularly children whose parents still pick out their Halloween costumes and who have fond memories of the book themselves) will be decked out in Max and Wild Thing outfits. Not, me though. No, I don't really get in to that kind of ridiculous "whatever nostalgic thing is hip right now" trend. What will I be going as this Halloween? Why, one of the Rainbow Brite color kids, of course. Because...that was hip like, 3-5 years ago, so...I'm completely my own person.

What do we think about Where the Wild Things Are, in theaters this Friday? Is this something you're excited about or are you irritated that your childhood has been turned into an Urban Outfitters uber hip overly produced thing? That's not what the wild things were about, was it? I have to admit that I feel completely torn about the whole thing. I'll probably see the movie, and I'll probably love it. But there is still something unsettling about the whole thing. I doubt that when Maurice Sendak first imagined this world of childhood fantasy he also imagined a heroine chic model sporting his illustrations on a shirt.
Man, I REALLY want those t-shirts.

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  1. Blogger paal | 8:44 AM |  

    I think you raise a pretty interesting idea about nostalgia and our generation. I too, now wonder if it's even all that healthy.

    I've been torn in a slightly different way by this movie. For me, it's not so much that it's becoming too popular; rather, it's that it is just nauseatingly hipster-centric, both in production, and in marketing.

    There's nothing edgy about Where The Wild Things Are anymore, so all the edginess just feels fake and tailor made, for (as you aptly pointed out) our too-cool-for-school nostalgia-centric generation.

    I absolutely adore WTWTA with all my heart. It is easily the most personally influential piece of literature in my early life. I'm sure this is true for many many people. In fact, I've been more surprised by people our age who haven't read the book, than by those that have.

    My parents used to read the book constantly with me as a little kid. In fact, when I showed my mom the trailer the first time, she nearly started crying right then and there. I think that proves that Jonze and the crew did a great job of capturing the right feeling.

    So, in the end, I'm glad that it's finally coming out. To me, WTWTA goes deeper to the core of what it is to be a creative, but frustrated child than any other story I've encountered.

    I just wish it didn't have to be so hip.

    Then again Brigitte, maybe I'm just suffering from the same affliction you described.

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 9:40 AM |  

    I totally agree with both of you, Brigitte and Paal, and in the same way. Here's my slightly existential tirade on it.

    I think our generation, perhaps more than any other before it, struggles to find its identity, and one of the big reasons we struggle with it is the consumerist/materialist mentality that keeps getting pushed on us. We don't want to be mere consumers, but that's all the world tells us we are.

    Where the Wild Things Are speaks to that struggle in such a unique way. As children, it awoke in us that wild, independent spirit. It told me that I am not who other people tell me I am. I am wild and free. The movie speaks to that same spirit because we still have it, and it's still being smothered (for many people). Especially when you put "Wake Up" on the trailer. No duh your Mom almost cried, Paal. I almost cried too--several times. There's just something in there that screams, "I WANT TO LIVE!!"

    And then the marketing giants come along to capitalize on that, and it makes that whole experience feel so...I don't know, hollow? Like we're being sold an identity. That's so contrary to what we thought the Wild Things and all this childhood experience were about. We want something genuine, not just another product. Once we can buy it, it's just not that real anymore.

    I think that's why we don't like it when other people like the music or movies or books that we like. To us, it's a unique experience that's part of our identity, and to see other people in on that makes us feel less unique and independent. Again, it makes our identity feel hollow--like, if other people can buy and like the same things, than what makes me uniquely who I am? I don't know if everyone can relate to that, but that's how I used to feel.

    I think it's great that WtWTA and such give us this desire for a genuine identity, but ultimately, there's no way we're going to find that in the culture around us, pop or otherwise. These things are part of the search; they're not the destination. And y'all know my bias--I think we can only find a genuine, personal, unique identity by knowing God through Jesus Christ. I mean, if movies/books/music give us a desire for something genuine and true, and the world keeps spoiling everything that's genuine and true, why not look outside the world? And finding that fresh truth and identity makes it a lot easier to enjoy all these childhood things that helped us along the way.

  3. Blogger qualler | 9:50 AM |  

    Brigitte and I watched a short doc last night on Maurice Sendak. Basically he's somewhat insane, has had a pretty sad life, etc. But, he's adamant that you tell children things that are true. It's called "Tell Them Anything" and its directed by Spike Jonze himself. Good stuff.

  4. Blogger chris | 10:17 AM |  

    I love looooong comments!

    You know, I can usually jump on this bandwagon pretty easily. But I feel like this part of me that's torn between commercialism, nostalgia, and true enjoyment of art/entertainment is starting to fade away, if it hasn't already. Or maybe I'm just buying into things more easily? I dunno, but I walked into Urban Outfitters the other day, saw the ridiculous displays for WTWTA, but when I saw the trailer the next day at the theater for the third or fourth time, I almost cried at it for the first time. I feel like I really don't care about the hipster marketing machine for this and it's not affecting my desire to see and love the movie (though the 67 on Metacritic is starting to kill my buzz).

    Basically, I feel like yes I struggled for so long trying to have something be "my own" as well as I did try for a while to be "authentically nostalgic" but now there's a new phase to be dealt with. The phase where we can be aware of the inner-workings of our culture past and present, but still uniquely and subjectively enjoy movies, music, TV, etc. without worrying about the outside factors like popularity, niche appeal, or what have you.

    Everyone wants to say our generation is uniquely corrupted, but I still adamantly believe that every generation goes through this exact same thing, just in different ways. Materialism and niche marketing have been around since the freaking Industrial Revolution. It's what America's founded upon.

    P.S. For those that don't know/remember, I believe deck means cool and fin means lame, right Brigitte?

  5. Blogger Brigitte | 10:19 AM |  

    Yes, Deck means cool and Fin means lame, according to my Hipster Handbook. and if you didn't know that, you're totally Fin (or are you all the more Deck?)

  6. Blogger Brigitte | 10:21 AM |  

    also, i hear what you're saying, chris, but it's difficult for me to ignore those outside factors. but maybe that's because i live in uptown and so am constantly inundated.

  7. Blogger Lady Amy | 10:27 AM |  

    When I saw that the movie was coming out, my initial thought was actually, "how are they going to make that into a feature-length film? The book is only about 10 pages long and is mostly pictures!!!" Then, after I assured myself that the producers would work it out and after I saw that Karen O was doing the music, a wave of nostalgia washed over me.

  8. Blogger paal | 10:36 AM |  

    Don't get me wrong here, I'm really excited for this movie still. It looks like the film itself is going to hit all the right notes. Odds are pretty good that KatieMKE is going to have drag me out of the theater while I sob myself into dehydration.

    I don't even have a problem with the commercialism, I gave up on that fight when I gave up on punk rock.

    It's just that it's, I dunno, so COOL. Everything about it is cool. Why can't it just be a wonderful family movie with all sorts of toys?

    That's what we really grew up on, isn't it?

    Then again. WTWTA throw pillows ARE the toys of a late 20's hipster, aren't they?

    As an aside, I really enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I don't like almost anything from this soundtrack that I've heard yet.

    I really hope that it's less distracting in the movie.

  9. Blogger chris | 10:37 AM |  

    Oh blessed, I just realized that by my use of phrases such as "jump on the bandwagon" and "everyone says," I ostensibly used the formation of my own opinion as a method of differentiating myself and constructing a supposedly "unique" identity.

    Now I don't know WHAT to do.


  10. Blogger paal | 10:41 AM |  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Blogger paal | 10:48 AM |  

    Is this conversation our own little version of an after-school special?

    (my comment before didn't make sense, that's why I deleted it!)

  12. Blogger Brigitte | 10:55 AM |  

    one last thing...in the documentary that qualler and i watched last night on Sendak (which was really good, btw) he said that he never really felt a particular connection with children, or wanted his own children. he said that, rather, he was stuck in his own childhood (which i think is part of the nostalgia thing i was getting at in the post). i think it's interesting that WtWTA was published in 1963, but it's our generation that seems to be the target market. He said when it was first published it had terrible reviews and one famous psychiatrist even said that no parent should keep this book in their home because it made the parents seem out of control and it was a story in which the kid sort of won--his mother's punishment was ineffective. i think that shows some generation change/difference, since it isn't taboo anymore to depict a mom as less than perfect and in most children's books and shows the kid is the one in control, not the parents--it's OK and even encourage to empower children. all that is great, but it's the word "stuck" that Sendak used that got to me.

    i agree with everyone else and i LOVE this book, and i will definitely see the movie and will probably enjoy it very much.

    sorry for the existential crisis everyone.

  13. Blogger Knep-Star | 1:44 PM |  

    I totally dig the t-shirts...just make sure they fit right and your golden...unless you're a douchebag. Well, then you're just a douchebag in a cool t-shirt.

    As for the nostalgia, what else do we have to live for? Especially in this instance (WTWTA) we should celebrate the creativity of not just looking back on something we once loved, but turning it into something else just as unique and engaging (plus making millions of dollars...so good positioning I guess)!

  14. Blogger Papa Thor | 1:51 PM |  

    I read this book when I was a kid.
    I walked the five or six blocks to the library (by myself! crossing Topanga Canyon Boulevard by myself [google it]) and checked this book out many times, usually just read it in the library before I got home, can't remember if my mom and dad ever bought a copy, so hearing you punk kids talk about it like it's your book is irritating. I think the popularity in the 80's was based on my generation's "comfort with discordance" where we let/made you guys have this book as a nostalgic whisp of our own childhood. In 25-30 more years your children will be buying WtWTA rock band holographic video games, reminiscing about this movie, hardly waiting to have their own children so they can pass it on.

  15. Blogger qualler | 2:02 PM |  

    "What? You walked to a library to check out a book?!? Couldn't you just download the movie version on your portable device and charge it to your credit card?"
    --the next generation of children

  16. Blogger Sean | 3:37 PM |  

    I have no memory of ever reading this book and I can say that it had no effect on my childhood. Ira's First Sleepover or that book about making a cloak out of wool were way better. Same goes for Nate the Great and anything with Fudge (haha, that rascal). I don't see what the big deal about this book and this movie. This just seems like a cash in like Polar Express was a few years back. Again: another book I have not read. Oh, I liked Ramona a lot because she was dumb and I pretended her older sister was hot.

    I agree with Chris. I am too old and too awesome to care about commercialism an consumerism. I likes what I likes.

  17. Blogger DoktorPeace | 2:12 AM |  

    I don't remember the book very much at all. I know it was read to us in the library, and I'm pretty sure I didn't care about it then and never have since. I've always been more interested in Riki-Tiki-Tavi because of his long, weird name.

    Seriously, though, not to be mean, but I was kind of against this movie from the beginning. Maybe it's because you fans represent some cult I'm sad I don't belong to. Maybe it's because I'm feeling overwhelmed by a nostalgia craze that I never really knew existed and never saw coming. Maybe I am just mean and evil (the most likely answer). And probably I'll see it tonight anyway, not able to say no to a friend who calls me up.

  18. Blogger Papa Thor | 8:45 PM |  

    I think this book can only be appreciated if first encountered at a certain age, it is a simple "story", the real story is the one you make up when you see the various monsters, I kind of liked the little monster, because, hey, monsters aren't all the same size, are they? Also the chicken monster was interesting, kind of a revenge of the farm animals. The wild rumpus left a lot to the imagination also, I would have made them make pumpkin pies. I do worry about the movie perhaps giving too much story, filling in the blanks too much, kind of like the new Grinch movie with Jim Carrey tried to explain why he was crabby, or the Matrix sequels tried to go all meta on us. Some art is meant to be expressionistic, communicating without formal ideas.

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