Where the Wild Things Are, or, the Truth About Family

As I’m sure you know, this post is mostly about the film Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze and only recently in theaters. But this post is also about the realities of family from a child’s point of view, and how this comes through in Where the Wild Things Are.

First things first: I loved this movie for several different reasons. 1, the screenplay was wonderful. The characters were very well rounded and the fact that not all of them were likable was, in my opinion, a very wise decision. 2, the emotions tackled in this film are incredible – we can relate to Max’s mother, Max, and the Wild Things all at once. It’s almost impossible to choose sides or choose a character one likes more because they are all flawed, they are all a little bitter, and they are all us. 3, I related to this film so much, from my childhood point of view and my adult point of view. I experienced many of the emotions Max feels in this film – the loneliness, the powerlessness, the inability to fix things when it feels like one’s job, even though one is only 8 years old. I felt that this film was scary and wise and beautiful, and it hit very close to home for me. (A little backstory: my brother is bipolar, and as a child did not get much attention because my brother needed it – he was troubled. I was the one who got to fix everything. My parents didn’t know how to discipline my brother and ended up mostly just fighting with him and being extremely angry with him for a very long time. There is much of my brother in Max, the way there is Max in me.)

Now, when I got out of the movie the other day I immediately texted my father and told him to take my mom to this movie. I thought she would really like it because she appreciates films that capture intense emotions. My father took my mother and my brother. The first word I heard on it was a text from my brother: “Why’d you tell us to go see this movie? We all hated it.”

We all hated it.

Immediately I was angry – why did they hate it? I knew they had to have missed something, that they couldn’t have been paying attention if that was the verdict. And then it hit me – it hit them too close to home. My dad sent me a text saying “it was slow and I didn’t get it.” I typed up an extensive reply akin to what is written above and didn’t hear anything from either of them. Then, several hours later, I received a text from my mother: “It was hard to enjoy knowing someone next to you was hating it. I disliked Max for some reason, which didn’t help.”

I disliked Max. Now, I don’t mean to psychoanalyze, but in that one sentence my mother told me everything. Max was too close to my brother for comfort, the emotions she felt at having to see Max fight with his mother were too real. But not only that, she saw me in Max, and the loneliness Max felt as the loneliness I felt. It was all too familiar, and the same went for my dad and my brother. It made them extremely uncomfortable and that was interpreted as dislike. Now, to me that says that the movie did it’s job, but it’s also interesting for me to think that I have progressed beyond my family’s issues since high school to the point where I can see films like this and appreciate their similarities but not hate them for it, whereas my family is still stuck somewhere – I think they are all far more juvenile than I ever thought, and this just showed me their inability to move beyond the past into a future where we’re all happy and can accept what happened, but not get tangled up in it.

It made me feel further from my family than I’ve ever felt and yet, I feel this strange sense of empowerment, knowing I’ve grown so much and have been able to move on from trauma. I’m just so sorry that they can’t.

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