Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why I won't be seing Where the Wild Things Are


So I guess you could say I'm more than a little pissed off that they've turned the children's book Where The Wild Things Are into a movie. I posted something to my Facebook page about it this morning - and I got nine comments. I was really surprised that of those comments only my husband and my friend Kathy agreed with me.

There were two main reasons my Facebook friends thought making the movie is okay - 1) Maurice Sendak approved of the project and 2) We should embrace other people's interpretations of books through the medium of film.

Those are legitimate reasons. However, nobody will ever change my mind. Here's why: I am sick of everything being over-exposed, over-commercialized, and made into toys for Happy Meals. In a world where it's perfectly okay to market your products to children, Where The Wild Things Are was a gem that stood the test of time and hadn't been feed to the marketing machine - until now.

Remember when The Beatles song Revolution was used to sell Nikes? (That one's for you Boomer readers, because I really don't care about The Beatles).

Remember when Preparation H tried to buy the rights to Johnny Cash's Burning Ring of Fire?

Remember when JC Penney bastardized The Breakfast Club in a commercial last year?

I could go on and on about this - and I encourage you to add examples in the comments section. But my point is that everything doesn't need a Hollywood slant. Everything doesn't need to be made into a movie. And I don't give a shit about Spike Jonze's interpretation of Where The Wild Things Are.

I know some of my readers will think I'm the one who's full of shit, to which my response is "Let the wild rumpus start!"

28 comments:

KateNonymous said...

I won't be seeing it because--and I know this is heresy--I never really cared for that book. I read it more than once as a child, and each time I thought, "I still don't get it."

As far as I know, I'm the only person who felt that way. But statistically speaking, I can't possibly be.

Kathy English said...

Suzanne, I don't want to see the film, either. I know articles have said it's a "stand-alone," with a plot line different from the book - which means to me that they added plot lines to make a feature-length film - but still! I want Max to be that line-drawing boy being sent to bed. I don't want a flesh and blood Max on the screen. I don't want an animated Max on the screen, either. One children's book series that translated well to t.v. is Maurice Sendak's "Little Bear," which I used to catch on a Canada station. But to make "Little Bear" into a feature-length film? Nah. Some things aren't meant to be feature -length. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" has been done too, bastardizing the original story line, no doubt. I have yet to see the remake of "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory." Johnny Depp is talented, but his portrayal of Willie Wonka is just outright creepy - a very disturbed version of Michael Jackson with a bobbed hair-do. The 2nd "Grinch"? Likewise - haven't seen, don't plan to. Same with the 2nd "Cat in the Hat."
Thankfully, my kids are not of the age where they'll be clamoring to see WTWTA, and I'm relieved. I'd hate for them to see the film version and be disappointed.

jenX said...

Regarding a post you wrote awhile back - about Gen X adults now acting out the child-devil likenesses - Hollywood gives us The Stepfather.

CrustyBill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrustyBill said...

I probably won't see the movie... but that's because I'm cheap. That said I don't see anything wrong with taking an idea an expanding on it in a creative and exploratory way. Can the story be stretched to over an hour? Not sure. But so far the from what I've seen the visuals are spectacular and are almost exactly what the book is as it comes to life in my head. It's already light years ahead of other horrible interpretations such as The Grinch and Cat in the Hat, which I feel are not even close to the intentions of Theodor Geisel's.

edwin sanchez said...

I see Where the Wild Things Are as more of an art film than a children's film.

junkdrawer67 said...

I suppose I'm kind of torn about this movie. When I first learned it was being made, I was excited. When I saw the first trailer I thought, Wow! Amazing visuals! Then there was the re-imagined book by David Eggers, a writer I admire. But then I saw that in addition to a regular hard cover version of Eggers book there is also the fur-covered edition. And I began to wonder if this was such a good thing after all.

I agree that not everything needs to be made into a movie. Too often the movie is such a botched version that its maddening. And I worry that my daughter (8) will grow up believing the movie version is the true version even though we have the book, which was gifted to her on her first birthday and we read it many many times.

On the other hand I love movies. And I'm always eager to see movie versions of books, and hopeful that it will be done well. That is what I'm hoping now.

But re-state my own oft utter GenX-ism: Hope in one hand, s@%t in the other. See which one fills up first.

I will be taking my daughter to see it. Perhaps if I wasn't a parent I'd be of a different mind.

Shelly Alcorn, CAE said...

Hi there -

I love your blog. I have to agree with you on this one. I'm getting really tired of the Happy Meal, cash in on it world.

(Of course, I can be a hypocrite too because if Tim Burton was involved I might be induced to make a compromise. :D lol)

Thanks for the post -

Shelly

PS - The thing I hated the most about that JC Penney/Breakfast Club debacle was the fact that they put the Allison character in some little "pink shift dress" number...blech....:P

Kristina said...

I don't want to see it either. Obviously Spike Jonez and Maurice Sendak and the movie studios et al have every right to do what the want, but if it's going to be so different than the original work, why not use their imaginations to create a whole new movie?

Did you know there's a ballet based on the book? We went to the zoo once on a Halloween event and some of the monsters from the ballet version were wandering around in giant costumes. My kid thought they were terrifying if they got within, say ,15 feet. Otherwise he found them fascinating.

J- said...

Suz,

Look, I luv ya, but if you're upset about this movie being made, it's you're own fault.

Seriously, you've been living in the same country that the rest of us have, and surely by now you've had to have realized that under the current Boomer cadre of managers, politicians and executives is that there is no art, there is no sacred and there is absolutely nothing on the earth that cannot be commoditized and sold. Anything from "Where the Wild Thing Are" to next years genetically modified red ferns -- so you'll know where the Red Fern Grows -- is up for packaging, rebranding, updated marketing and -- most importantly -- for sale.

Suzanne, we stopped actually making anything in this country a long time ago, and basically what you're seeing is the long Boomer garage sale, as they sell off what little is left of what could be called "America" for a chance to have enough "cash flow" to fund the final years.

So really, what did you expect? Why exactly are you surprised and pissed off about this? We don't make any new things or ideas in this country any more, which is just what the Boomers wanted. Creative people and real craftsmen are expensive, and cut into the bottom line. We've long since moved into Simulacra and Simulation, where a "real" and "carefully crafted" thing of usefulness and beauty can so easily be copied and massed produced such that the per unit profit in the fractions of a cent when made by the millions by the cheapest and most desperate of labor, that the value of the original has no more intrinsic or monetary value than the labored over original.

Really, I hate to be the one to have to point this out, but we're not the "Outbox" of ideas for the world, we're the "Recycle Bin".

J- said...

We've long since moved into Simulacra and Simulation, where a "real" and "carefully crafted" thing of usefulness and beauty can so easily be copied and massed produced such that the per unit profit in the fractions of a cent when made by the millions by the cheapest and most desperate of labor, that the value of the original has no more intrinsic or monetary value than the labored over original.

I meant, that the original has no more value than the copy. Sorry. Rant typing. It happens.

GenXpert said...

@J - Surprised? No. Pissed off? Yes.

I completely agree with you on this one. However, I think we Xers need to stop just rolling our eyes and start saying something.

When I google "Where the Wild Things Are" movie, all I pretty much find are these glowing articles. Someone needs to say something. So I did. And so have you, now. And Kathy, and Shelly, and Kristina and a few others.

Maybe eventually the whisper will turn into a roar.

Carla Shore said...

I'm conflicted about whether to be mad about this movie or not. I agree with all your points about Hollywood-ization of a classic. I don't want to see Happy meal toys of these classic characters. And if my kids were still preschoolers and reading this book, I would never let them see it, lest it take away from their enjoyment of the book itself.

However, I myself love the book, and am curious to see what the film interpretation is. And my kids are too old now for the book really, so if this is a way to extend their love of the story and the characters, maybe it's not horrible.

I think my reticence to condemn comes from the fact that three years back or so, I took my son to see a play of Where the Wild Things Are. It was just a theatrical expansion of the book, and didn't chance the story at all, just made it alive and visual. It was so well done, and really enhanced our love of the book.

So maybe the film deserves a chance to do the same. Maybe.

Tula said...

So, J, how'd this become a boomer sin? Has Dave Eggars skipped out of his age group? Spike Jonze was born in 1969. Which would make him, what? A boomer wannabe? The debate about turning literature into movies is an old one. Even boomers have opposed it. Although not universally, just as X-ers haven't universally opposed it. You may view the creation of a Wild Things movie to be crass commercialization, but crass commercialization is a multi-generational event.

Tula said...

I should say "Eggers."

J- said...

@Tula,

It is merely the continuation of the erosion of both the manufacturing and creative bases of the American economy and workforce.

Look, we're in a bad spot in this country because we're exporting our ability to make things and create things in this country at a frightening rate. Even our service sectors are being stripped out and moved overseas.

Who's doing it? Baby Boomer executives. Who controls over 80% of the wealth in this country, but yet we still hear reports of them not being able to retire? Baby Boomers.

Studio executives = Baby Boomers

The making of this movie is yet another example of trying to squeeze every last penny out of what's left in the house come garage sale time.

Rather than make something new, they recycled the old.

Mssrs. Jonze and Eggers, being like most of us using the Yuppie Nuremburg defense, did what they needed to, in order to pay the mortgage.

Our Grandparents, the Greatest Generation, built things. Even the executives, were, for the most part, responsible custodians of the companies they ran. Layoffs were rare under their watch.

Not so, the Boomers. Layoffs and outsourcing are the norm, and short term "contracting" has replaced "employment" for many.

Beaudrillard wasn't a Boomer, but I think prophetically, he saw what was happening. And while I also think he considered it a bad thing, the Boomers who care about nothing more than their own bottom lines, at the expense of community, society and family, have accelerated Simulacra and Simulation in their relentless quest for "more".

I think the most telling statement over the years has been made by the actor Michael Douglas, where he reminds Boomers who tell him Gordon Gecko inspired them, that Gordon gecko was the bad guy.

Tula said...

J: I await the cultural revolution of Gen X, when all wrongs are righted, and we work for the good of mankind and not just to make money. No doubt When GenX and its followers run the world, it will be a better place. Oh wait, crap, I've heard these claims before....where was that? Oh yeah, boomers spouted this exact same thing. They knew they were better than the generation that they followed. But I'm sure that GenX will get it right. This time, everything will be better.

GenXpert said...

@J & @Tula - I think you're both right. And I think you'd both appreciate this article:
http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/erickson/2009/01/across_the_ages_in_2009.html

One of my favorite parts of the article is this:

"Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, coauthors of Generations, posit that each generation makes a unique bequest to those that follow -- and generally seeks to correct the excesses of the previous generation. They argue that the Boomer excess is ideology -- and that the Generation X reaction to that excess involves an emphasis on pragmatism and effectiveness."

So, of course, the Millennials will seek to correct what they see as the excesses of Gen X - and they will decide what that is.

Are Boomers responsible for the decay of modern civilization? Of course not. Do they have a hard time admitting when they're wrong (or done wrong) - or admitting that improvements could be made beyond what they've already improved? A lot of them do.

Let me give you an example. As an X woman, I can admit that Boomer women kicked down the door to the corporate world for me - and a lot of Boomer women raised some really forward-thinking men who are more than willing to share with family responsibilities. But there are a lot of Boomer women who would have a hard time admitting that Xer women like me have taken that baton and gone one step forward. We're doing a better job at balancing work and family. They may have providing the foundation, but we had to make some tough decisions to take it to the next level.

And do Xers get snarky with Boomers even though we can make our point without pissing them off? Of course we do. Xers are quite adept at working & communicating with Boomers - because we've had to. We walked into a Boomer-dominated workplace at age 22 and it was learn to play nice (Boomer style), or learn to live without a paycheck. We're really good at "speaking Boomer," that's why Boomers don't notice. Until we get pissed off, and we mess with them. So that's worse in a way. We know how to make our point on their terms and sometimes we choose not to.

What does this have to do with the movie Where the Wild Things Are? Not much. But I'm loving this conversation.

Kathy English said...

Woo hoo! I'm lovin' the debate on this topic! How many times have we gone to see a movie-make of a book and left the theatre disappointed? Much as I enjoy reading Harry Potter novels, I still enjoy the movies - but I go to them knowing full well that changes to plot lines have been made in the interest of not having twelve movies for each book. Do I find some of the changes irritating? Sure do. When my daughter and I saw the movie Inkheart early this year, we saw it knowing that some things were likely to be different - and discovered that the (book) trilogy had been combined into one continuous storyline for the purposes of the movie. Ok, it worked for this film - and it was well done. Some characters didn't appear at all, some were extremely minor in the film, while they had larger roles in the books.

That said (for whatever reason - I'm thinking while I type, which can sometimes be a bad thing) - I just can't help feeling that some things should just be left to stand alone.

Anyone remember watching the "Little House on the Prairie" series? I read the books as a kid and loved them, read them again with my daughter and still enjoyed them. The series had its good moments, but later became a somewhat ridiculous interpretation of what prairie life was like (and I can't help wondering why Pa Ingalls always had that ridiculous hair style). The t.v. movie that kicked off the series was good - but after how many years, the series just started to drag.

Kathy English said...

(sorry, part two of comment posted above)


Boomers might feel that Gone With the Wind should never have been made into an epic film. That is one of my mother & sister's favorite films, as well as one of their favorite novels. I can't stand watching the film, because watching that slave carry on about not knowing nothin bout birthin no babies and then fighting my urge to kick the t.v. in because Scarlett is just so damned irritating....well, it's just too much. But, I like reading the book.

I cringe to think of Curious George becoming a live-action film. Watching it in animation, on the big screen and in the PBS series, was enjoyable. The storylines still retain much of the innocence of the original stories, while still giving something to the adults to chuckle over - like George inadverdently transforming his shadow into a King Kong sized monstrosity that briefly terrorizes the city.

Where the Wild Things Are sounds like it has great potential as a play, as one post-er (is there a word, by the way, for one who posts on blogs? "poster" just doesn't seem right) - ok, as one contributer noted. As a feature film, though, Where the Wild Things Are just doesn't seem like it would hold up without a lot of tweaking. The book doesn't mention Max having a father. Is it relevant to the book's storyline? No. Is it relevant to the film? Is it important whether or not Max has a cat or a dog as a pet, or any siblings? Whether he lives in a house, or in an apartment in the city? Does it matter? All that matters is that after Max makes his trip to hang with the Wild Thangs, he yearns for home. And despite his new buds not wanting him to leave, he yearns for the familiar - where his supper waits for him, still warm. There's comfort in that.

The making of the film obviously has Sendak's seal of approval, and he seems willing to step back and be objective about changes to his creation (Suzanne, one of your links mentions this).

I think it was a mistake - wonder if it would have been better to make an animated "short" of the book, something truer to the original storyline. Package it with an animated "short" of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" - and then find a third children's book that can be either feature length, or a "short," and show them all together.

Maybe, if somebody could do it justice, I would go to a theatre to see that. The current films, though - Wild Things & Meatballs - I'll pass. Still. And hope that my whisper of a protest will be heard at the box office as my ticket sale is not rung up. I may be in the minority on this, but if I don't want to see it, I'm not going to. Just like I'm boycotting Jim Carrey's Grinch, and likely will boycott his soon to be released Grinch, and the Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers?), and the remake of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, with that weird Johnny Depp impersonating Michael Jackson pretending to be Willie Wonka. {shudder}

Tula said...

GWTW was made in 1939. Not a lot of boomers around yet to complain.

J- said...

@ Tula *fist bump* Nice.

No, I don't think there were many Boomers around in 1939. I saw the GWTW reference and went "Wha???"

I don't think we'll (Gen X) "rule the roost", so to speak.

I think we're the silents. We're not gonna be remembered as a "Greatest Gen" that saved the world from Nazi's, nor are we the Boomers that "changed everything".

I think, and I'm not being snarky GenX'er right now (I know, it's out of character, but I've had some wine), we're the first Silent Generation of the 21st century.

As GenXers, will we be remembered as a whole? I don't think so. But our outstanding individuals will be remembered for much much longer.

I'll give examples:

Music: RATM = Jimmy Hendrix - both Silents.

Film: Kevin Smith = Woody Allen

Politics: Gloria Steinem = Rebecca Walker (<-- she's a favorite of mine!)


"Are you Experienced?" = "In Utero"

"Phil Spector" = Steve Albini (I hope I didn't offend Steve Albini with this one!)


I don't know if I'm a good GenXer to comment on this one. I'm a "product" of Baby Boomers (by genetic donation), but I was raised by my grandparents, who were Greatest Gen.

My Grandfather came back from the "war", which he didn't talk about, and went to work. He imprinted upon me the most important thing I could do was to work to make sure my family was secure.

The "war" wasn't glamorous. Neither was working. You did your job. There wasn't a question about it. There was no "finding yourself". You did what you needed to do to provide for your family.

So, how does this tie into "Where the wild Things are"?

Maurice Sendak made something. It was art and it meant something, by their own interpretation, to many.

The movie didn't create anything. It merely recycled what was already there.

The Silents created the things that the were considered the "greats" of the late '50's and '60's.

The Boomers recycled and sold, much like they do now, what the Silent's created.

We, X, will be the Silents for the next 60 years. Let's just hope the the current crop take us more seriously than the Boomer's the last "Silent" generation.

Tula said...

J, What I have problem with is treating any generation as though it were a monolith.
1) The WWII generation brought us wholesale civilian bombing, napalm, interference with emerging African and Central American nations, Jim Crow, the Cold War and its stupid waste, Watergate, & much more.
2) Some of their members also helped dismantle or repudiated the above.
3) Boomers joined with the generation before it to help dismantle Jim Crow, discrimination against homosexuals, etc. They've done a couple other things too, like creating the Internet and microloans.
4) Boomers and GenXers have played a role in the increasing selfishness of our society, the lack of compassion, the notion that helping the weakest among us is wrong, the "Just let me get mine" attitude.
5) GenXers are creating a whole new landscape in communications and entertainment and who knows what else.
No generation -- even the so-called "Greatest" (a book title, not a description) is immune from massive evil and massive good. All seem to do more than their share on both sides of the ledger.
6) &, back to the original discussion: art has always been derivative, either smashing down the idols or dressing them up. The problem now is the power of mass media and a culture disinclined to read, who think Oliver Stone gives them history and Michael Landon made "Little House on the Prairie."
7. But, thus has it ever been, don't you think? How many of us know what happened to Julius Caesar based on Shakespeare's play, and know all about the Civil War because we saw GWTW.
8. Don't shoot me, but I think it is A COMPLETELY LEGITIMATE ART FORM to remake the classics. I may not always like the results, and I HATE our culture's forgetting of all that came before, but that's how art advances and morphs and becomes something completely different. I'm good with that, even when I'm sometimes uncomfortable.

GenXpert said...

@J - you'd like this:
http://jamesrbrett.com/TheSilentGeneration/

@Tula - how would you feel about Britny Spears remaking the White Album?

Kathy English said...

Pardon me, re: the GWTW reference - my MOM is a baby boomer, and just happens to like a movie that is older than she is. Meh. I probably should have referred to "Jailhouse Rock" being remade with Weird Al Yankovic in the lead instead of Elvis. If you want a book to movie example, how about Grace Metalious's 'Peyton Place' (published in 1956) and the film of the same name.

I still stand by my comment that Where the Wild Things Are may have been better served as an animated short rather than a feature-length film.

Now - anybody going to see the new Sherlock Holmes film?

GenXpert said...

@Kathy - for what it's worth, I knew what you meant ...

Kathy English said...

Hey Suzanne,
I figured you knew what I meant, as most likely did the other readers :-) But, I thought I should try and clarify. "Meh."

And, Sherlock Holmes might be fun.

Tula said...

Suzanne, Love the question about Britney making the White Album. I should get all mad, I suppose, but I really don't have any problem with it. Sorry not to conform to your stereotype. But I do suppose it would bother the same type of person who believes artistic creation is sacrosanct. I just don't look at art that way. People cover music all the time in ways I don't approve, and I don't think that hurts the original. And sometimes covers can add new insight, new beauty. I can think of probably hundreds of songs that have newer versions that are amazing in their own right. Can you listen to John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" and wish for Julie Andrews? Not only do I think people are free to remake the Beatles, I think they're free to remake whatever copyright law allows. I read the New Yorker review of "Wild Things" btw, and it sounds pretty dispiriting. But I still defend the film makers right to remake and completely screw up.
Oh, and Kathy, I'd love to see "Jailhouse Rock" remade with Weird Al. Have I missed it? It sounds so promising.
Where do you guys think art comes from? Do you think every creation occurs de novo?
Do you think your own creations take nothing from what you've taken in, listened to, read, heard, seen on film? If you were suddenly inspired with a new take on Jane Austen, would you stop yourself because it's a classic and shouldn't be touched?