Monday, March 15, 2010
About How Much It Hurts To Be a Child
(Photo by Shawn Records.)
What makes Where the Wild Things Are difficult to watch is that it's not just about the happiness of childhood, like most children's movies.
It's about the pain of being a child.
It's about the loneliness and the long nights crying; it's about not knowing who you are in a world where everyone else seems to have figured that out already; it's about not knowing if you can trust the grown-ups in your life, or even if you should, or even if they really know everything about life, like you always believed they did.
In WTWTA, Max begins to see all that goes on inside the people around him (through the wild things he lives with), but I also see a boy finding his own space, defining his own life, because no one else is going to do it for him.
I love Max's mother in this movie. She's willing to let him be who he needs to be (despite his wildness, and maybe I only see that because I didn't have that kind of understanding when I was growing up), and that is a strong first step toward letting the child become who he or she needs to be. I grew up slotted into a role, and no one understood or even saw, when it was obvious, that I was breaking out of that role whether I (or they) liked it or not. I didn't want to be different, but in the end we all must be; both Max and me, and all of us. The wisest parent realizes that their child is another life that must be allowed to grow. Part of the pain of being a child is finding out that every parent's imagination is limited, because few of us can encompass in our minds the amazing universe of another person's life set into our hands to shape and nurture. Parents fail; children fail. Somehow, we all come out okay in the end...most of the time.
WTWTA is about finding out who you really are, and how much it hurts to realize that, ultimately, you're on your own.
This movie really speaks to me. I grew up gay and in hiding, and there's not one thing "gay" in this film; and that is certainly not the only tale being told here. But I don't think I've ever seen another movie that captures so well everything about what I went through while I grew up and dealt with all of what I had to deal with; not on so deep and universal a level as this. If you don't see your own childhood in Max's tale, then maybe you didn't have a childhood yourself. You grew up; that's all. Real children, like Max, live, and hurt, and survive.
I'm not alone. If you're in touch with what you were when you were a child, if you aren't just another face in the crowd, if you really know what it means to be alive while trying to find out why...this is your story.
That's one take on all of this, and maybe it's just my take. Let me know what you think. More to come.