On ‘Where the Wild Things Are’

by mcastellon on October 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things AreMy parents divorced when I was 10, and like every child who goes through such a thing, I was devastated.

My dad soon fell into the safety of a new family and, for the most part, out of my life.

While my mother often did the best she could under her circumstances, financial and emotional turmoil followed us from one apartment to the next.

Friendships were torn away every time we moved, and the ritualistic hazing that comes with being the new kid in the neighborhood became a permanent thing. To make matters worse, my mother’s live-in boyfriend had become so abusive to me that I spent the ages of 12 to 15 covered in hives.

As a result, much of my childhood was spent lonely and isolated. Like many children do in these situations, I retreated into my imagination, which became increasingly vivid and complex as the world around me became more difficult. I consumed books, video games, magazines and the fantasy of “other places” –– anywhere but here.

For these reasons I’m excited to see Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.

Even now, as distanced as I am from that early pain, I identify well with Max, who, in perhaps one of the most epic acts of escapism, dons a set of wolf pajamas, leaps into his fantasies and conquers his own fear, anger and confusion toward the outside world.

Sendak knows that children are braver than we give them credit. He also knows that we often take for granted their heightened sense of emotion and wonder, that the boundless joy and fun they feel for beautiful things also works the other way –– that pain stings more when it’s new.

So tonight I’m looking forward to seeing Wild Things, and perhaps in my own act of escapism, spending the rest of the weekend in my pajamas with my imagination.

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