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Why We Feel The Need To Tame The Wild Things?

by Leigh Shulman Oct 27, 2009
Parents find the new Where the Wild Things Are film to be too frightening for their children. I plan to take my daughter anyway, and here’s why.

In a recent Newseek interview
, Maurice Sendak tells anyone who thinks the new Wild Things movie to be too wild to just go straight to hell.

I applaud him.

Just as I applaud him for fighting the original publishing house who wanted the soup waiting in Max’s bedroom to be warm instead of still hot.

I tried to convey how dopey “warm” sounded. Unemotional. Undramatic. Everything about that book is “hot.”

It makes me crazy to think anyone would seek to neuter this wonderful book by telling us life shouldn’t be hot, dangerous, shouldn’t be something that maybe, just maybe might force us to stand close to the edge look down over the abyss and think, “Oh, shit. This is huge.”

Where The Wild Things Are terrified me as a child. It took years before I could hear it all in one sitting. Yet I still came back to it, time and time again, until I fell in love with it. Now, when I read it to my daughter, I read as much for myself as for her.

Skipping forward almost fifty years, it seems the same fight surfaces with the film as parents worry our children will be too frightened by it.

I see this too often.

In the playground: Parents hover over their children, interrupt when they fight instead of allowing these young people to develop methods of their own for coping with conflict. I see it when I hear adults complain of the endless routine in their lives, but they are scared of what lies beyond what they already know. Thus, these same complainers stay unhappy when they could travel, find a new job, develop a new project, join a skydiving group or just try something to push the edges of comfort, even a little.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s certainly no more difficult than staying in one place, bored and unhappy.

H.G. Well’s Time Machine depicts a world in which humans follow this culture of fear to its (possibly) logical conclusion.

Are we to become the Eloi, a bunch of simpering weak beings who live only to escape death at the hands of the Morlocks, a band of menacing underground dwellers? They don’t go out at night, constantly look over their shoulders, and wait for death as the ground might swallow them whole.

Is that really what we want to be?

I can certainly understand the desire to provide stability for your children. They need family, a home, a place where they can feel secure while they explore the ever growing world around them. At a certain point, though, the safe world stops allowing for the same level of growth.

That’s when we need to branch out to find bigger playgrounds for exploration.

Take your children to the movies.

If it’s really too much for them, believe me, they’ll let you know, and you can leave, but at least you have given them the opportunity to stretch their own boundaries and choose.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION: What ways have you pushed your own boundaries? Would you suggest it to others? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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