so uncool

October 28th, 2009

My friend Marjorie has written a really great review and blog post about Where The Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze and Dave Egger’s new film adaption of Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic.

I haven’t seen this movie. Everyone I know raves about it. (Except Marjorie.) Or, I should say, raved about it from the trailer. But even the trailer made me itchy. Unlike Marjorie, who had (or I should say has, this woman is obsessed with kids’ books, one of 87, 567 reasons I love her) a passion for the book when she was a kid, I have no great attachment to it, so it’s not like I’m worried about the filmmakers sullying it. Besides, I get that books and movies need to be different.

It’s just cool people. They bug me. And there is something so reeking of we-are-so-cool-we-do-cool-kid-things-now of this movie, that I want to barf. Last weekend, when I saw Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, a movie that wore its heart on its sleeve and was not too cool even though it was about kickass cool rollerderby chicks, I caught a preview for Wes Anderson’s upcoming Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the Roald Dahl classic. You can watch it here.

This also gave me the itchy feeling. It looked suspiciously like another kids’ movie that was really some hipster’s idea of a kid’s movie with an All-STAR CAST (and rhapsodic adult reviews). And I know my kid won’t like it. She likes Enchanted. Wall-E. And Barbie crap. It’s not that she’s not smart. A few weeks ago, she said, out of the blue “Every second is another now,” but still she’s not ironic enough for these movies (though she knows what sarcasm is, sort of). And, really, I’m not sure these movies aren’t meant for her.

Because she’s not cool. Or she is cool in the way that 5-year-olds who put together outrageous outfits and make up bizarre games and just don’t give a shit yet are cool. I wish she could stay that way forever because to me, that’s the real definition of cool.

I know, I know. I haven’t even seen the movies. But I’m just reacting to my inherent hipster hater.

It may come as a surprise to some people that I have an inherent hipster hatred, given that my two novels are so populated with musicians, with seemingly cool people. But, see, I don’t think they are. Mia’s not cool. She doesn’t try. And Adam doesn’t try either. He just plays music, same as Mia and her dad. And they all love music. All sorts of uncool people play music, have found solace in music, community in music. The hipsters are usually not the creators, but the hangers-on. Or not. Maybe I just like to think that because it’s more romantic. There are plenty of poseurs everywhere.

It also cracks me up when people seem to think I’m cool because I reference so much music—some of it obscure, like Dead Moon—in If I Stay. But that’s because I like music and I’m married to someone who really likes music and who’s a librarian and a collector (both of those the opposite of cool by definition, but two negatives make a positive so he’s actually very cool in that not annoying effortless way, if you ask me, which maybe you didn’t) who has amassed this amazing music collection and helps keep in tune on great tunes. But I am, and will always be, a weird girl. The only thing that saved me from utter dorkiness has always been my dress sense.

Maybe it’s because I was weird and teased, I have an aversion to cool people, some of whom just seem like the mean people in high school with a more evolved style and aesthetic. I like nice people. If the nice people happen to wear cool clothes and listen to cutting-edge music, I won’t hold that against them.

Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers may be the nicest people on the planet. Dave Eggers certainly has done some amazing charity work with his 826 nonprofit organization, although it’s probably the coolest nonprofit I know of (the Brooklyn branch has an actual superhero supply store, where you can buy capes and disappearing potions; I kid you not). And Spike had to go through hell to make this movie. Lots of reports of the studios saying it was too dark for a kid movie and trying to make him bend but he held to his vision. Kudos to him for that.

But the movie just seems too cool. And the thing is, little kids aren’t cool. The wonderful thing about them is that they aren’t trying yet. And once you have a little kid, or make movies for little kid, maybe you have to give up on being cool, too.

There’s a nabe in Brooklyn called Williamsburg. It’s arty-farty hipster central. And as of late, a lot of those arty-farty hipster types have had kids, but it’s  kind of hilarious because instead of owning up to the fact that being a parent=being square, they continue to go around in punk outfits with artfully designed bedhead hair, pushing their wee ones in $750 strollers with anarchy stickers. When I see them, I’m never sure whether to laugh, cry, or throw up, so I just smile (because I’m nice) and walk on by.

I’m not saying once you have kids it’s time to get a minivan and wear sweats. Cute outfits, good grooming, fuel efficiency, always appreciated. But pass on the mantle. When your kids are older, let them be the cutting edge, the visionaries, the vanguard, without you getting in the way with all your coolness. And when they’re younger, let them be goofy, dorky, silly, and cooly uncool.

These uber-cool kid filmmakers, I want to tell them the same thing. But I suppose first I should see the movies, though I feel kind of silly going without my five-year-old. But when I showed her the preview for Where The Wild Things Are, she said it looked too scary. The twentysomething scenesters might be packing theaters, but my kindergartner has no interest.

The tribe has spoken.

  1. you bring up another point that didn’t occur to me — Where the Wild Things are was so self-conscious. which is exactly the glory of little kids like willa and maxie — they are completely at ease in their own skin. hence the awesomeness of their creativity and insane outfits. when they feel something, they feel it completely, without ambivalence. i thought the movie captured the way kids tell stories — max crafts a little vampire narrative for his mom that is awesome, and some of his conversations with james gandolfini’s wild thing got the delicious element of kid-one-upsmanship and plotting. that element of kid-ness was dead on. but maybe b/c max is so much older in the movie than he is in the book — he’s a tween! — he comes off as more torn and damaged than the rampaging max of teh book.

    fwiw, my kids were not scared by the movie AT ALL. and they are wusses. Wall-E caused eardrum-piercing screaming (though afterward they both said they adored it..and they’ve talked about it way more than they have this movie). so i think you COULD take willa if you wanted. this movie kind of washed hypnotically over my girls (except when they got fidgety at the neurotic, endlessly processing wild things) as it seemed to do with the entire audience.

    re Whip It. one thing i’ve always admired about drew barrymore is that she does NOT seem cool. she seems kind, and she seems endlessly enthusiastic in a way that is warm rather than cool. she seems to really like girls as well as boys — such a rarity among the ladies in hollywood, who perhaps know all too well that the white boys have the power so let’s be all male-identified and stuff (even if they’re not aware of it). she’s making her own culture, not just reacting to it. i still have to see Whip It — i hope i’m not too late!

  2. Having seen the movie in a pre-release preview, I’d highly recommend. That said it’s not really a “kids movie”. A lot of bad reviews have been by parents who took their 4 year-old & the kids didn’t enjoy it. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 12. It’s not because the movie is too dark or scary but because there are underlying messages/issues that young kids just won’t get. If you view it as an adult look at a children’s classic, the movie rocks!

    BTW ~ your description of Williamsburg parents cracks me up!

  3. Whip It was so great for just that reason. Drew is not too cool for school. She’s a warmhearted dorky girl who just happens to be drawn to quirky things. And from what Shauna, the screenwriter says, it was incredibly nice, everyone warm and happy on the set. With a bunch of girls, that’s saying something.

    As for Heather’s comment, I don’t doubt that I would enjoy the film. I liked Spike Jonze’s other films. I like Dave Eggers’ books. But it’s precisely because it’s an adult film in kid’s clothes that I’m so cheesed off. There’s enough adult fare out there. There’s enough bad kid movies out there. Pixar has shown there’s a way to do sophisticated multi-layered stuff that we all love, without making it too fabulous for words (and notice how Wall-E and Ratatouille had few famous actors doing voice roles?) or, for that matter, kids.

  4. I saw Where the Wild Things are and apparently I was not cool enough for this movie because I did not enjoy at all!

  5. I also don’t think I was cool enough for Where the Wild Things Are – and maybe not brave enough either, because it spooked me! I loved the book, it’s still one of my favorites, but I was very very disappointed by the movie. It’s funny that Marjorie mentioned the little vampire story that Max tells his mom, because that was my favorite part. But the rest of the movie was a huge allogory (spelling?) for something I don’t think most people want to equate with such a simple, sweet book. And at certain points, the Wild Things were just plain annoying. Insecure. And scary.

    I think maybe I just realized what is so special about books like If I Stay. The character’s ARE cool – even though they aren’t trying to be. Mia’s cool because she’s passionate about the cello; Adam’s cool because he’s passionate about his band (and Mia); Mia’s parents are cool because they love their music and really get their kids. Sure they mention bands, but not to be pricks and name-drop..And the passion that these character’s have make them relatable. I never played cello, but I was intense about other things. So that made me feel connected to Mia. And cool.

    Not like Where the Wild Things Are, which made me feel kind of unhappy. Which was strange because Dave Eggers’ books make me happy, and Away We Go was my favorite movie of the summer. Strange stuff.

  6. i don’t think where the wild things are is a sweet book. no way. scared the pants off me when i was a kid. but the movie looks amazing. haven’t seen in yet so don’t know, but to me it looks like it retains all the loneliness and then wild fun and friendship of the book and brought it to life. i don’t know if kids will like it and i don’t care, because i don’t think it’s a kids movie.
    and fantastic mr fox will be awesome, and roald dahl fans will love it.

  7. I think people might have sweet memories of those books but I doubt anyone really thinks that Wild Things (or Fantastic Mr. Fox, or any Roald Dahl books, for that matter, or any good kids’ books) are sweet. They are dark. Lots of kids books are dark. That’s what makes them relatable to kids who get how scary the world is.

  8. Ohhh yeah, Gayle, I think you have a point. I guess Where the Wild Things Are isn’t sweet, I just think about it and remember how cozy it was to have it read to me as a kid!

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