I didn't go to a middle
school. I was in a catholic K-through-8. By seventh grade I
should have been near the top of the curricular food chain.
I wasn't, though, mostly due to Lee Gruenveld and Steve Hart.
Gruenveld was a greasy asshole with the moldiest braces in Blessed
Spirit Parish. He didn't know his multiplication tables and
once had an infected finger that swelled up like an eggplant
that oozed on his homework. Hart was a mulleted, sleepy-eyed
moron who thought beating me up would distract others from discovering
he was barely literate. He was right about that. In fact, those
two fuckers pretty much built their reign as popular kids on
beating the crap out of me.
The beauty of life,
though, is that it's not a sprint to high school popularity.
It's a marathon run to miserable, impoverished old age. And
while those pricks may have won the battle of adolescence, I'm
winning the war. I have no idea where Lee and Steve are now.
Maybe they're hotshot CEOs. Maybe they're policemen, or military
generals. They could both be dentists, or gay lovers running
an art gallery in Santa Fe. It doesn't matter; I wish them all
the success in the world. I can afford to be magnanimous because
I have a web site. Take that, motherfuckers. Suck the dick of
me being an author right here on the Internet. How many people
in the world can say they do that? Fifty, maybe sixty. Probably
fewer, because web publishing is hard to get into.
The point is that
my school years sucked the woolen tits of the nuns who taught
me. But they clearly did no permanent damage because here I
am, a success by any measure. I have a web site, and it's not
even on Geocities. It's my very own. I am read by hundreds of
people, and the ads generate enough money in a month to pay
for two of the four times I go to the theater. Some months.
My wife and I have our very own apartment that we share with
a dog who we don't charge rent. We have a TV and a neighbor
who loans us her vacuum. I have had cars in the past, and currently
own a bicycle with seven working gears and one working brake.
I married an upwardly mobile, highly-motivated woman who is
assistant manager at Hancock Fabrics, and will probably own
it some day. My wife is responsible for the entire button department.
I probably don't need to tell you what that means: free buttons.
No more holding my pants up with rope. That is in addition to
her already being in charge of all sashes and window dressing.
My success is probably
why I never look back in anger. Or maybe it's because that phrase
is the only thing I really remember from James Thurber's writing.
Whatever it is, I don't resent anyone for my grade school years.
Those transgressions were a long time ago and I don't dwell
on them outside of once a month researching how to hire someone
to track down and kill the two fuckers who made me miserable.
Diary of a Wimpy
Kid is based on a series of popular and pretty fucking funny
books for pre-teens about middle school. The books are vignettes
in the diary-entry model, partially written, partially drawn,
which is why I like them. I sort of lose track of where I am
if the words in a book are tiny and not broken up by pictures.
The stories are the "journal" of a kid who has reached middle
school but hasn't physically matured, hasn't grown out of liking
kid things and hasn't found his place in the pecking order yet.
The movie follows the same formula, mostly.
Zachary Gordon plays
Greg Heffley as he enters middle school. He's a small kid who
wants very badly to be the most popular kid on campus. He's
hampered by his best and only friend, a self-unaware fat boy
(Robert Carpon) who still admits to loving his mom and rides
a pink bike with a popstar's name on it. Like a typical twelve-year-old,
or denizen of Arvada's Attitude Lounge, Gordon has little in
the way of a moral compass. He's Machiavellian without knowing
who The Prince is. In his quest to get to the top of
the popularity chart, he breaks his friend's hand, lets his
friend take the blame for abandoning a gang of kindergartner's
while on safety patrol, and generally has no consideration for
anyone else's feelings.
That's pretty much
the plot of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The movie, like the
book, plays out in sketches meant to illustrate the life-as-hell
of adolescence. Gordon is terrorized by his older brother, terrorizes
his younger brother, and is haunted by the prospect that if
he becomes any less popular he'll wind up with only the weirdest,
smelliest kid in school as a friend.
The thin narrative
works on the page, but doesn't work on the screen. One problem
is that the sketches are not particularly well woven into a
story. It goes from gag to gag, and all but a couple are more
cute than funny. Diary of a Wimpy Kid never puts much
at stake. The plot of Gordon and Capron losing their friendship
and regaining it is secondary. When they get over their differences
and Gordon shows he actually can be sympathetic, the moment
is more, "Oh, yeah, that," than a satisfying conclusion.
While Diary of
a Wimpy Kid is supposed to commiserate with kids for how
shitty and confusing middle school is, it comes across as nostalgic
for yesterday. It could say something cutting and revealing
about the misery of adolescence and the emphasis we all put
on popularity. It could be something I can show Lee and Steve,
if I ever find them, before the squad I've hired tortures them
into an apology. It doesn't, though. Instead, it makes awkwardness
all sweet and harmless. That's the last thing I wanted to hear
about seventh grade when I was twelve. I wanted someone to understand
that, no matter how petty it appeared from the outside, it was
a nightmare to go through. Having kids shit in your locker or
shove your teeth into the asphalt are not character-building
or fond memories.
The movie turns up
the saccharine a notch over the books, and as a result has no
real insight into youth at all. Actually, the movie isn't meant
for kids in middle-school, but for younger ones who aspire to
someday be confused by puberty. It gave me the feeling that
TV commercials for kids toys do. They use older kids in the
commercials than the toys are meant for, so the target audience
will think the toy will help them grow up faster.
Middle school isn't
sweet and it isn't wholesome. It's a fucking nightmare. Anyone
who says otherwise is probably selling cars or working as a
janitor these days. Those of us who know better have climbed
out of that pit and reached for the stars. As movie critics
on the Internet. Trust me. I know, because I can hold the stars
in my hands. Two Fingers for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
to tell Filthy Something?