Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deciding I'm OK with the Wimpy Kid

Because I was not OK with him before. I'd never read these books, being that I had already well aged out of the target audience by the time they came out. (In fact, the first book was published the year kiddo was born.) So I came to this whole phenomenon -- more than 115 million copies sold worldwide, per the Los Angeles Times, not to mention the three movies -- a bit innocently, when my mother bought a signed copy of the latest "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book, and just to start us off properly, the first book too. (That's right, Mom. I'm blaming you.)

Kiddo was beyond thrilled when he saw the books, because clearly some of his buds are reading them too. He chattered about them all night -- "Haha, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' I can't wait to read 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' when can we read 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'" -- and when we finally did start reading one, thought it was the funniest book ever ever in the history of anything and couldn't wait to hear the next part.

The problem is, this Wimpy Kid dude is kind of a jerk.

He bonks the star of the school play on the head with an apple in the middle of the play. (He was a tree.) He terrorizes a bunch of kindergartners when he's supposed to be escorting them home, then lets his friend take the blame. He devises a game in which he tries to knock that friend off a Big Wheel while he's riding it downhill. That sort of thing.

OK, they're in middle school. Kids generally are jerks in middle school. And he generally gets his comeuppance by the end of the book. And this stuff is more silly than outright horrible. DH and I even think the book is kind of funny. It's just that it's clearly a book meant for kids, not adults, in the sense that the kids can laugh at it when the adults are not around, in that subversive way. So it's a little bit of cognitive dissonance for DH and I to be using it as kiddo's bedtime story. I feel like as the authority figures, it's our job to disapprove, or something. Eat your vegetables! Do your homework! Don't laugh when the Wimpy Kid bonks that girl with an apple!

On the other hand, I've always had these two warring impulses in me: the desire to do all my homework and get good grades and be liked by the teacher, and also the desire to sit back and giggle at the kids throwing spitballs in the back of the room. I'm a well-behaved smartass. So I can understand the appeal here.

And frankly, after reading him the original "Peter Pan," in which the pirates and the Lost Boys are doing the logical thing with all those swords and actually killing each other, and "The Secret Garden," in which Mary's parents and a gazillion other people die of cholera by about page 5, I probably don't have any right to complain.

Also, there's this one interesting fact about the author, per the Sydney Morning Herald:

Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid series, has attention deficit disorder; he is sure of it. This explains why writing the opening pages of a new book is as excruciating as doing a tax return and also why he drifts away at the most inopportune of times.

Like last week at the Sydney Writers' Festival when he was giving a talk at the Opera House and found his mind wandering off to compose a plot for his new novel; it's as if his body, he says, is physically trapped in a space but his head is somewhere else completely - roaming the creative playground of infinity looking for the next mishap, gag or twist.

The ADD has never been formally diagnosed and he isn't interested in getting treatment; the condition has served him well - people who have it are often very creative, he thinks.

In fact, this is what he tells kids at a school assembly, per the LA Times article:

"I have ADD," he told the crowd. "Does anybody here have ADD? You do? Congratulations. You're going to go far."

How about that!

I am always on the lookout for authors/artists/athletes/actors/other fascinating people to add to my list of successful people with ADHD (thought I saw something about Jimmy Fallon recently too but can't find the article), because it's interesting, and a bit reassuring, to see people who have the disorder but have succeeded spectacularly in spite of it. Or because of it? Either way.

So consider me on the Wimpy Kid bandwagon. We've already started the other book, and I expect will eventually move on to the movies. Not to mention the rest of the books. And kiddo is back to pleading for one more entry every night at book time.

"Hey kiddo," I said the other day at breakfast, "the man who wrote these books has ADHD like you do."

"Cool!" he said.

Yeah, it is.

1 comment:

  1. I like Hank Zipzer. That series is excellent.

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