Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

The Hidden Adult Themes of "Where the Wild Things Are"

It’s an absolute fixture in children’s libraries worldwide and upon its publication in 1963 was awarded the Caldecott Medal, a distinguished award given to the year’s best picture book for children as decided by the Association for Library Service to Children. In the years since, it has inspired countless toys and children’s games. But after "Where the Wild Things Are" became a big-budget Hollywood adaptation, people finally began to ask if it's really a children's story.


The fact that "Where the Wild Things Are" is primarily made up of author Maurice Sendak’s illustrations certainly endears it to children but its themes of isolation, growth, and dreams has spoken to adults for years. 

Three years ago, Hollywood press circulated rumors that the film had to be completely reshotafter Warner Bros and Jonze began clashing. The word was that Jonze had shot the film with adults primarily in mind and did not address a children’s audience enough. Whatever changes were made to the original version of the film, it’s still being reviewed in some cases as an adult adventure masquerading as a children’s story. Analyze the background of its author and illustrator, Sendak, and you may find this isn’t terribly surprising.

Already 35 years old when the book was published, Sendak was downright defiant in approaching questions about the film’s appropriateness for children. What’s more, in a documentary featured on HBO, Sendak claimed he didn't “believe in childhood.” Sendak’s telling the New York Times in 2008 that he had never revealed his homosexuality to his parents and “all I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy” further accentuates some of the potentially-adult themes explored in "Where the Wild Things Are." Same goes for some of the Holocaust references and sexuality in another of his picture books, "In the Night Kitchen."

To be sure, "Where the Wild Things Are," both the book and film, will continue to entertain countless children, as will the countless toys it inspired. But when it comes to the adult audience, they might share a more visceral, profound response to the story, and that may not be entirely unintended.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Big Think in 2009. 

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

The psychology of psychopathy: An inside look at the psychopathic brain

A 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison study was the first of it's kind to show structural differences in the psychopathic brain.

Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory / Big Think
Mind & Brain
  • According to a 2017 study led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, psychopaths have reduced connections in the areas of the brain that control fear, anxiety, empathy and sentimentality.
  • Psychopathy is typically diagnosed using a 20-item checklist called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
  • Psychopathic tendencies could be considered "warning signs" of psychopathy, but it's important to note that not everyone who shows psychopathic tendencies becomes a psychopath.
Keep reading Show less

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Cylindrical space colony.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Personal Growth

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast