While reading Diary of Wimpy Kid, I was reminded of the way Bryson points out arbitrary social conventions by focusing on them to the point of ridiculousness. It isn’t really Greg, Rowley, or their families at the center of the narrative, but the ridiculous situations they find themselves in due to social conventions. In Kinney’s exaggerated and more naïve world of a stereotypical middle school, these conventions are everything. People get ranked on popularity lists. Yearbook superlatives are something to strive for. The “cheese touch” or similar situations can lead to total social isolation. Even after school, Greg is plagued by the abuse of power imbalances from his older brother and gangs of teenagers. In Greg’s world, taking advantage of any edge you can get is the norm. Greg realizes just how arbitrary most of the social conventions of middle school are when he ends up with the dreaded cheese touch and realizes that just spending time with his also not-so-popular friend isn’t too terrible of a fate at all.
I happen to agree very much with Greg Heffley when he says middle school is a bad idea. My memories of middle school involve groups of girls in bright Juicy Couture sweat suits and Uggs. I was neither cool enough for them or athletic enough to play kickball with the boys. My school had just transitioned from being and elementary to school to K-8, so there were no lockers and I carried a giant backpack everyday, on which I blame my current terrible posture. Average intelligence and minimal effort was considered extraordinary in comparison to the apathy that many students displayed. We had frequent assemblies addressing class behavior issues. Anti-bullying and nutrition campaigns, though noble in their efforts, fell flat in their effectiveness. There was still bullying and people still had potato chips and candy at lunchtime. There were sometimes dances DURING THE SCHOOL DAY, in which we were all rallied into the school gym and shamed into participating as teachers stared from the sidelines. Any class would be preferred to that. To top it all off, the cringe-inducing Twilight series was all the rage.