Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Middle School Humor

           Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a staple of my time in elementary school, hopefully not because it was relatable to me, but that was honestly quite a real possibility. In his book, which provides a rather accurate description of the absurdities of middle school, Jeff Kinney is able to make topics relevant to only middle schoolers, somewhat humorous to even college students, even though we are clearly not the intended audience. While Kinney does not use the specific theories as much as some of the other writers that we have read this year, he does play with scale on quite a few occasions. When discussing the fact that the kid with the “cheese touch” had moved to California, Greg, the main character, says “I just hope someone doesn’t start the Cheese Touch up again, because I don’t need that kind of stress in my life anymore” (Kinney, 10). The idea that the most stressful part of a person’s is trying to avoid a person who had touched a piece of rancid cheese is hilarious because there are so many more things to be stressed about, like the 4 term papers you have to write, or the inevitability of death, which when it comes down to it, probably feel rather similar. The main character acts exactly the way you would expect a middle school child to. Everything that they have to worry about is the most important thing in the world, these kids have, no sense of scale, but by showing this, Kinney is playing with scale by inflating just how stressful this event is.

            The humor in Kinney’s book is also rather observational. Greg seems to many times simply be making commentary about the world around of him. Most of these seem to involved his inability to relate with the people around him, or the fact that some of the kids just seem to be really, fantastically stupid, or at least that’s how they are portrayed. The first time this is really shown to the reader is when Greg is discussing his reading group and he mentions how he “saw a couple of the ‘Bink Says Boo’ kids holding their books upside down, and I don’t think they were joking” (Kinney, 16) which is, in all honesty, a hilarious image to imagine someone trying to seriously read a book upside down. It is also something that happens to everyone from time to time. I know that there have been times that I have opened up a book upside down, and it took me a slightly embarrassingly long amount of time to realize my mistake. Another instance of this observational type of humor comes from Greg describing his group for independent study. His biggest apprehension comes from a kid named Ricky whose “big claim to fame is that he’ll pick the gum off the bottom of a desk and chew it if you pay him fifty cents. So I don’t really have high hopes for our final grades” (Kinney, 146). Everyone throughout their academic careers has at one point or another dreaded the idea of having to do group work, and everyone has run into a character similar to this Ricky, the one who you just know will absolutely ruin your chances at a good grade. This also brings up the final reason that Kinney’s humor is successful, its honestly rather relatable. Most of the humor deals with really simple and common things that people are going to have to go through, or remember going through. Everyone remembers their strained relationship with their parents during middle school, and the importance everyone placed on being “cool” or “popular”, or having to deal with their siblings or their friends when they were being annoying. Unlike Kalman’s work from last week, Kinney’s humor is not niche by any stretch of the imagination, rather it is so common that at some point everyone will be able to relate to it. There is also the fact that Kinney is not trying to paint some sort of obscure and idiosyncratic portrait of how he views the world, but rather he is simply trying to provide a relatable character who is struggling with the things that everyone had to deal with during middle school. I believe that is where Kinney’s success as a writer came from, and despite the fact that he has to use simple language, and cannot really make any sort of sophisticated jokes, he can still play with the scale of things, make use of observational humor, and employ irony throughout the entire work and still have success.  

No comments:

Post a Comment