Monday, April 10, 2017

Punching Down?

     Diary of A Wimpy Kid tries to put us in the mind of middle school social climber Greg Heffley. Greg is in many ways your typical middle school kid; he loves video games, wants to become popular at school, and gets into fights with his siblings at home. But Greg is an interesting character in that, as Marina noted, he’s a bit of a jerk. He’s cruel to his friend Rowley and looks down on all kids he perceives as less popular than him. In fact, Greg is so harsh toward the nerds and geeks of the world that I began to wonder if the humor of this book might extend somewhat into mockery. A lot of the jokes involve a kind of punching down. For instance, Greg notes that some of the students in the lower-level reading group are so illiterate that they hold their books upside down; while this could just be exaggeration, if true, it seems a bit cruel for Greg, a member of the advanced reading group, to make fun of kids with serious trouble reading. He also criticizes a kid who gets severe stage fright during the school play, and generally insults and belittles unpopular or weird people. Sometimes he even makes fun of adults; when his mom accidentally mixes up Christmas presents and gives Greg a sweater intended for someone in need, he gloats that his Christmas is at least better than the needy person’s, who has received a useless video game (129).

     You might think that being unpopular himself would make Greg more sympathetic to the misfits of the world, but in reality, Greg’s arrogance stems from insecurity. Like your typical middle school bully, he insults other people to make himself look better. So despite all of the jokes about uncool kids at school, in the end, the mockery is really of Greg and his ridiculous sense of superiority over kids who are not very different from him. Despite writing this book in the voice of a character who looks down on people, Kinney manages to show that he’s really making fun of arrogance by the way he forces Greg to repeatedly come to terms with the fact he is one of the less popular kids in middle school, whether he likes it or not. So the book is still funny in spite of Greg’s cruel humor, because we recognize that Greg is really the one to laugh at; the unpopular kids may be uncool in his eyes, but at least they don’t have diaries where they make fun of people to seem cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment