18th 2009
Friday doll blogging: Wes Anderson and nostalgia as a limitlessly renewable resource

Posted under: American history, art, childhood, Dolls, Gender


I’ve been slacking off on my doll blogging over the past several months–so it occurred to me that a certain stop-action animated movie I saw recently might qualify as a doll post!

I saw The Fantastic Mr. Fox last weekend.  Wes Anderson has become a successful director because he shares and manipulates baby boomers’ and Gen Xers’ nostalgia for our childhood:  the mid-century office technologies, the clothing that always looks like it’s right out of a Goodwill grab bag ca. 1963-1979, the self-conscious references to things that appealed to children in the 1960s and 1970s (Jacques Cousteau and Davy Crockett, for example.  Pass the Space Food Sticks and Tang!)  If you’re in your mid-30s to your mid-50s, Anderson is like a very clever kid brother who missed out on all of the fun you had during your late midcentury childhood, and who’s getting rich selling it back to you in idealized dreamscape slices.

As to the movie itself:  the animation is clever and fascinatingly detailed, but it’s just not that interesting or compelling a story.  I heard an interview of Anderson on Fresh Air a few weeks ago, in which he confessed that The Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first book he remembers being his book as a child.  That’s sweet–but it’s not a good enough excuse to make a movie out of it.  Owen Wilson has a funny cameo explaining the game of Whackbat–that was worthwhile, as was the portrayal of sibling-like rivalry between Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and his cousin, Kristofferson (Anderson’s own brother, Eric.)  It seemed like an animated animal version of The Royal Tennenbaums, starring wild animals.

Anderson needs to find another subject than rivalries and jealousies among brothers.  Seriously–sibling rivalry may be an endlessly renewable resource, but it’s just not all that interesting after four or five movies.


7 Responses to “Friday doll blogging: Wes Anderson and nostalgia as a limitlessly renewable resource”

  1. Another Damned Medievalist on 18 Dec 2009 at 8:32 am #

    I loved it — mostly because it included lots of Dahl’s gruesome stuff. And the three baddies were wonderful. And there were Badgers, which makes anything worthwhile.

  2. squadratomagico on 18 Dec 2009 at 8:49 am #

    Really, there’s badgers? That’s a plus!
    I’ve never found Wes Anderson terribly compelling, even though I’m squarely in the demographic you cite, Historiann. I often find his attempts to construct eccentric characters to be strained and unconvincing. But I have heard good things about Mr. Fox, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl.

  3. Historiann on 18 Dec 2009 at 8:51 am #

    I wouldn’t mind seeing it again on DVD to try to take in more of the meticulous detail of the sets and costumes, which are especially impressive in the first half of the movie, I think. (But, I wouldn’t pay admission again in the theater for it.)

    Bill Murray does the voice of the main badger, Mr. Fox’s attorney–funny!

  4. GayProf on 18 Dec 2009 at 9:50 am #

    Barbies sound more interesting.

  5. Indyanna on 18 Dec 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    I was thinking about just this subject (the need for a little high-end “Dahl blogging,” not sibling rivalry) today as I drove East into what looks like a huge snowstorm at dawn tomorrow. I never heard of this work, but I did grow up thinking that Roald Dahl was one of the more interesting names I had ever heard of. For me, though, the legendary “Chicken Hawk” episode on “Lassie” defined and still defines the terrifying possibilities of the kid-predator interface. Not really nostalgia, but remembering it does provide a kind of limbic shiver, even to this day.

  6. Geoff on 18 Dec 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    Wow. I always remembered eating something like chocolate space food sticks but never got any confirmation – including queries to my mom – until seeing the ad attached to the link above. I loved those things. Thanks, Historiann!

  7. Historiann on 19 Dec 2009 at 5:46 am #

    Always happy to help. I had forgotten about them myself, until sometime in the 90s when a friend of ours used to chant, “space food sticks! space food sticks!” I would have thought you were a little young for them, though–maybe you found them in someone’s old fallout shelter stash?

    Indyanna–good pun on doll/Dahl. I can’t believe I missed it myself!

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