In a recent Entertainment Weekly sidebar, when commenting on the 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who, Peter Jackson stated, “If there’s any secret to its resurgence, it’s due to the show’s complete lack of cynicism.” If you’re familiar with Doctor Who, perhaps you know that this show was first launched on the BBC in 1963, but went on hiatus in 1989.
Jackson’s remark struck a chord with me, because I’ve been trying to analyze why I love the show so much. This love grew from childhood, watching Doctor Who on PBS with my dad on Sunday nights. Friends who recently saw some of the older seasons on DVD described them as cheesy or low budget. But I loved them, starting with Tom Baker, because they always took me someplace wonderful. So, when the show returned in 2005, I was more than thrilled, because like the show’s producers, the show has never lost its wonder for me.
Which brings me to the second quote, one from Rise of the Guardians, a 2012 film by DreamWorks Animation. I won’t go into the plot. You can check that out for yourself here. During a scene early in the film, North (St. Claus) asks Jack Frost to name his center. In other words, what ideal or virtue does he bring to the world that he also is willing to safeguard for the sake of the children of the world?
As an object lesson, North hands Jack a set of nesting dolls and has Jack open the dolls until he gets to the center doll—a doll with large blue eyes. This doll represents North’s center: wonder. North then tells Jack:
It is what I was born with, eyes that have only seen the wonder in everything! Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children.
As I read Jackson’s comments in EW, I couldn’t help linking his quote with North’s and then reflecting on what my center might be. Let me give you a little background. I grew up reading magazines like Mad and Cracked, magazines famous for their parodies of movies and books. I never met a parody I didn’t like. Sarcasm was my center. It affected my writing. (Some might say infected.) Everything was ripe for mockery.
In my second semester at VCFA, my advisor read my fairy tale parody and shook her head. In her assessment, some of it was good; yet she could see what was missing: wonder. Sure I could write a parody. But did I have the guts to go beyond mockery and produce something original? The thought of doing so was daunting. What if someone mocked me for it later?
Wonder is the antithesis of cynicism. If I have wonder-filled eyes, I see beauty and life in the world, not just the flaws or what makes it ripe for ridicule. That’s why Jackson’s remark jumped off the page at me. Having watched all of the episodes of the relaunched Doctor Who, I can attest to the truth of his statement. If you watch the interviews of anyone connected with the show—actor, writer, producer, lunch lady, makeup crew—you will discern the love—the wonder—he or she sees in it.
So, I’m in an examining mood now. Having chosen to write books for kids, what is my center? I can tell you what I’m working on: wonder. But I need to shrug off some cynicism first. Thankfully there are blog posts like this one by Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, that remind me of the wonder of writing. (One of my classmates brought this article to my attention. Thanks, Rachel.)
What is your center?
For a fun quiz on this question, go here:
Jackson, Peter. “Lord of the Whovians.” Entertainment Weekly #1252. 29 Mar. 2013: 36-37. Print.
Rise of the Guardians screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on a story by William Joyce. Directed by Peter Ramsey. © 2013 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. All rights reserved.