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Source: Into The Wild

Thank God for the New Yorker, at least this week. While movie reviewers all over the country have gone weak in the ankles over Sean Penn’s new movie Into the Wild — apparently so beautiful and cinematic and inspirationally episodic that oil companies might use its clips to sell drilling rights in wildlife refuges to Al Gore — David Denby cannily senses the bogus within.

Many Alaskans have long been exasperated or downright hostile over the mythologizing of Chris McCandless, the hapless college graduate who walked “into the Wild” in 1992 and starved to death in a derelict bus a day’s walk up a mining access road on the north side of Denali National Park.

That the story illustrated an unnecessary outcome, one that provides no more spiritual insight than a flattened jaywalker, has long since become a cliche in Alaska. (As the father of a 21-year-old man who sometimes pursues ideals without an eye toward practicality, I also feel terribly for the kid’s parents.)

That first Jon Krakauer and now Sean Penn have transformed this senseless death — whether triggered by poison or insanity — into an irony-free celebration has become one of the most bizarre episodes in the portrayal of modern Alaska by the media. Many people from Outside seem to dismiss the Alaskans who criticize as cranky misanthropes who failed to see a new Christ among them. Yet that’s not it.

Denby, himself sounding nauseous over the breathless canonization of a camping accident, touches on one of our gripes.

“McCandless didn’t experience enough of life for his rejection of it to carry much weight, and Penn can’t see the egocentricity in a revolt that was as naïve as it was grandly self-destructive,” Denby writes in his review published in the Oct. 15 issue.

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