Still a Dennis The Menace?


Teacher’s Diary

Dennis the Menace was a Warner Bros family entertainment comic movie in mid-1993 that grossed a lot of fame and revenue across the world. It also grossed a variety of criticisms – good and bad (naturally).

Like every other great cinematographic work of any time, it took its time to stay on the dance floor, then bowed out when its ovation was high. It innovated in 1998 as ‘Dennis the Menace Strikes Again’ and, yet again in the new millennium round about 2007 as ‘A Dennis the Menace Christmas’.

Some may regard it as a classic, others as, not so old yet, and yet others – as contemporary and relevant.

Dennis, of Dennis the Menace was a child whose parents left in the care of their neighbours (George Wilsons’) when they went out. With his dog Ruff tagging along, Dennis always hung out with his friends (Joey and Margaret Wade). He was completely disruptive and mischievous to exasperating heights whilst in the child-minding gestures neighbour Wilson provided him. George Wilson’s patience and accommodation was almost surreal, certainly not one I’ve seen or heard of in my times so far. I absolutely agree with one school of criticism that feels that this comic strip (if you want to genre it as so) was ‘unrooted in any reality’.

So why am I honing on ‘Dennis’ today? It is simply because I cannot fathom why anyone at the ‘evening or night’ of their lives would bother to laugh at others misfortunes, or even castigate them.

A friend was so lethargic the other day, I feared that she was being sympathetic of coronavirus. The body heat she exuded as I stood next to her, I was certain was in the COVID temperature range! I asked her kindly if she was okay. To this she replied, ‘My heart aches, I feel sick at human nature!’
So for me time stopped there because there and then she was talking about her mental health status. The VUCA (violent, uncertain, complicated, aggressive) world we all live in these days require us to take care our personal trilogy – mind, body and soul – in equal proportions, COVID or no COVID.

‘Would you like to talk about it?’ ‘Yes’ she blurted. It turned out that, on the one hand, she being in her 50s is naturally increasingly reflective of everything. On the other hand however, the previous day, she had worked in a retirement unit where a limiting and passively aggressive boss she once had, a long time ago, now lived in ailing health, non-senile, octogenarian, but continuing to be nasty, discontented and critical. Of course fellow residents and staff called him ‘Dennis the Menace’ – under their breath.

‘Interestingly, he has never been loud’ my friend shared. ‘He has always been menacing in the sum total of his character which have consisted of: subtle cutting jibes, private snaps, bad looks, connivances to berate another, refusing to promote or move another on, look down at another, discrediting another’s efforts, setting another up to fail, etc.

‘He has gone unscathed’ my friend flatly stated. He retired untouched, at the height of his profession and with a collection of trophies of achievements lining the wall of his suite’ my friend cried, ‘Life’s unfair’ she wailed.

‘I’m not sure about that’ I said. ‘What is left with us all are fragments of memories’ I countered. Even video coverages of events record only aspects the lenses of the cameras focus on. We remember in moments only, in no chronological order. This is why we must strive to be ‘present’ and mindful of our actions towards others. It is impossible to create or feed unfairness or even wickedness then hope for business as usual. Are you still a Dennis the Menace?

Omoru is a freelance writer, education, health and social care advocate