Middle school is riddled with the idea of superiority as the only way for survival. If you are popular, well-liked, or strong you automatically have the upper hand over other middle school kids. Kids in middle school, like Greg Heffley in Diary of a Whimpy Kid try desperately to achieve superiority as a way to verify their existence in the midst of puberty and make sure they’re not the low man on the food chain. This exercise of attempting to achieve superiority is where the comedy happens in Whimpy Kid.
It first appears on the first page of the book where Greg expresses his anxieties about writing in a journal—not a diary—for fear of being beaten up. Because of this, and because he is considered a middle school loser, he seeks out ways to stand out or conform to middle school life that will achieve the accepted status he so desires. Beginning with the cheese touch, Greg highlights one very obvious way in which middle schoolers assert their power: simply put, you touch the cheese you’re a pariah for life. Greg makes this fact very apparent and therefore does absurd things like walking around with his fingers taped. This odd scene is a comical one for both an adult and child reader, but why? For children, it is potentially comical because the superiority theory in this case provided relief: kids have known or experienced something similar to this in their elementary or middle school careers. Adults can think this is funny because the have their chance to feel superior over the narrator: thinking that he is just a stupid kid with irrational fears. But while Greg desperately seeks to attain superiority he does not do a great job of achieving it. He bullies Rowley a lot—i.e. “Did you know your hand is bigger than your face?” SMACK.—to assert his dominance and also excludes Fregley a lot, deeming him to be lower than himself. Greg does the very things to Rowley and Fregley that he does not want to happen to him in order to gain superiority in some small way. We ultimately see Greg fail in his quest—Rowley eats the cheese and still ends up becoming more popular than Greg—despite his very best efforts. It is in the end where we realize, after all the middle-school comedy, that Greg has failed. Then, the reader—both adult and child alike—asserts their dominance over Greg, feeling superior in this moment, and is able to laugh at the end and throughout the book for the exact reason that they are judging Greg for: being superior.