Subject: Saint Nicholas, 1700-year old Greek Christian bishop turned secular symbol of capitalistic holiday cheer
Date of Assessment: December 24, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Gifts, cookies, mythos
Negative Buzzwords: Typecasting, played-out
The Case: While I initially intended upon gearing this assessment as a superfluous examination of Santa Claus as a free-standing, make-believe (sorry, Rowles) entity, the final result would have merely contained a dull declaration of my own childhood experience. Perhaps your story is an interesting one; if so, please feel free to comment to that effect. However, let’s just temporarily switch focus and discuss the jolly red man as a movie character, who (more often than not) is one hell of an existential bastard. In addition, Santa’s also quite the people pleaser, despite enduring a few decades’ worth of humiliation at being played by the likes of Hulk Hogan (Santa With Muscles) and Tim Allen (The Santa Clause; The Santa Clause 2; The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause), not to mention rubbing redneck shoulders with Jim Varney (Ernest Saves Christmas). It’s a wonder the poor, jolly guy even bothers with us civilians any longer.
Even though it’s terribly cliché for a movie critic to declare that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to make ‘em,” this is truly the case for Christmas-themed movies, where the tried-and-true treasures remain safely ensconced in the post-WWII era: Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (perhaps the commonly-accepted mainstream adaptation of A Christmas Carol) and George Seaton’s Miracle on 34th Street (consumerism is bad, y’all). Much later on the contemporary timeline, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Christmas Story qualified as true (albeit altogether ubiquitous) classics, which remain as rare as enounters with Santa himself.
Nowadays, holiday-themed movies are all too frequently farcical in nature or just go for the lowbrow jugular like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In the kiddie arena, Disney’s Santa Buddies and the accompanying prequel, The Search for Santa Paws, continue the “Is Santa real?” theme, but most theater efforts (the aforementioned Santa Clause movies and Jingle All The Way) have lazily persisted with the all-too-familiar cautionary tale about consumerism, which, quite frankly is a theme that’s been played out far too many times and has been (appropriately) cannibalized by zombie movies like the Dawn of the Dead. Sure, there are exceptions to these rules, such as Love Actually, which appeals directly to the Anglophile audience, but my own taste gravitates towards the slightly subversive, adults-only variety: Bad Santa and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even further down the spectrum, one can also witness some downright scary shit like The Present, Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, or Sint. Bloody hell in a reindeer-driven sleigh, indeed.
Prognosis: For such a genre-bending type of guy, Saint Nick finds himself in quite a rut these days. Between the mouth breathing Santa of Fred Claus fame, there’s been the slightly terrifying Robert Zemeckis adaptation of A Christmas Carol and the utterly horrifying Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Most recently, few chose to experience the utterly misguided The Nutcracker in 3D, an effort that’s only slightly less embarrassing than the impending straight-to-DVD effort of Christmas with a Capital C, which looks to be a laughable effort to stir up some religious hysteria (regarding the evils of athiesm) by the very presence of Mister Jefferson D’Arcy himself. In other words, Santa Claus might very well be “over” as a movie star, but will you continue to believe?
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.