Although I no longer celebrate Christmas in the traditional way, I do still observe it and love the spirit of it. While I don’t get caught up in the trappings that make the holiday so stressful for some, I do love the music and the schmaltzy messages that linger in the dozens of movies that fill the genre. For laughs, I perennially turn to Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but to pull at the heartstrings, the scene in Scrooged when Bill Murray’s version of Ebenezer Scrooge, a TV network president by the name of Francis Xavier Cross who wants to scare people into driving up his ratings, reveals that the spirit of giving need not be for only once a year, I always tear up.
Even more than the story of the birth of Christ, the true Christmas story has largely come to be illustrated in the many derivatives of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic A Christmas Carol. The message of this story, that there is a human imperative to rise above our predilection toward shiny things and start appreciating the light in people, I think is best illustrated The Muppet Christmas Carol. The role of Scrooge is pulled off excellently by Michael Caine, and the rest of the Muppet cast make the story especially delightful, but it is always the message of atonement and reconciliation that makes the story truly ring true.
The headmaster who taught him his greatest lesson was played by Sam the Eagle and told him to “work hard, work long, and be productive.” He continues to say that Ebenezer will love business for it “is the American way” until Rizzo the Rat corrects him, and he says that business is “the British way.” Whether it be American or British, we can tell by the continued training he received from his monetarily obsessed partners Jacob and Robert Marley, played by the penultimate crotchety old white dudes Statler and Waldorf, that Scrooge’s ultimate downfall in becoming the functioning member of the society we all truly want is his dysfunctional preoccupation with money over human well-being.
I think that there is much ingrained into our popular culture and the art we create through it that speaks to what we must do and why we must do it if we wish to salvage what we consider to be society. Our task now is to explore the how, and to revel in the opportunity to do so. That is the true spirit of Christmas that we can take with us throughout the rest of the year.