Thursday, 25 December 2008

Death and Christmas

I watched The Muppets Christmas Carol again today. I saw it countless times as a child, but I'm happy to say that I still think it's a great film. Everything seems well chosen, there are no mis-steps. Good casting, nice Muppet Choreography, great camera movement, catchy tunes. Plus when Rizzo the Rat asks Gonzo (who plays Charles Dickens) "how is it you always know what's going to happen?", Gonzo replies "Because I'm the narrator - I'm omniscient".

What resonated with me about the film this time extends to the original story. Scrooge, as y'all know, gets rattled by the three ghosts. In my mind, they disturb him in the following ways:
  • Past: Regret
  • Present: Guilt & Humiliation
  • Future: Terror

I think the idea goes that he's already lowered his defenses by the end of his experience with the Ghost of Christmas Present, but it's the Ghost of Christmas Future that properly puts the boot in and makes sure that he changes.

With the past, Scrooge re-steps the experience of how he let the love of his life slip through his fingers by putting work first. In the present, he sees how his employee (Bob Cratchet) lives in borderline poverty with a disabled but spirited son and he also sees others have a joke at his expense.

However, his experience of the future is a little bit different to how I remembered it. I thought that the final straw was seeing that no-one misses him when he dies, but that's not really it. Scrooge sees various people say how they won't miss a guy who has just died, and he has to clear away the snow from a gravestone to reveal that that person is him. But I'm sure that Scrooge already knew before clearing away the snow that it was him who people wouldn't miss.

I don't think it's the thought that people won't miss him that really bothers the guy. Rather, it's just being confronted with the terror of his own mortality that leads to his ultimate reform. The Ghost of Christmas Future, in his final gesture doesn't provide him with an argument towards him needing to re-think his life, but rather he just scares the shit out of him by accompanying the reasons why he should change with a cold, material affirmation of his eventual death. And I reckon that's what Dickens had in mind - you don't change people with reason or with sorrow, but with terror.

And that's the story of Christmas!

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