Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
There’s a lot to unpack in this creepy stop-motion special — an elf who dreams of becoming a dentist, a group of anthropomorphic toys under the spell of a deep-throated griffin, a prospector on a quest for gold or peppermint or something. But let’s just focus on the Rudolph story. His pronounced nose makes him unsuitable for Santa’s racially-pure sled team, but that very year, Santa finds himself in a bind — it’s cloudy. So he thinks, aha!, I know where I can find a cheap fog light, and he invites Rudolph to join the team. That’s the happy ending. The lesson, I suppose, is that the only good freak is a useful one. What happens next year when Santa buys a flashlight? Or when he realizes the fog is localized over the North Pole, not blanketing the entire globe? I suspect once the fog passes, Santa drops Rudolph in Gary, Indiana. After all, the reindeer shout, “You’ll go down in history,” not, “You’ll be employed here until retirement!”
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
The first full-length episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas special, and a seemingly touching one. When Homer’s Christmas bonus falls through, and his second job as a mall Santa proves fruitless, he heads to the dog track in hopes of a Christmas miracle. There he learns the greatest lesson of all: the greatest gift isn’t something you buy, it’s something you find abandoned in a sketchy parking lot. No, wait. It’s that dogs make great and inexpensive gifts. No, that can’t be right… Anyway, the greyhound Santa’s Little Helper joins the cast, eventually fathering some twenty-five puppies, meaning Homer’s gift likely resulted in twenty-five additional shelter dogs being put down. The real lesson here: have your pets spayed or neutered.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown is feeling depressed by the commercialization of Christmas, as exemplified by Snoopy’s gaudy house decorations. So his frienemy Lucy invites him to direct a Christmas play, which somehow combines the nativity story, a Christmas Queen, freestyle dancing, and a penguin. Charlie Brown attempts to save the play by buying a tiny pine tree, which is met with a round of jeers, causing him to walk off set. Soon his friends realize they’ve done wrong. To make it up to Chuck, they decorate his tree using Snoopy’s gaudy display. Charlie Brown smiles and they all sing a song. The lesson? Commercialization is great! That, and cushy director jobs can be had by bribing the producer with a few shiny nickels.
It’s a Wonderful Life
OK, it’s been a long time since I saw It’s a Wonderful Life,but I seem to remember the thing that gives the banker George Bailey a renewed take on life is the revelation that, without his existence, people would die and/or be put in an insane asylum. Not sure what kind of lesson that is, other than to practice incredible narcissism, but maybe it’s just that none of us can live without bankers. All hail bankers!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
This is the story of a town full of inbred white Christians and one dark-skinned guy who lives in the outskirts. “The Grinch,” a name no one would self-apply where I come from, hardly seems like a bad guy. He has a nice little dog, a small house with an amazing view of the mountains, and he’s great with children — just watch his incredibly sweet interaction with Cindy Lou Who. It seems like the Grinch just isn’t into the particular lifestyle practiced by the Whovians, rising at the same time every day, eating at one table, taking any gift they want from his sled. The lesson here? Yield to communism. Does it seem like I’m being a Grinch myself? Maybe. But just think about these specials. They come without logic! They come every season! They come without morals, values, or reason! Oh, well. Welcome, Christmas specials, bring your cheer. Cheer to all, far and near. For Christmas specials will always be, just as long as there’s DVD.