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The Most Popular Christmas Story Is About Isolation – Op-Ed Piece
Christmas is a time of year known for some of the best stories around. You can’t go a Christmas without hearing of the great characters and the lessons and tales they gave the world. These characters attach to people as much as the holiday.
A buddy and I were joking about some scenes we enjoyed in the Jim Carey Grinch movie, and that conversation has led to this article. That Christmas story is one of those movies you can’t believe is twenty years old. When I heard that, I felt bad as if I had done something against the movie or time itself. It was nothing, though, only life passing me by.
I joked that there was a stalker in the cave of The Grinch. And no one seems to care. The main character has another person within shouting distance, and the audience is not at all worried about the poor guy.
We then joked about the scheduling scene in the movie, in which The Grinch makes excuses for not wanting to go out. I am sure that many relate to this part of his character more than his take on Christmas.
I also love how The Grinch only takes thirty minutes to solve world hunger. Yeah, and you thought your thirty-minute window was busy. I want to hear someone at a world summit that I will never attend bring up disappointment for the fight against world hunger only because The Grinch could solve it in a half-hour. Come on, people, world hunger is just a logistical problem!
What started out as jokes became a discussion of a serious nature.
After more back and forth, we discovered a strange truth about the story we love. It is really about isolation. I couldn’t believe it. The most popular Christmas story is about a dude, or whatever the hell The Grinch is, finding happiness not in the Christmas spirit but in the comfort of others. He is suddenly filled with happiness, not from God or Jesus, but because he fits in and is welcomed in a world that rejected him. The acceptance of others led him to be accepted by himself.
That is only one movie, you say. That is merely a coincidence. Fair point. But there is another famous Christmas story that is arguably the first modern Christmas story, A Christmas Carol. I already wrote of how Scrooge got a bad deal, so I won’t go into that again, but I will say that story has a striking similarity to The Grinch.
They are both about older gentlemen who live alone and learn to deal with that isolation by relearning to live with others.
The two stories don’t have much to do with the Biblical story of Jesus; although the background of Christianity is important, neither character’s flaw is their lack of faith. Instead, these characters seem so depressed and isolated that the only thing that can help them is a miracle.
I think that the prominence of these stories certainly says something about who we are.
First off, these movies’ relevance shows that isolation or depression is still a very real problem that many of us face. The audience understands the two heroes and their problems, which appear to be internal as much as external. We were all them at one point in our life, depressed, mad at the world, and ready to blame everyone else for the problems we have. Now, not many of us stay there for years on end. Instead, we are sad for a weekend because of a breakup or a lost job, and then we get back into life.
Think back at a time when you were down because of life’s obstacles, and then think of what got you out of the funk. It was probably the company of others. You saw your family, and you exchanged old jokes that only you understood. You saw a friend and reminisced of a time you previously had forgotten. You saw a favorite co-worker and spoke of something other than work. You got cured of your mellow feeling because of the caring others gave you. Your heart was filled with joy because of the love that those around you who offered. Their company helped you as much as any medicine could. That is exactly what happens in the two Christmas stories.
These stories also show how we really don’t know how to handle the problem of isolation either. We stay an arm’s length away from a person who mirrors The Grinch or Scrooge. We know that they need help, but we aren’t really sure how to help them. Most strangers just assume the person has a friend or family that helps them with that sort of stuff. Sadly, many of the characters’ avoidance of the protagonists is the same as people have in the real world for those whose lives reflect the protagonists. Avoid their strangeness. Don’t go and talk to the Grinch. Don’t work for Scrooge. It is best, our society agrees, not to deal with someone that broken. Yes, they need help, but they are not worth helping because they won’t change. There is a true sadness to the two heroes that makes both stories timeless.
I am also interested in the basic character model of both heroes. Interestingly, two of the most popular Christmas stories feature men from the same demographic.
Same age group: Older men.
The Grinch is easily 40-50, and Scrooge is a senior.
Same relationship status: Single
The Grinch doesn’t have a wife, and Scrooge’s left his in his youth.
Same education: Both are, at the very least, educated.
In his own story, the Grinch is called slick and smart, and Scrooge is presented as good with money because of his intellect.
Same epiphany: They both learn their lesson very quickly.
Both only needed a night to change.
Same pity: Both characters create their own misery.
We meet The Grinch in his cave alone and Scrooge in his house alone.
I gotta ask, is there a problem that these types of individuals face in our society? Do older, single, educated men have sudden moments of clarity in their life that solved a problem by their own misery? I mean, that’s assuming that the men change. Are there many people in our world who mirror the attitude of Scrooge and The Grinch yet don’t change?
You can’t be that isolated for that long and then expect to be a normal functioning part of the world. The stories never go into much detail on why the two men became hermits. They say that Scrooge did so because of Marley’s death, and the Grinch’s reason for his isolationist approach is left vague.
It comes across to me that both of the characters are going through something that we as an audience are not presented in that way. I am talking about a mental or emotional issue that they can’t diagnose, so they attribute to their lack of Christmas spirit. Perhaps they are both going through a mid-life crisis. Maybe they are chronically depressed. Could they both have social anxiety, so they avoid others at all costs? Scrooge and The Grinch are not well, and not because they aren’t in the Christmas spirit.
When you are in need of help, which clearly Scrooge and The Grinch were in, you want a helping hand, and yet they both refuse. That’s not normal. Both are smart guys, so they must know that they are only hurting themselves with their lives, so why do they continue with it? The stories can be seen as men who can’t help themselves against whatever problem they have as much as stories about Christmas.
We are told that the problem of our heroes is they lack Christmas spirit, and they have a stubbornness towards the goodness that the holiday gives others, but I don’t think that is the whole story.
Merry Christmas everyone. We hope you enjoyed the holiday.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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