In the run-up to the big tinselly bang, our writers check out some celluloid classics. Rowan Whiteside would like you to stick most of your Christmas faff, but she’ll keep the heartwarming humanity of The Grinch.
It might be the 10 years I spent working in retail, or it might be the fact that for my family the season is something to suffer through, but I’ve never been keen on Christmas. Especially an English Christmas, with the chill and the shopping frenzy and the insistence on buying more and more stuff.
I can’t be faffed with trees or decorations; Christmas lights are a waste of electricity; cards are terrible for the environment; presents involve shopping and my fake grimace of gratitude on their reception (or, worse, someone else’s). I hate the way every year someone tries to make me watch Elf, the endless fucking trite songs (I’m looking at you, Band Aid), and the way that before the day is even over people are buying yet more stuff because of the sales.*
So yeah, I’m a Grinch. And you know something? I’m not ashamed of it.
And lo, the angels sang, the point of the article has arrived: Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, aka The Grinch, aka the only film starring Jim Carrey that doesn’t make me want to rip my own face off (as in The Mask). Another adaptation of the marvellous Dr Seuss.
“The point of the story is to be kind and be generous with spirit not things, to invite those who are lonely to share in the joy, and to forgive and forget. And aren’t those things better than presents you’ll shove in the back of a cupboard?”
It’s a ridiculous film, of course. It’s a riot of colour and contraptions and absurd prosthetics. It features a few puke-inducing songs, and some frankly too-adult jokes for a PG movie. It’s pretty funny: the Grinch gets the best lines, obviously, but there are some decent hidden smirks too.
But the real reason I love the film is the way it shows something true about humanity, and the way we behave. (This might be because I have a terribly cynical view of humanity…)
Let’s recap: The Grinch is rejected from his peers, and consequently lashes out. The townsfolk Whos are small-minded, and they make him into the bogeyman. There’s one small voice, Cindy Lou Who, who argues for forgiveness and kindness, but the group only sways into compassion when they’re shamed into it. (It’s too easy to draw a parable about global affairs from the movie, so I’ll strive to resist.)
The Grinch is the most human of all. Insecure, hurt, vindictive by consequence. He just has no filter: he shows the worst of us all. He’s seduced by the I-don’t-care-anyway *stomps off* reaction. And who hasn’t been tempted to do that?
He’s all of us looking at Facebook when we’re halfway down a bottle of wine:
Don’t pretend like you haven’t done exactly this when faced with a party and nothing to wear:
If you’ve never had a conversation with yourself that ends with you accusing yourself of being an idiot, then you’re a better person than me:
See? Totally human. He’s even desperate to please. (Ahem. We’ve all sucked up to someone we despise, haven’t we?) He makes a present for Martha May Whovier as a wee little Grinch. He goes along to the Whobilation, and is stuffed full of food. He only flips his lid when poked by the Mayor, the true villain of the piece.
And sure, the rhyming is forced, and the film is a tad overlong, but the point of the story is to be kind and be generous with spirit not things, to invite those who are lonely to share in the joy, and to forgive and forget. And aren’t those things better than presents you’ll shove in the back of a cupboard?
I’ll finish with the closing lines (spoilers ahead), which make my Grinch-like heart swell two sizes at least.
I love The Grinch because it makes me hope that we can be better, and acts as a reminder that stuff is just stuff, and not actually important to our happiness.
I’ll add in a plea, but I’ll make it quick: this Christmas you, who might have a lot, could help others have a little more. It’s the season of giving, like the Grinch discovered, so perhaps consider digging into your pocket and donating to a worthy cause: Shelter, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, Refuge or the White Helmets.
And look, there, right at the end,
I’ve snuck in a moral, heaven forfend.
*I do enjoy the food though. (She says, spraying mince pie over her already generously encrusted keyboard.)
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Rowan Whiteside is a writer, reader, and consummate gin-drinker. She is never without a book and sheds to-do-lists wherever she goes. Like everyone else, she is currently working on her first novel.