By James Keller
"That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." More profound words were never spoken–especially in the realm of Christmas TV specials.
This, the culmination of Linus Van Pelt’s meaning-of-Christmas speech in the much-loved A Charlie Brown Christmas, is a defining moment in Christmas TV history. The answer to Charlie Brown’s confusion over the commercialization of the holiday, along with Linus’ own thoughts on religion and the once cherished definition of Christmas spirit that the holiday was beginning to lack, is what sets apart productions from when our parents were children to the overproduced, ever-commercialized efforts we’ve come to expect today.
The quality of programming hitting television and movie screens is lower each year–we’re bombarded with the newest fads or teen-idol stars. Just remember last year’s The Grinch, directed by Ron Howard, and compare it to the Dr. Seuss original to experience the decline in thought and innovation going into yuletide entertainment.
Howard’s bastardization of what was once a holiday classic–the original featured Boris Karlof’s heart-stopping narration and cleverly penned singing–was completely devoid of what we should expect of Christmas movies. How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a clever, entertaining look at the true purpose of the holidays and delivered strong messages combating both materialism and commercialism. Unfortunately, the over-the-top, music-video-on-speed filmmaking style of the Howard version relied on these exact principles to attract viewers.
While this year there seems to be an absence of poorly crafted holiday films in theatres–or any holiday films for that matter–they’ll still deluge us with videos and made-for-TV movies that don’t fare much better.
Already, one month before Christmas, it’s difficult to go shopping and not see Jim Carrey’s green mug in your face, and I’ve already been subjected to The Santa Claus. I fear that more movies and specials are on their way that have nothing to say except that they need your money and advertising market. Regardless, we’ve moved into a world where the best efforts at Christmas programming include the Olsen twins or J.T.T.
Although there is a silver lining to this cloud of holiday despair.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is going to be on yet again this month. Do yourself a favour. Watch it. Think about Charlie Brown’s modest Christmas tree. Think about Snoopy’s materialistic quest for decoration. And listen to Linus tell you why Christmas is no longer what it once was.
Then, promptly, bury your TV in the snow.