I’ll admit to some ulterior motive it doing blogs about Christmas Movies. There is a lot out there about what is the true meaning of Christmas — whether it is a religious observance or a secular mercantile festival. The dichotomy, I think, misses the point. You can’t really separate the one from the other. But that still allows for us to study the movies, and see how well the get the true meaning of this duality that is Christmas.
And so I begin my musings with the Muppet Christmas Carol. Surprising, actually, of the many attempts to dramatize this classic piece of literature by Charles Dickens, it is my opinion that this one done by the Muppets actually holds most true to the essence of the story.
A Christmas Carol is not overtly Christian; though it talks about the season of Christmas, it barely mentions Christ at all. And yet the story would be impossible without the underlay of Jesus and the Christmas story, and everything that comes from that event. I read once that Dickens’ A Christmas Carol did more to bring the sentimentality, the idea of the family celebration, into Christmas, than anything else. That really is the core of the story — the core of Christian Charity — with a capital C.
Most of the people attempting to dramatize the story miss and hit on many other points, but they somehow miss out on the magic of the story. And magic is what the muppets do best.
The muppets use Gonzo as the narrator/author portraying Charles Dickens. The interplay between him and Rizzo the Rat form the backbone of the storytelling mode. See this quote from the beginning:
Gonzo: My name is Charles Dickens.
Rizzo the Rat: And my name is Rizzo the Rat… wait a second! You’re not Charles Dickens!
Gonzo: I am too!
Rizzo the Rat: No! A blue furry Charles Dickens who hangs out with a rat?
Rizzo the Rat: Charles Dickens was a 19th Century novelist! A genius!
Gonzo: Oh, you are too kind!
Rizzo the Rat: Why should I believe you?
Gonzo: Well, because I know the story of A Christmas Carol like the back of my hand!
Rizzo the Rat: Prove it!
Gonzo: All right! Um, there’s a little mole on my thumb, and um, a scar on my wrist from when I fell off my bike…
Rizzo the Rat: No, no, no, don’t tell us your *hand*, tell us the *story*!
And then Gonzo (I mean Charles Dickens), tells the beginning of the story. Which sounds more like a horror story than a Christmas story. Which leads to:
Rizzo the Rat: Boy, that’s scary stuff! Should we be worried about the kids in the audience?
Gonzo: Nah, it’s all right. This is culture!
And off they go telling the story.
There is music to sing and take away with you, excellent muppet asides, but a core of the heart of family and hearth and human dignity — all based upon the concept of love and Christian Charity.
And humor. The best way to be serious about something is to laugh about it — and the muppets do that best, not mocking but encouraging the truth of their story.
I usually dislike and distrust the retelling of stories — but in the case of the Muppet Christmas Carol, I am glad they did.