With the festive season fast approaching, I thought I’d get into the spirit of things and write a post about Christmas.
And in the spirit of that classic Yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol, I’m going to get a little Scroogey and have a bit of a moan.
As a father of two young daughters, it’s always lovely to watch a festive film that finishes with a true and deliberate affirmation in the reality of Father Christmas. Some family favourites I can think of that do this very well are Santa Claus the Movie and The Snowman. Hell, even the Nightmare Before Christmas promotes an active and believable ‘Sandy Claws’.
My particular problem is with the films that, while believing they’re strengthening a child’s belief in the the Big Man and concluding with the idea that he is in fact real, are actually sowing and watering the seed of non-belief. As I watch these type of movies with my kids, I wince ever time a character questions his or her belief in Santa. Three such films that spring immediately to mind are: The Polar Express, The Santa Clause and Arthur Christmas.
The Polar Express – whist being one of my absolute favourites – constantly calls into question his existence, figuring that by the time the film wraps up, we are all convinced that he’s real. However, throughout the movie the protagonist is earnestly questioning the reality of Santa. And so too, I guess, are my kids.
Next comes The Santa Clause. This a movie where the hero himself becomes Santa (and therefore supports his existence), but all the while the young child in the story is told by his stepfather that Santa is a fake and a phoney and cannot ever be real – to which I scream at the TV (in my mind), “shut up you idiot! My children are watching this and you’re convincing them he’s a fake too!”
Finally comes Arthur Christmas, a wonderful film and a great play on the idea of the modern Father Christmas. Nevertheless, there’s a scene at the beginning where a little girl writes a compelling letter to the North Pole outlining a number of fundamental flaws with the concept of FC. Again: shut up!
As writer I completely get the idea that a child not believing in Father Christmas is a great hook and a wonderful source of personal conflict. I also get that the concept of non-belief in Father Christmas, to then be convinced of the opposite makes for a great film. However, I just feel that whilst watching these films my kids are more convinced of the lie than they are of the magic, which, let’s face it, is already a hard one to sell in these days of science and digitalisation.
Now I’m not so naive to think that my kids will believe forever. But as many other parents will agree, every year the ‘magic’ pervades a house is a year that Christmas remains, well…magical. I hate watching Christmas films and feeling uncomfortable when the seed that Father Christmas isn’t real is once again put into my children’s heads.
I know it’s getting a little late in the season for my girls to remain firm believers, but let’s see some films of the quality of those mentioned above without relying on the main character’s non-belief in Father Christmas as a plot driver, eh? Please?
Thanks for reading.