In a few weeks, it’ll be summer. Temperatures in my neck of the woods are around 80 degrees. People are out washing their cars and mowing their lawns and planning vacations. So naturally, what am I thinking about? Christmas!
More specifically, I’m thinking of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. You remember those, right? The short films animated using the strangest-looking puppets you’ve ever seen? My family and I watch those every year. We love the cute stories, the colorful characters, and the sentimentality these shows embody. Last Christmas, however, I started to notice some of the underlying messages that Rankin and Bass may not have been aware of. Messages that undercut the holiday themes of peace, goodwill towards men, and kindness to others. Messages that corrupt our children and teach them to overthrow the government!
Okay, it’s not quite that bad. But the short film Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town does have the potential to lead children into juvenile delinquency if we’re not careful.
Think about it…
The mayor of Sombertown (a town which somehow still has a population despite the name) is set up as a real evil dude. Why? Because he outlaws toys! Clearly no one who does that could ever be a good guy! Santa, or Kris Kringle, as he’s known at the time, thinks this law is pretty silly, and therefore he can break it. Some might say, “That’s right! He can’t take away our toys! Kris and the kids have every right to smuggle toys into town. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud!” Yes, King said it was our duty to disobey unjust laws. But he defined an unjust law as any law that opposed the moral law of God. Whether or not you believe in King’s God, there is no moral law that says children must be allowed to play with toys. There is nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical about the mayor’s decree. At worst, you could say he’s overregulating his subject’s personal lives.
“But what about the kids?” you ask. Well, they’ll be more focused on schoolwork and chores. Maybe teachers and parents could find creative ways to make these things fun for their kids. After they’ve finished both, parents can find ways to entertain them that don’t involve toys. Give them books. Take them on picnics. Teach them a musical instrument. Let them use household items as toys; those can’t be banned. There are a lot of ways around this law. No one has to break it.
But Kris still brings in his toys time after time, leaving them in the hands of the children. According to the law, anyone with a toy should be thrown in the dungeon, but because it’s Kris giving them the toys, the mayor goes after him and completely ignores the children. They’re the ones breaking the law, and yet they face no punishment for their crime. It’s a double foul; Kris enables the little “delinquents,” and the mayor fails to follow through on his law. All he does is destroy the toys, which Kris quickly replaces.
And that’s just the overt themes subverting our youth. There are even more problems if you look at the subtext. A man brings children illegal items on a regular basis. These items are enjoyed briefly, but then go away and must be replenished. Drug culture, anyone? And the authority figures are only trying to arrest the dealer, not the users. Kids, if you’re addicted to drugs, don’t worry about the consequences; it’s the dealer’s fault, and we’re only concerned about arresting him. Did I mention this film came out in the seventies?
Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but what about the subconscious message about violence? It’s so brief you probably missed it. At the end of the song about trading a kiss for a toy (which is not as wrong as it sounds today), you can clearly see one boy holding a machine gun. I’m not even kidding; it’s not a pop gun or a BB gun, it’s definitely a machine gun. As the mayor asks, “What kind of criminal is this Kringle?” Giving machine guns, even toy replicas, to little children is probably the worst idea of all time, and even more so in today’s world.
So am I saying Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is a horrible movie and you should never let your children see it? Of course not. It’s still got themes of giving to others, seeing the good in even the worst people, and loving unconditionally. There are a lot worse things on TV these days. I’m saying you should talk to your kids about these themes and make sure they understand they can’t break just any law they think is silly.
But if your kid winds up in jail, you can always use the “Santa made me do it” defense at the trial.