My favorite Christmas movie, without question, is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The creative team, which included the likes of Chuck Jones, Boris Karloff, and Thurl Ravenscroft, put together an adventure with a gleefully evil villain but still managed to make it one of the most touching Christmas films ever conceived. So, naturally, I’m going to spend some time here picking it apart.
Where is Santa Claus?
So the Grinch’s master plan is to disguise himself as Santa Claus and steal everybody’s presents. Okay…but where is the real Santa? He never shows up to stop the Grinch or give presents to the Whos. Has he already hit Whoville and then moved on to the rest of the world? Possibly, but the Grinch gets going right as the Whos go to bed and continues his crime spree all night long. Santa would have had to time his trip to Whoville amazingly to never run into the Grinch.
Are the Whos not good enough for a visit from St. Nicholas? I find that really doubtful, since they show absolute saint-like resilience and love for one another. Is Santa some Machiavellian manipulator who is willing to let Whoville suffer so the Grinch can learn his lesson?
The best answer that I can come up with is that Santa Claus simply doesn’t exist and that the film acknowledges this without outright saying it. If that’s the case, then this is a groundbreaking children’s film that quietly acknowledges that Santa is a myth yet manages to be subtle enough about it that kids don’t walk away from the film with tears in their eyes.
Why is the Santa Outfit Necessary?
So if Santa doesn’t exist in this story, why does the Grinch feel a need to make himself a Santa Claus outfit before committing grand larceny? Maybe he believes in Santa after all, but the dialogue implies he’s at least 53 years old, so I find it hard to accept that a grumpy 53-year-old man still thinks there’s a guy riding around the world in a flying sleigh.
The Grinch spends a whole day making himself this costume, so it’s obviously an important part of his plan. And yes, it does come in handy when he’s caught red-handed by Cindy Lou Who, but he hasn’t planned for that, as evidenced by the fact that he has to think up a lie on the spot.
I think the answer lies in commitment. The Grinch obviously loves being an evil bastard. He could just steal stuff and run away, but he gives 110%. The dude sets up toy trains and runs them into his sack, picks petals off of flowers, and even removes light bulbs in his ransacking of the town. This is a miscreant who really enjoys his work, and I think he needs the Santa Claus suit to really commit to the role he’s chosen.
Do the Whos Have Surnames?
The only Who that gets a name throughout the film is little Cindy Lou Who, but her name raises an interesting question: do all the Whos have the last name of Who? I mean, the Whos are a species unto their own, as evidenced by the fact that they have antennae. Having a last name of Who is like having the last name of Human for us.
Alternately, what if Who is not the name of the species but rather a surname? That would mean that Whoville is pretty much dominated by one big family, as evidenced by the fact that both the Grinch and the narrator refer to the residents collectively as Whos. So then the question is: are they like the royal family of Jurai from Tenchi Universe, where there are many unrelated individuals with the same last name, or is Whoville home to a massive amount of incest? If it’s the latter, no wonder Santa doesn’t visit there.
What Would Happen if the Grinch Didn’t Have a Change of Heart?
The heart of the story is the fact that the Whos see past the ribbons and presents and know that Christmas is really a time to celebrate family, love, and joy. But what if their singing hadn’t changed the Grinch’s disposition? Yes, Christmas is still a time for joy, but winter is a battle of survival and the Whos are suddenly very poorly armed.
The Grinch didn’t just take their presents; he took everything. He left the Whos with no wood for their fireplaces, no food, and no lightbulbs in their lamps. The only edible thing left in any house was a crumb too small even for a mouse. Mind you, it’s December 25th, and the Whos are looking at a long winter with almost no supplies.
Oh, sure, maybe there’s grocery stores and other conveniences that we never see, but as established in Horton Hears a Who!, the entire Who population exists on a dust speck. There’s not a lot of area available for wild game. Furthermore, this world probably doesn’t have the same axis rotation as Earth, so it’s likely that it’s winter everywhere, not just in Whoville. That means no crops or growable food available for import.
Maybe that’s why the Whos sing so loudly – they’re looking at the certain starvation of the majority of their populace, so they might as well enjoy one last holiday together. By the New Year, they’re going to be drawing straws to determine who gets to cannibalize little Cindy Lou Who.
They’re Just Going to Let the Grinch Go?
The Grinch committed a crime spree that is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He stole every single thing in town except for some hooks and wires. Then he made his poor dog Max haul this ungodly load up a mountain. Are the Whos really going to let him off the hook for burglarizing every home in town and being stupendously cruel to a pet?
Sure, the Grinch learned his lesson, but is that really enough? I mean, the physical and emotional damage he caused must land in the range of millions of dollars. I hope the Grinch is lawyered up, because as soon as that Christmas feast is over, I think he’s going to have a trial and he’s going to wind up listening to the sound of jingtinglers from a jail cell.
The Worst Crime of Them All: False Advertising
This story is called How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, but spoiler alert: he doesn’t steal Christmas at all! Anybody who wanted to see an actual war on Christmas got robbed. On the bright side, at least people can’t use this work like The Anarchist Cookbook to commit real acts of terror on the holiday.
Images: MGM Television