- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dark Christmas I

“Although sentimental, [Frank Capra’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’] is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day, he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

“He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends and community - and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

“This theme makes ‘Wonderful Life’ one of the most countercultural films in the history of cinema. Almost every movie about the individual in society - from ‘Easy Rider’ to ‘Happy Feet’ - is based on the premise that self-actualization is the primary purpose of existence. To a society that accepts radical individualism as the norm, a film about the individual subordinating his desires for the good of others sounds anti-American, if not downright communistic. Surely, the only reason the film has become a Christmas classic is because so few people grasp this core message.”

- Joe Carter, writing on “The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls,” on Dec. 1 at the First Things blog On the Square

Dark Christmas II

“Since ‘South Park’ began with a clumsy animation of a knock-down brawl between Santa and Jesus, it’s not surprising that it would have memorable Christmas episodes. In South Park’s ‘Red Sleigh Down,’ Santa’s sleigh is shot down over Iraq, he’s brutally tortured and he’s only rescued by a gun-toting Jesus. South Park’s ‘Woodland Critter Christmas’ episode is perhaps even darker: adorable singing woodland critters turn out to be preparing for a blood orgy to summon the Antichrist.

“Funny when it first aired. But by now, the dark, twisted, cynical episode is as cliched as the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘Christmas Carol’ parody episode. There’s ‘Futurama,’ which imagines Santa as a killer robot singing Christmas songs about death. Or this year’s ‘American Dad’ episode, in which Steve Smith accidentally kills Santa Claus, who comes back to life and vows to slaughter the entire Smith family with his army of murderous elves. …

“But here’s the problem: Dark, twisted Christmas is one joke. And by now, it’s a creaky one.”

- Daniel Walters, writing on “The case against cynical Christmas episodes,” on Dec. 22 at the Inlander

Ironies of youth

“Here’s another recurring theme: Why does everyone hate on hipsters? … hipsters are a living, breathing reminder that they are not totally hip (anymore). And that can be hard to take … So those people lash out at hipsters, just as the hippies lashed out at the punks and, before that, the beatniks lashed out at the hippies. In those cases, the older group insisted their bohemia was better. …

“The thing is, to be in touch with the zygote of the zeitgeist (and I truly apologize for that turn of phrase), you need a lot of what hipsters have: free time and few obligations. Hence the rationale - ‘I could still be hip if I didn’t have a 9-5 job, kids and a mortgage.’ … The class component - ‘[expletive] trust fund hipster!’ - stems from the fact that affluence is one sure way to have enough free time and mental space to remain alert and receptive to the slightest cultural vibrations, rather than being distracted by the hurly-burly of, you know, making a living.

- Michael Azerrad, writing on “Ecce Hipster: A Few Thoughts About Today’s Youth,” on Dec. 11 at his blog You and What Army



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