Queue up your music...
Boy there's a lot of Christmas movies. Probably more than there are remakes of movies. There's some of my favorites, like: A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Gremlins, Muppet and non-Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone, and my personal favorite, Tokyo Godfathers. Then there's also a fair number of stinkburgers, far too many to mention, though Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is pretty high on the list.
Not surprisingly, few of these movies have anything to do with the birth of Jesus, but "saving Christmas" is not the point of this blog though, because quite frankly, God doesn't need me to save Christ's birth. It happened already. And the holiday known as Christmas that's celebrated with gift exchanges is fine for kids, but at 35, I'm really over the getting presents thing and quite frankly I could be rid of the holiday as it's celebrated. If you want it, go ahead. Me, I'm just not that into it anymore.
While I largely ignore Christmas movies when they're being promoted or being played on tv, today I caught one at a friend's house. I believe it was 2014's "Get Santa". In this movie, Santa found himself in jail, and other stuff like kids waking up to empty stockings being a national news story. Standard kids' fair.
After this first movie finished, "Ernest Saves Christmas" came on. This was one of the first Christmas movies I'd ever seen, and my parents even took me to the theater to see it. I honestly don't remember much, though I loved it. But today I happened to look at the moment where Santa Claus was...you guessed it, in jail, and Ernest was planning a jailbreak. Ironically, Ernest would also end up in jail one day. As a result of Santa's incarceration, Christmas needed to be saved, because according to Hollywood, Christmas isn't a thing without Santa.
Where did this come from?
After some quick Google Fu it seems this trend started with "Miracle on 34th St" where Santa is institutionalized briefly and put on trial. Or something like that. I've never seen it. But, the threat of Santa's absence puts Christmas in peril. It's a cheap and manipulative way to tug at the emotions, and it keeps being reused because it apparently works. But, here is probably the most original and probably heartfelt use of the trope.
One of the other instances I've seen this was in The Santa Clause. At some point in this movie Santa goes to jail, and gets busted out by elves. Kind of odd when you consider that the man can squeeze down chimneys. Why couldn't he just use the same trick to escape? Not in the script, right? While I do recall there was an element of Christmas in danger, I believe this was played more for laughs, especially with the commando elves. It's been a while since I've seen it though.
That's the movies I know about, if you can think of some where Santa gets jailed, please share in the comments.
In thinking this through a little, I think it's not so much that there is some sort of symbolism at work, but rather just lazy story telling. Christmas movies involving Santa are generally aimed at kids, and really, how is any story involving Santa going to have any meaningful conflict? So any conflict that arises has to be nonviolent, and it has to be something high stakes for the kids. No Santa = no toys = no Christmas in the eyes of kids, or ar least that's what Hollywood types think or want us to think. I may be wrong on this one, but I think kids probably love toys.
It's interesting to note too that at the center of the threat to Christmas and Santa is an adult, probably one alot like me, who no longer sees Christmas through the eyes of a young child. The responsibilities of growing up have caused us to lose that child-like wonder of Christmas. The adult at the center of whatever anti-santa conspiracy is usually a parent of the protagonist. Probably because a parent has the power to fulfill or destroy a child's Christmas.
So I guess, while it is lazy storytelling, it is also capitalizing on a real fear that children have, that their parents will not get Christmas right. So Santa movies occasionally throw Santa in jail to create some easy tension.
Well, merry Christmas, and if you don't like Christmas, then bah, humbug.