A few nights ago I was watching the greatest Christmas movie ever made, Die Hard, and flipping over to A Christmas Carol during the commercials. When I was a kid the Scrooge movie freaked me out just enough so I haven’t been able to watch it all the way through since – just to add to the freakiness, this time it was the colourized Ted Turner Edition, so everyone was wearing pastel coloured waistcoats, and 1850’s coal-oil soaked London looked like 1985 Miami.
But I must have caught it at just the right – or wrong – commercial breaks because I didn’t see the movie as a condemnation of Scrooge, or even his lifestyle. When the Ghosts started popping up, especially the Ghost of Christmas Past, the movie actually offered perfectly sound reasoning for Scrooge’s behaviour.
Scrooge’s mom died during childbirth, so his father resented him. When Scrooge was old enough – four or five – his father sent Scrooge away to school in an attempt to get rid of the kid. As a child the only friend Scrooge had was his sister, who died giving birth to a son, who Scrooge would hold responsible for his sister’s death. To add to the insult, Scrooge’s nephew comes back later in the story as a poor, but frustratingly happy young man.
Despite everything Scrooge remained a Christmas lover, and moved to the big city where he got a job as a clerk. At this point he met and gets engaged to Alice, a beautiful and deluded woman who believes it’s a virtue to be poor. She and Scrooge are very happy together for a few years. When Scrooge attains a certain level of success she breaks up with him – Scrooge says “I love you, I’ve struggled to be better than I was.” She says “fuck you, you’ve changed, here’s the ring, I’m outta here.”
At this point Scrooge rightfully swears off personal relationships, except the one with his business partner, Jacob Marley. Years later, after being told Marley is not long for this earth, Scrooge tells his clerk there’s no point rushing to Jacob’s bedside because “we’ve all got to die, Cratchit”.
It seems as though his entire early life was just one swift kick to the groin after another. In a purely historical context I understand how Scrooge must be seen as the ‘really bad dude’ — the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was not a kind time for the working man. But even in that context Scrooge remains a sympathetic character. I always thought, just from watching the Muppet version and reading some of the book, Scrooge was meant to be a character without a soul and the Ghosts were trying to give him one.
But Scrooge was just a decent dude who had everything taken from him, and the Three Ghosts were ultimately just showing him what he had left was worth living for. Even though they’re basically the same character, Scrooge is definitely not Henry “scurvy little spider” Potter from “A Wonderful Life”. That’s definitely a hateful bag of hate in dire need of a life enema.
In the end, however, by far the biggest Christmas movie miracle of them all has to be when LAPD Sgt. Al Powell puts five shots into the torso of the ‘previously presumed to be dead’ Euro-trash Terrorist, thus saving the lives of John and Holly McClane at the end of Die Hard.
God bless us, every one.
…I originally published this here in 2007. It was also picked up by a newspaper in 2011 — which still makes me feel all squishy inside.
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