The 1984 holiday horror-comedy Gremlins envisioned a wholesome, small-town America besieged by nefarious outside forces.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless you’re a loser. That’s right, the end of 2016 is upon us, and aside from remorselessly swiping David Bowie, Prince, and Natalie Cole from the world of the living, 2016 also installed a boorish orange Philistine into the highest office in the land. There have been numerous watershed elections in U.S. history, but the race that hacked the astringent Trump loogie out of the dankest corner of America’s collective nasal passage and spat him into the Oval Office will surely rank as one of the rankest examples of American democratic excess.
Donald J. Trump — he of the speed-bumped squirrel bouffant and Tang-tinged rice-paper skin — rode a tidal wave of white resentment that allowed him to give high-school swirlys to the aloof establishment nabobs in both political parties. But anyone who cared to pay attention to the festering cloud of amorphous fear mixed with shoulder-chipped resentment that has floated across the Heartland for decades should have noticed that Trump wasn’t some new development in American politics; rather, he’s the culmination of a long-building new American identity: that of the hopelessly besieged.
One seemingly silly movie from the 1980s perfectly envisioned the idea of a besieged America that would push voters into Trump’s charlatan claws some three decades later. I’m talking about the 1984 Steven Spielberg-produced, Joe Dante-directed holiday horror/comedy Gremlins.
Rankin/Bass studios created a curiously materialistic, yet relentlessly classic take on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Not long after the television established itself as a common sight in American homes in the 1960s, the annual Christmas special became a seasonal staple of manufactured yule-tide cheer. Faced with the prospect of spending unwanted time with unwanted relatives, Americans found that they could bear the unbearable December reunions by gathering around the glowing cube of faux-escapism and enduring the company of kith and kin while drowning in the cheerful seasonal bliss embodied in what we now consider cherished holiday tv classics. Classics such as the beloved stop-motion chestnut, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Produced by Rankin/Bass productions, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired on December 6, 1964, and in the 51 years since this original airing, it’s become a well-established part of many viewers’ Christmas traditions. The special eventually became a cultural icon, but there’s equal parts darkness and light in this seemingly charming holiday tale. While Rudolph is undoubtedly an enduring tv classic, it’s also a disturbing showcase of isolationism, unrestricted capitalism, patriarchy, sexism, and stifling conformity overcome not by the gifts of uncompromised individuality, but by the cajoled assimilation of thoughtless materialism. Continue Reading
Christmas has always been excessively commercial. Sorry, Charlie Brown.
The middle class is a big deal in American society. Last year, America’s ever-observant punditocracy, including southern-fried campaign guru and Gollum look-alike James Carville, harped endlessly about how corporate Democrat Barack Obama and Montgomery Burns stand-in Mitt Romney waged their electoral battle royal in the name of the American middle class. President Obama dived head-first into this quadrennial tradition of bourgeois boot-licking, blowing past Romney in terms of the number of times he mentioned the phrase “middle class” in campaign speeches.
American politicians universally exist as servants/toadies for the country’s oligarchs, but they nonetheless pepper their campaign rhetoric with appeals to the middle class because bourgeois identity may as well be considered “American identity.” Want proof of this? Look no further than Christmas.
Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt witness the commercialization of Christmas in the form of aluminum, mass-produced Christmas trees. In an attempt to push back against the sanctification of mass consumption, Charlie Brown opts for a small wooden tree, and gets called a “blockhead” for his troubles.
If you think that the idea of Christmas commercialism is something new, then you haven’t checked out the 19th century recently. Follow this link to Salon where I discuss why the “War on Christmas” is utterly bogus.