Mainstream Monday: Santa Flaws

By Greg Foster


Santa Flaws – Santa’s Got Issues

If you think Passion of the Christ is a foreign language film…If you have no idea what an Uncle Boonmee is…If you think a Carey Mulligan is something you mark on a golf scorecard…If Domino is your favorite Quentin Tarantino movie, Mainstream Monday is the place for you! In Mainstream Monday we leave the “art” to the critics and discuss what the “other” 90% of movie fans are watching. It’s everything you love to hate about the movies. This week we’re discussing…Santa Flaws

We’re living in what I like to call the “post-hero” era. In times long past, Superman and other assorted heroes fought tirelessly for accepted virtues like truth, justice (and if you call it home) the American way. Heroes were all about goodness; they were about setting good examples like charity, selflessness and conviction. Those days seem all but forgotten now. Our modern “heroes” are more likely to be of the “anti” variety; certainly still fighting for good, but not doing so without also displaying the grim consequences of their responsibilities. In other words, we no longer buy the idea of a hero without flaws. Everyone, no matter how high their moral standards, has their issues, their personal collection of “demons” if you will.

Though he is one of the most universally recognizable good guys of all time, our modern versions of ol’ Saint Nick are in no way immune to this modern trend. Though he always manages to come through in the end, in our favorite holiday films it’s not uncommon to see Santa Claus do or say something that reveals he’s human, just like you and I. It’s yet another reminder that no one, not even our most beloved fictional characters, are above reproach. Let’s dive into a list of a few film Santas and see how their humanity is revealed.


Paul Giamatti – “Fred Claus”
Issue: Stress; Over-Competitive

In the mostly-ignored Vince Vaughn vehicle Fred Claus, Giamatti plays Fred’s brother Santa Claus. (Or is it the other way around?) The Santa we see here puts on a show of being the “bowl full of jelly” style of happy, but that dissolves over time as Fred becomes aware of what’s really eating his brother. He’s being audited by an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey), with the threat of his entire Christmas operation being shut down if he receives three strikes. As if this weren’t stressful enough on top of his normal duties as Santa Claus, compounding the problem is the presence of his loser brother Fred, with whom he has endured ages upon ages of spirited competition. Despite his best efforts to combat it, the stress finally gets to Santa, culminating in a drawn-out snowball fight between he and Fred that serves as one of the film’s few hilarious sequences.


Tim Allen – “The Santa Clause”
Issue: Disinterest; Manslaughter

In The Santa Clause Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a divorced Ad Executive who is woefully unprepared to host his young son Charlie for Christmas. After ruining dinner (both at home and by springing for a meal at Denny’s), Charlie and Scott return home and head to bed. They’re awakened, however, by noises on the roof, which Charlie assumes is Santa Claus. Sure enough, when Scott runs to check it’s the big guy himself. Only problem is Scott startles him and he falls to his death on Scott’s front lawn. When Charlie convinces him to put the suit on and finish Santa’s delivery route, Scott unknowingly enters into contract under the “Santa Clause” and becomes the new Santa. It’s not a role he seems to particularly want (just like fatherhood, apparently), but over time he grows into. Literally. Scott Calvin’s appearance and life are completely altered forever, against his wishes, with no possibility of returning to normalcy. The added weight of his guilt over the death of the previous Santa surely won’t make things any easier as time goes on. Merry Christmas, everyone!


Santa Claus (Voice of Stan Francis) – “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Issue: Bigotry

For the most part, the classic stop-motion TV special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is a heartwarming tale of a young reindeer who is born a little different than everyone else. His nose glows bright red, instead of being simply black like the others’. The underlying theme of this TV special seems to be believing in yourself in spite of your differences, even though no one else will believe in you. We see this both in Rudolph’s relationship with his father Donner (who attempts to hide Rudolph’s nose to avoid embarrassment), and Rudolph’s Elfin friend Hermey (who would rather be a dentist than spend his life making toys). It may seem reasonable that Rudolph’s Father may have to work through some issues before accepting that his son was different from himself. But what you wouldn’t expect is for Santa Claus to have the exact same reaction. When Rudolph’s makeshift nose-covering falls off and his nose burns bright red, Santa recoils in horror and agrees with Rudolph’s father that the ‘shiny nose’ needs to be remedied if Rudolph wants to make the sleigh team one day. But it’s totally okay because he launches into a happy song, right? Sadly it’s only when Rudolph’s nose becomes the only option for traversing a blizzard that Santa and Rudolph’s Father finally realize the value in the young deer with the shiny nose. That’s far too late in my book.


Billy Bob Thornton – “Bad Santa”
Issue: Alcoholism; General Un-Santa-likeness

Okay, so Thornton’s Willie Stokes may not be the real Santa, but he definitely qualifies in the “issues” department. If ever a man tarnished the suit and reputation of that famous native of the North Pole, it’s this one. Stokes and his little person partner Marcus (the head elf to Stokes’ Santa) are con men who hold down day jobs in shopping malls posing as Santa and his helper, just so they can come back and rob the joint at night. When he’s not ripping someone off he’s normally stationed at the bar, slowly drinking himself halfway to death and starting fights he probably hopes will finish the job. It would take more time than I have here to list all the ways Billy Bob sullies Santa’s good name. Suffice it to say, this Santa had some serious issues.

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Host of Next Projection's ongoing Mainstream Monday series. I enjoy the occasional film, but most of the time I just watch movies. I'm no film student; just an old-fashioned homemade addict of cinema.