Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Best Character Who Is Somehow Associated With Christmas But Who Ultimately Has Nothing To Do With Christmas At All.

I think it works this way: If you mention two things in connection with each other enough, then the two things ultimately will be linked in people's minds.

Like baseball and hot dogs. Or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who, as I understand it, had merely a healthy professional admiration for each other until so many people had suggested they must have made out that they decided to just go ahead and do it.

Or Frosty The Snowman and Christmas.

Frosty is not the nominee in this category; Frosty's not The Best Character Who Is Somehow Associated With Christmas But Who Ultimately Has Nothing To Do With Christmas At All. But he's what got me thinking about this topic, because I was (as I usually am these days) listening to Christmas music yesterday, and among the usual avalance of Run Run Rudolphs came a couple of versions of "Frosty The Snowman," versions which made me stop and think this:

What does Frosty have to do with Christmas?

Look at the lyrics, which I'll put into happy Christmas Red for you:

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose,
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head,
He began to dance around.

O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
And play just the same as you and me.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty the snowman knew
The sun was hot that day,
So he said, "Let's run and
we'll have some fun
now before I melt away."
Down to the village,
With a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
Around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler "Stop!"

For Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way,
But he waved goodbye saying,
"Don't you cry,
I'll be back again some day."
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Frosty doesn't have anything to do with Christmas. And yet, the song became a "Christmas hit" for Gene Autry, who is best known as the person who invented Rudolph, or something like that, making Gene Autry responsible for 1/3 of our Christmas. We get most of our Christmas ideas from Clement Moore (who might have stolen them from someone else.) We get some of the ideas about Christmas from Dickens. And we get the rest of them from Gene Autry, who somehow shoehorned a magical-melted snowman parade into our Christmas memories and traditions.

It seems as though the song was released around Christmas time, and sold as a "Christmas song," and accordingly became a Christmas song despite not mentioning, ever, a single thing that has anything to do with Christmas at all.

That was made worse, then, by the animated special from 1969 in which Frosty demonstrated how Christmas should be celebrated by trying to defend his magic hat from a magician who wanted to steal it, and also by going to the North Pole, which he has to do because it is, inexplicably, getting warmer in Frosty's hometown in December.

Ah ha! you say now -- at last, a Christmas connection -- and sure enough, Frosty does get [SPOILER ALERT! IN WHICH SANTA FOR SOME REASON REWARDS CHILDREN FOR, TECHNICALLY, STEALING SOMEONE ELSE'S HAT] rescued by Santa, who leaves the magic hat with Frosty, after which Frosty and Santa ride off in the sleigh with Frosty promising to come back on Christmas Day, when it seems that the town will have hammered out the weird weather it is having.

While 100% of Frosty's song has nothing to do with Christmas, only about 95% of Frosty's animated special has nothing to do with Christmas. Still, the song begat the special, and the special only belatedly remembered that at some point, Frosty ought to do something kind of Christmas-y, and that all leaves me at the original starting point, which is that Frosty had no more connection to Christmas than, say, black licorice, which it seems could also just as easily end up being a beloved Christmas treat if only it were to be said, often enough, that it was, in fact, a beloved Christmas treat.

In fact, it seems like Christmas is not just expanding exponentially and swallowing up other holidays, but now Christmas is also just absorbing pop culture -- that anything and everything can be "Christmas-y" if it is mentioned in the same breath as Christmas, or happens in proximity to Christmas, or is by the same guy who did something about Christmas.

Take the "ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas." I set the DVR to tape as many of these as possible, in order that I might never be without holiday cheer this season, even if I can't get to the computer to play my Pandora Christmas radio station. The "ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas" promises at least one Christmas-related movie or TV show per night for, you guessed it, 25 days. It began December 1 with a schedule that featured, in prime time, "Dr. Seuss on the Loose" and "Dr. Seuss' Hoober-Bloob Highway." Neither of those is particularly Christmas-y, but the night at least did feature "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas."

Before I go on, I will confess: For my entire life, I have thought the story was called "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." It's not. It's not called that at all.

Anyway, the "25 Days of Christmas" also includes, for some reason, "Cars," various "Harry Potter" movies (I hope I can print that name without getting sued), and "Mary Poppins," and, for some reason, The Lorax.

All of which, like Frosty, have nothing to do with Christmas. Fine family movies? Probably. Worth watching? In some cases. Christmas-y? Does red licorice taste as good as black?

No. The answer to both the question of whether red licorice tastes as good as black licorice and whether "The Lorax" is Christmas-y is no.

But I have no doubt that these movies will slowly become more and more Christmas-y by virtue of being part of the "25 Days of Christmas" this year, the way that "The Wizard of Oz" and "The 10 Commandments" are associated with Easter, because they're always televised at that time. They'll work their way into the Christmas repertoire the way "It's A Wonderful Life" has -- a movie I've never seen, even though it's on TV at least once a year and even though I have the It's A Wonderful Life cookbook, a cookbook I once used to make popovers.

They were delicious.

Another part of that 25 days of Christmas includes The Year Without A Santa Claus, one of the great Claymation specials that people my age are constantly nostalgic about; we loved Claymation so much that we even watched "Davey & Goliath" on Sunday mornings, and we resurrect it now whenever possible, even in stupid cell phone commercials. You kids today can keep your creepy-looking "Motion Capture" technology that results in a Tom Hanks' zombie taking all the kids to see a Santa Claus zombie; Christmas will forever in my mind be celebrated in beautiful Claymation fashion -- that is, moving haltingly and having snowmen glide somehow.

The Year Without A Santa Claus is perhaps the best Christmas special about a mean mayor, a hot town, a sick reindeer, and Santa engaging in a prison break, and the general plot line added a great deal to America's Christmas traditions; before 1974, I doubt that many households celebrated Christmas by praying to Mother Nature, but since that year, I'm sure they all do.

Not many people, I suppose, remember that The Year Without A Santa Claus took Christmas back from the Christians and gave it to the pagans by having Mother Nature save the day, a plot line which suspiciously seems to be saying that Christmas would not exist without the help of the pagan gods that it replaced, and a plot which appears to be overlooked by the kinds of jerks who are always complaining about a "War on Christmas." They should be protesting ABC Family's decision to air this movie, it seems, because if there was ever proof of a "War On Christmas," that proof exists in Mrs. Claus having to beg demigods to help her.

But nobody remembers that part of the plot because everyone focuses on how Santa tattooed a floor plan of the jail where Vixen was being held and got himself put into that jail to bust her out, right? That was the plot, I think.

Or maybe I'm distracted, too, and can't remember what the plot of The Year Without A Santa Claus was because I, too, can only remember the two characters in that show that everyone remembers, two characters who collectively are The Best Character Who Is Somehow Associated With Christmas But Who Ultimately Has Nothing To Do With Christmas At All.

Those two are Heat Miser:

And Snow Miser.

These two guys, Heat Miser and Snow Miser are stepbrothers. Which raises two questions:

1. Why isn't Snow Miser simply Cold Miser? Isn't Cold the opposite of Heat? Shouldn't it be Flame Miser and Snow Miser, or Heat Miser and Cold Miser?

2. Why are they misers? A miser is "a person who lives in wretched circumstances in order to save and hoard money." So a Heat Miser or Snow Miser would live in wretched circumstances to save and hoard, respectively, Heat and Snow. But in the show, the Misers were profligate with their Heat and Snow -- the Snow Miser kept the North Pole cold year round. If he was miserly with his snow, the North Pole would be warm. Or at least snow-free.

(I looked up "miser" on, by the way, and down the side, it noted that a related search was "miser zombie." I could not resist clicking on that, but the link was disappointing -- it led to some routine-sounding heavy metal. I was hoping for an all-zombie version of A Christmas Carol. )

And another question, which makes three -- is this:

3. Mother Nature remarried? If they're stepbrothers, then Mother Nature is only biologically related to one of the kids, so Mother Nature and her first husband had one Miser, while somewhere else, Mother Nature's second husband had a different Miser, and then Mother Nature and her new husband met somehow (probably not eHarmony) and got married?

But those are all irrelevant considerations. Fascinating, but ultimately irrelevant. What is relevant is that Heat Miser and Snow Miser, two guys who were not biologically related and who may or may not be pagan symbols, but who definitely had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas until they appeared in a Christmas special as people... (?) ... who had to save Christmas by making it not be hot and by making it snow, have become indelibly associated with Christmas -- you can even buy Heat Miser and Snow Miser Christmas Yard Art, something I didn't know existed until right now but which I want more than anything as of right now.

And in doing that, in becoming indelibly associated with Christmas, Heat Miser and Snow Miser have proven that all it takes to become a Christmas symbol is to be mentioned near Christmas, and to have a catchy song:

Which has now inspired me, and should inspire you, inspire you even more than Obama's election has inspired everyone, inspire and energize you more than a Horatio Alger story soaked in caffeine -- because if Heat Miser and Cold Miser can overcome pagan backgrounds and obvious nasal afflictions to rise up and become Christmas traditions, then anyone can achieve anything in this great country of ours. And isn't that what Christmas is all about?


Well, I'll just keep saying it, and someday it will be.

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