Christmas movies change when you grow-up. When you are younger, you are immersed in all the glorious festivities. The bright lights, the colours, the mysteries of Father Christmas, and generous gifts from loved ones. It’s all about the children and the spirit of the holidays that they keep alive in unbridled innocence. When you are that age, it’s magical and mystifying as are the films that promote it.
As you grow older and, spoiler alert, find out that Santa isn’t real and reindeer cannot fly, you view the holidays in a completely different way. Though the love felt around this time is stronger (because it isn’t based on an artificial, superficial bond over gifts,) that enchantment wanes. The stress of buying presents, the sweat over cooking Christmas dinner, and trying to appease all family members at once grows weary on your sleepy eyes. Watching these films, you start to appreciate Clark Griswold’s wide-eyed mania in National Lampoons, the cynicism of the adults in Miracle on 34th Street, and complete understanding of Emma Thompson locking herself away to cry.
The realisation that I had grown beyond my Christmas exuberance years was when the true-meaning of Nightmare Before Christmas was unveiled. Jack Skellington, the hero that we know and love, is straight up having the most bonkers mid-life crisis imaginable. And I can completely relate to it.
For those who haven’t seen Henry Selick’s stop-motion festive raucous, the film revolves around Holiday Towns of Old where sects of creatures bring their spirits to the real world. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween town. One year, despite throwing “the best Halloween yet,” Jack is feeling hollow with his life and feels an emptiness that praise and fame cannot quite fill. When he comes across a mysterious tree with a door shaped like Christmas, he winds up finding joy and wonder! Could this be everything that he ever wanted?
Skellington is for sure having a mid-life crisis – he even has a bald head to prove it. There are a lot of jokes in media when it comes to hitting a rut in your late thirties and forties (though one suspects that Jack is a lot older than that.) The usual cliche is the flabby-gutted man (I’d like to point out that whilst a mid-life crisis can certainly happen to women, in media it is portrayed mostly by men,) stares around at his dead-end job, his content but dull family, and has a panic. This isn’t what he signed up when he was KICKING ASS in his teens and early twenties. He had all these dreams and aspirations that unfortunately conceded when he had a family to raise and got caught up selling stocks or whatever middle-aged people do for work. To combat the urge of wholeness he ditches the family for a younger model, gets shiny car, and races off into to the sunset.
That’s one example and is often the man who has everything who begins to wonder: “Do I have everything?” After hitting the limit of his success, seeing no room to grow, they find themselves hollow with bitterness as content replaces excitement. Consistently good is not a challenge and it irks them into leaping into another career path or chasing after some crazed notion that usually sees them wind up in a worse position than before. This is the exact storyline of a Nightmare Before Christmas. The titular holiday is actually a shiny red car that Jack things will make him alive again. Pretending to be Father Christmas is the sudden career change that goes against his every fibre because he is bored of being this beacon of Halloween world. And like everyone who gets some spark of genius, he goes with full obsession on this Yuletide aesthetic to the point where the creepy population of his town even begin to worry about him. Imagine having a faceless clown tap you on the shoulder like: “Hey dude, your being a bit weird, are you alright?”
What’s warming is that we’ve all been there; hitting the wall of monotony in a career that we actually kind of love.Heck, even singers and actors often have to take breaks because singing the same song repeatedly is like throwing their sexy assed bodies against a wall repeatedly. We’ve all lost inspiration and mistaken it for unhappiness. Which is exactly what happens to Jack. He completely loses it, despite better judgements telling him that he is fine or that straight up trying to be a bony Father Christmas is both an aesthetically and emotionally bad choice. But like all in the midst of a middle-aged breakdown, Jack doesn’t listen until it blows up in his face. Literally.
After, Skellington realises his mistake but also gains a new appreciation for the world that he inhabits. He grows and uses his experience to craft. Now I’m not saying cheating on your wife or spending savings on a car you’ll eventually re-sell is a good idea. What I am saying, however, is that these experiences – especially around Christmas time, are normal. Loneliness, tedium, and a lack of will happens to all of us, no matter how happy or complete we recognise our life to be. But it’s just another puzzle for us to solve and as long as you don’t, you know, feed people to the villain of a place called HALLOWEEN TOWN, then, little buddy, I think you are doing alright.
Merry Christmas Everyone!