Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Is Halloween (Sort Of)

 The Nightmare Before Christmas: Wait, this is Halloween (I think)

In Halloweentown, Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king. He is crowned as the scariest dude in the whole village, and everyone loves him for it. Yet, he feels an "emptiness in his bones." He is sad, and he wants more out of life. His pathos manifests early on in the film, and we are shown the kind of feelings that lie within this bag of bones. We realize that he wants to change himself. He has a good heart (well, if he had a heart, it would be good) and wants something more than Halloween, every day of every year. He wants to feel fulfilled. This is logical to us, because we all get tired of the same old thing sometimes. We all want to try out new things, and we all want to live to the fullest as our best self.

At this point, Jack is wandering out in the woods. He happens to stumble upon a door that leads to a wonderful world, one filled with sweets like cakes and pies, gifts, lights and trees, and people smiling, laughing, and kissing. This is foreign to Jack, and he wants it. He goes so far as to consume himself with the idea of Christmas. He obsesses over it, trying to transform himself, and all his friends in Halloweentown, into something they're not. This is the message of the film: don't try so hard to be someone you're not; instead, focus on what you have to be thankful for, all the stuff that's right there in front of you. Sometimes, it takes a mistake or a tragedy to realize this. Jack learns all the Christmas songs, he puts on the beard and the red suit and hat, and tries to give presents to the good boys and girls of the town. But it just doesn't work out. He plays the part, and looks the part, but it's not who he is. And eventually he comes to realize that he's really good at running Halloween, and he enjoys that about himself.

Now, there's also an alternate side to the argument. The fact is, Jack blatantly screws over Christmas. However, at the end of the movie he is shown being celebrated by all of Halloweentown. Why is everyone singing and congratulating him? Jack kidnapped Santa Clause, and told a couple of ghoulish "henchmen" to send him down to the dungeon. All of this was done for Jack's personal gain. He obviously knew what he was doing, but he didn't care. He wanted so badly to have Christmas for himself, that he hurt others in the process. He nearly fed Santa to Oogie Boogie, the giant green weirdo who tortures people. Christmas could have been forever ruined thanks to Jack, so why is no one making a big deal of it? There are no consequences, at all. Everything is all good in the hood. So, I'm guessing that perhaps the lesson learned here is more important than the mistake. Everything did indeed work itself out in the end, but still, I think it's worth pointing out that Jack was in the wrong here. In the end, he had good intentions, but really did nothing right. The only reason things were set straight is because Sally freed Santa, allowing him to close the can of worms.

Another slight problem with the message of the film occurs with the torturing of Santa, and the plan to capture him. Here are a few lines from the song Kidnap Sandy Claws, sang during the scene, and shown in the video to the left:

"I say that we take a cannon
Aim it at his door and then
Knock three times and when he answers
Sandy Claws will be no more.

You're so stupid, think now
If we blow him up into smithereens
We may lose some pieces
And the Jack will beat us black and green."

To be honest, these are some pretty creepy lyrics! Especially to be present in the likes of a "children's movie." I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but they're literally talking about blowing up Santa with a cannon so that Jack can conquer the Christmas holiday. And if they fail to blow up Santa, they say that Jack will beat them up for making a mistake. Ironic, huh? I feel that the reason these types of things aren't a huge deal is because 1.] the ethos of Tim Burton (we expect this kind of stuff from him) and 2.] the characters are animated, they all seem sort of bubbly and innocent-looking. Ultimately, it's just not too shocking to us.

I am biased, because The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite films. I think the film, firstly, does an excellent job in portraying all three appeals. It has a great message for kids, telling us (yes, in the most cliche way possible) to be ourselves. We shouldn't forget to be thankful for the gifts and abilities that we are given in life. So, despite some questionable weirdness that takes place during the abduction of Ole Saint Nick, the movie argues its point successfully, and in a way that hides underground themes well.

I give 5/5 pickes.

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