Book-Happy! (Grant Morrison)
Photo: Kim Wiens
Grant Morrison’s Happy! takes a decidedly darker spin on the true meaning of Christmas.
The series’ protagonist, Nick Sax, is a typical Scrooge archetype, whose life has gone awry and, as a result, his view of the holiday season is definitely lacking in glitz and wonder.
Trapped in a spiral of vicious mobsters, sexual depravity, and drunken nights, Sax is eventually accosted by an imaginary blue specimen called Happy. The creature claims that a young girl has been kidnapped by a child killer dressed as Santa Claus and urges the former detective turned hitman into action.
Surprisingly, as Sax struggles between saving himself and saving another, the story pulls away from a its fantastical elements and emphasizes a more down to earth holiday moral—the importance of exercising compassion without limits, especially when it comes to helping people who have been wronged.
So, while this book is not for the faint of heart, it is recommended for those who prefer a dark take on the holiday season, and who don’t mind reading a story featuring an evil, pedophile Santa.
This twisted take on Miracle on 34th Street takes the “under-achiever bonding with a lonely child” trope in a much different direction.
Billy Bob Thornton’s titular mall Santa is a depressed alcoholic who uses his seasonal employment to plot a Christmas eve heist. After attracting the attention of a troubled child, who is more than a little eager to offer “Santa Claus” a free place to stay, our holiday anti-hero receives an unlikely chance at redemption.
Bad Santa is raunchy, bleak, and blackly comedic—the type of film where the protagonist achieves moral clarity by beating up a group of pre-teen skater punks. The characters are deeply flawed and the plot takes dark turns, culminating in a botched heist and a bloody police chase (it was produced by the Coen Brothers, which should tell you all you need to know).
Not exactly in the traditional Christmas spirit? Maybe. But beneath Bad Santa’s grim exterior, you still might find a glimmer of hope at its core.
Song-“Fairytale of New York” (the Pogues, featuring Kristy MacColl)
“Fairytale of New York,” performed by the late Kirsty MacColl and Irish punk band the Pogues, is a Christmas carol best enjoyed at a raucous party or at a pub with a drink in hand.
The song is starkly honest about the kind of despair some people experience during the holidays—its narrative begins in the drunk tank—which makes it refreshing compared to the picture-perfect carols about turtle doves and other saccharine holiday fluff.
Despite its rough edges and coarse language, the song is still beautifully sentimental, as it lays out the tale of two lovers falling apart, and how they use their warm memories of each other to trudge on regardless.
The song also fosters an infectious spirit of togetherness, which many argue is one of the true pillars of Christmas. Plus, anyone, no matter how lonely they are during the holidays, probably knows the lyrics to this song, which makes it easy to sing along to at the bar.
TV episode-“Red Sleigh Down” (South Park, S6.E17)
South Park has always been known for pushing the envelope when it comes to comedy, subject matter, and good taste. Its Christmas-themed episodes are no exception.
In the last episode of season six, titled “Red Sleigh Down”, Kyle, Eric, Stan and Jesus, of all people, hatch a daring plan to rescue Santa Claus after his sleigh is shot down over Baghdad.
This episode is great, because it brings a cynical yet humorous approach to the holidays. There are no jolly Christmas carols being sung. The one musical interlude in the episode is performed by Jimmy, a handicapped elementary student, whose rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” literally lasts the entire episode because of his heavy lisp and frequent stutter.
Not only that, but series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone also flip the tables on two of the most beloved holiday figures—Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. Both are typically benevolent at the start, but by the end of this episode (when shit really hits the fan) they could very well be mistaken for Rambo.
So, by turning two of the holiday’s most “peaceful” figures into gun totting commandos, and placing them in a predominantly Muslim country, South Park successfully subverts the traditional holiday special.
Besides, Bruce Willis isn’t the only one who gets to blow up stuff and kill people on Christmas.
—Moussa Sangaré-Ponce & Kyle Darbyson