Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Most Loathsome Grinch Rehashes

Today we're going to talk about one of the most famous fictional characters of all time - Dr. Seuss's Grinch. This nasty anti-Christmas creature can make a wondrous claim - no fictional work has been rehashed, rewritten, and/or parodied more times than Dr. Seuss's 1957 book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I appreciate the story of the Grinch, and tune in every year when NBC shows the classic animated TV short based on the book. But, though I am not an active Christian, I believe the story is incomplete without mentioning Jesus. How could the Grinch learn that Christmas means "a little bit more" without the story saying what that is?

And, if you're wondering why I'm doing this post on May 22, I'll tell you. The Grinch has been one of my pet peeves for about five years, and one entry on this list will tell why. I am seeking to calm an anxiety by writing this, so respect my efforts.

Here are ten alternate versions, most of them Christianizations, of the Grinch that I find loathsome.
And no, the 2000 movie with Jim Carrey is not on the list.

10. How the Trump Stole America. This one is a wonderful piece of work, except that it was written by a Hillary supporter, and since I identify as an independent and was equally dissatisfied with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, that makes this poem loathsome in my mind. Also, the poem makes Hillary Clinton look kind, good, and qualified, and says that America already was great. I disagree with both statements. This poem is just too biased for me to like it, and America will never be great until it is what Sarah Harrison, the winner of the 2017 Doodle 4 Google contest, hopes it will be someday.
And, yes, America is not already like this.

9. The Great Church Robbery. This is a 1998 poem by Christian skit writer Fred Passmore. I love the story and all, but there are three big problems. First, the rhythm of the story is inconsistent from line to line. Second, the story, but not the actual text of the poem, mimic the original story. And third, it's not set at Christmas. It's simply set on "Sunday".

"The Great Church Robbery" replaces Whoville with a church, the Whos with the church patrons, and the Grinch with a grouchy old man named Mr. DeWitt. Mr. DeWitt disguises himself, not as Santa Claus, but as a blind man (which also serves as an allegory for his lack of spiritual "sight") and steals all the musical instruments, Bibles, and hymnals from the church. And, this being a Christian version of the story, you can probably tell where the story goes from there.

My problems with the rhythm being inconsistent and text not mimicking the original story, I thought, can be solved. Passmore's poem begins:

The church was known for its love and affection
and invited folks in from every direction. 
But to one neighbor, named Mr. DeWitt,
Their invitations didn't matter one bit.

If Passmore wanted to truly channel Seuss, and I think he should have, he would have begun the poem:

Everyone in the church liked to worship a lot,
But Mr. DeWitt, who lived on the mountain above, he did not!

As a bonus, it narrows the four lines down to two.

8. How the Binch Killed Innocent Americans. This story stars the Binch (Osama bin Laden + the Grinch) as he destroys the Twin Towers, then sees that his act of evil has brought America together rather than tearing it apart. Osama would never do such a thing, but since this is a Grinch reworking, the Binch has to have a change of heart.

This poem was written by a single issue political third party - the Pacifist Party, who dissolved a few years after the terrorist attacks, and who believed if appropriately dealt with, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda would stop the violence. That was far-fetched.

7. The Great Christmas Church Robbery. This one is almost identical in plot points to Fred Passmore's The Great Church Robbery, only it attempts to solve a problem that I pointed out about Passmore's poem by setting the story at Christmas (Passmore's poem was not). Like the Passmore poem, "The Great Christmas Church Robbery" replaces Whoville with a church, the Whos with the church patrons, and the Grinch with - get this - a ten year old girl named Sarah McScorn, who fakes blindness and robs a church, just like Mr. DeWitt. The story is no better than Passmore's at having consistent rhythm and mimicking the famous lines of the original.

This poem was written as a church play in 2007. I hypothesize that the church wanted to do the Passmore poem, but 1) wanted it to be set at Christmas, when it wasn't, and 2) didn't think a child could play an old man. A possible other hypothesis is that the church believed their child actors could relate to a child character more easily.

Just my two cents.

6. How the Gunman Stole Christmas. The gunman is Adam Lanza, the man who killed 26 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in 2012, right? Wrong! This poem was written two years before Sandy Hook, and thus was oddly prophetic. Except that the ending is horrible. After thinking he's shot a bunch of children, the unnamed gunman takes a look back at the school, expecting to see police cars and dead bodies - but the kids are alive, and playing as usual! The twist is, the kids' hearts were so full of love and goodness that the bullets could not cause them any pain! 

This poem was written by a non-profit organization that works against gun violence. All on this entry is said, except that I've written a screenplay about the Sandy Hook tragedy. You really should read it.

5. The Nutcracker vs. The Grinch. This one isn't a poem, but rather, a Montana ballet mistress brought the Grinch into her Nutcracker. Assuming you know the story of "The Nutcracker", in this version, it is the Grinch, rather than the Mouse King, who invades Clara's house and battles the Nutcracker. After the battle, Clara inspires the Grinch's change of heart. In the second act, the Grinch falls in love with the Sugar Plum Fairy and even dances the Grand Pas de Deux at the end with her.

The choreographer says the mashing together of the two Christmas classics was "meant to be". I beg to differ.

And a side note that won't make you laugh unless you watch Seinfeld: The dancer who played the Grinch was from the Ukraine.

4. How the Grinch Found the Christ in Christmas. What makes this one weird is that like entries number 7 and 9, Whoville becomes a church, the Whos become the church patrons...but the Grinch is still the Grinch. That is, this poem has plopped the cartoonish Grinch in the middle of the real, factual planet Earth. Among humans. Like Fred Passmore's "The Great Church Robbery", the rhythm of the story is inconsistent. The story, written by Valerie Lynch, who probably belongs to a Protestant faction I've never heard of (I grew up in a Catholic household), begins:

Every Christian in church liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch, who lived just above the church, did not!

Those lines above have poor rhythm, if any rhythm at all.

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
He did not know God loved him, and that was the reason. 
He thought that Christians' heads weren't screwed on just right.
He thought they were crazy, and looked for a fight.
He said, "God doesn't love me, and God doesn't care!
Hypocritical Christians throw their hands in the air,
They worship Jesus, who doesn't exist.
It's just an excuse to buy shiny new gifts."

I'm slightly taken aback by the fact that the poem makes the church simply a "Christian" church. This is because I believe there's more conflict between Catholics and Protestants than there is between Christians as a whole and other religions.

The absurdity of this work is only reinforced when Cindy Lou Who becomes Mary Sue, the pastor's daughter. Life advice #1138: Never name your girl Mary Sue. Why?

Because "Mary Sue" is a popular term for a one-dimensional goody-goody female fictional character. A Mary Sue has no depth. A Mary Sue is a straight line. And that's exactly what Mary Sue is in this story.

The Grinch robs the church, like Mr. DeWitt and Sarah McScorn, but keeps the Santa disguise (he does not disguise as a blind man). The story then plays out like you'd expect a Christian version of the Grinch to.

3. How Mr. Sleazy Robbed the Church. Here we have our fourth Grinch character to rob a church and our third to fake blindness. Only this one looks like it's set in Southern California in the late 1980s. Mr. Sleazy is a sleazy young man who hates everything simply because he's too lazy to have any love in his heart, and Cindy Lou Who is now a girl named Alyssa Arroyo, which sounds Hispanic, and there are a lot of Hispanic people in Southern California. The church in this story is hip and Californian too, having a full Christian musical group to play their songs, no bells, and no organ. Excuse my Southern California lingo, but that story is just bombdigity.

2. Jesus Came For Us All. This poem, in its efforts to be true to history, becomes less true to the original Grinch story, which I think matters more. The Biblical king Herod is cast as the Grinch, and a big part of doing a Grinch reworking is that your antagonist has to go good. King Herod never went "good" by Christian standards.

So it is not Herod's heart that grows, but "the world's." And although the story does keep the "He himself" bit in the last line, it refers to Jesus, not Herod.

If you want to rework the Grinch, and make it Biblical, here are some tips. Make the Grinch character a rich and powerful man who has heard the promised one is coming and wants to "stop this baby from coming. But how?" So he disguises as a desert bandit and attacks Mary and Joseph on their donkey. He separates them, as does a sandstorm, but he reaches their destination and finds that Mary and Joseph made it anyway, and cue the change of heart when he sees the baby.

1. Gammy's take. My grandmother's 2011 poem, in which the Grinch raids a condominium in Whoville, Maryland and gets taught about Jesus by the Finelli family.

When my grandmother originally sent out the poem, it was my sister who taught the Grinch about Jesus. When I complained about this, Gammy re-issued the poem, this time with me telling the Grinch about Jesus. This, however, didn't change the mass incorrect portrayal of me and my family (which I failed to notice until Gammy released the second version of the poem). The Finellis, as Gammy seemed to see them, were nothing more or less than a bunch of goody-goody evangelists. The biggest offense may have been the fact that Gammy was giving my own creative talent competition, which could motivate or offend me.

I cannot even quote the poem, for my grandmother offended me so heavily with it that the poem could have been what made me less active a Christian.


Thus ends my long list. It's because of my #1 entry that I even made the list. Ever since, I have been trying to write a Christian version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that is actually good. Soon, I will do so. I will ask my grandmother for help... if the memory does not make me cry along the way. True, our relationship has never been the same. But this could fix it. I will write a Christian version of the Grinch. I will carve the stiff roast beast that this task is.



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