If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Christmas Ritual: Watching Scrooge

This afternoon I performed a Christmas ritual that has been going on for a long time. I watched the musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney and based on Charles Dickens novella The Christmas Carol. The first time I saw the movie in December of 1970, when it was first released. I was 21 years old and away from home for the holidays, in the Third Army Soldier Show based in Atlanta, Georgia. When I first saw the movie it evoked many feelings, one being a longing for home.

Of the many movies made of Dicken's novella, this one is my favorite. At the age of 34 Finney did an amazing job of portraying old miser Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1971, the year I got out of the army and returned home for the Christmas season, Finney won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a musical/comedy for Scrooge. Not only the great acting but the music makes the movie for me. When I see the movie and hear the songs like "Thank You Very Much" I am transported through 39 years of Christmases since I first saw the film.

I have since looked at Charles Dickens novella, upon which the film is based, through a socio-critical lens. Dickens is showing the wealthier members of mid 1800's English society how to navigate the waters of a society filled with impoverishment, particularly during the Christmas season. England in the 1800's was plagued with class division. Rather than falling into guilt or "indiscrimate giving" to the poor, Dickens showed a way for the more wealthy to provide charity (rather than justice), a merry Christmas practice kept alive today during the Christmas season. 'Tis the season for charity! And Dickens portrayed the poor, like the Cratchits, in a manner the wealthy imagined the poor, since they had little personal contact with them---docile, subservient, thankful, cheerful in their lot, and grateful, like poor Bob Cratchit. The Cratchits are the idealized poor of the wealthy.

Still, I have watched the movie over the past 39 years because I love this powerful story of human redemption on a personal level, even though there is no redemption on the socio-economic level. And I will probably be watching it each Christmas for years to come, thank you very much.

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