In Defense of the Grinch
me: game on. just shut down my work laptop. and i’m ready to write a new blog post: in defense of the grinch
response: lol. are you pro breaking into homes and stealing christmas trees?
me: and that’s why i’m writing this post
I have, however, always been a fan of Christmas, which of course should not be surprising. For most kids, Christmas is the highlight of the year. I remember getting some of my favorite toys from Santa - a pillow pal, a lego briefcase carrying case, and a hot pink castle for my my little pony collection. Santa just like got me, you know?
Fast forward to Christmas as a grown-up. Sure the magic has faded (aka there are less presents under the tree) but the music is still rocking (don’t let anyone tell you when you’re allowed to listen to Christmas music btw, there are no rules), the movies have expanded into the a new genre of career women that cannot simultaneously be successful and enjoy Christmas (which is incredibly fun to hate watch, thank you Hallmark and I see you Freeform), and even more spectacularly Christmas as a grown-up means cocktails.
So how can it be that I’m ready to defend the Grinch? A character synonymous with being the anti-Christ…mas? He’s crabby, grumpy, and his saggy green skin (is it fur?) leaves me to believe he is also quite hangry. He’s unable to see the fun and joy in the holiday season so much so that he’s going to literally steal it away from you. The original, criminal, party pooper.
Last year, was the first year I decided to spend Christmas by myself. There were a variety of reasons behind my decision but mainly traveling during the holidays suuuuuccckkkks and from a feminist perspective there’d be no issue with me making my own plans if I was married with kids. So why can’t I have my own plans when I’m single?
Anyway, this year I’m also spending Christmas alone. (Though technically what I’m choosing is to not travel at Christmas, so if any friends and family are reading this you are always more than welcome to come here for the holidays).
When people ask what my plans are for the holidays and I share what they are, there is always a flash of a deer in the headlights moment as they think of how to respond politely. Typically, its some sort of silver lining type comment as if they need to convince themselves that what I’m doing is ok. And you can tell in that moment, the perception is that I must not have any holiday spirit. So I started wondering if I really was acting like the Grinch.
The more I thought about it though, the more I wondered what was so wrong with the Grinch anyway.
The Grinch doesn’t hate Christmas. He hates noise…
Starting with the original book, what the Grinch despises is the noise that comes with Christmas. It says so right in the text:
"For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They'd rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!"
The Who’s are all cute and adorable but they make so much noise on Christmas that it travels all the way up a mountain and inside a cave? I mean, I think we can all admit that’s a little extreme. I’ve never heard one person complain about the noise their neighbors make but justify it because well obviously they’re enjoying themselves so it’s fine.
…and the materialism/consumerism.
In the book we see this play out with the Grinch’s annoyance with the feast.
"Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they'd feast! And they'd feast! And they'd FEAST!
FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!"
Now I’ll admit that this quote could be interpreted many ways, but I’m going to guess that the Grinch wasn’t trying to body shame anyone. At no point does he profess about green juice or his cross fit routine. Instead he seems to be annoyed at the excess of food. Sure, there may be some self projection here on his part (it can’t be that easy to get all that food up to his cave), but at the end of the day the problem seems to be the quantity.
In the full-length movie, we see the Who's consumerism personified. All the Who’s are rushing around trying to buy the most presents, accumulate the most credit card debt, and acquire an ostentatious amount of holiday decorations. It seems like everyday is Black Friday in Whoville.
The focus is not on celebrating Christmas but instead as being seen as the Who with the most things. The Grinch despises this and I agree.
The Grinch’s tragic back story
In the original telling of The Grinch we don’t know why the Grinch is so Grinch-y.
"Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot
But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason"
It’s not until the full-length movie that we’re given a back story. In summary, the Grinch was constantly bullied for looking different than the Who’s. He was already a social outcast just based on how he looked.
And can we talk about how the town was called Whoville and everything was about being a Who but he wasn’t a Who. He was a Grinch. Imagine the Who’s being the equivalent of straight White Christian Americans and the Grinch being the sole person with a different race, religion, or sexual identity who is constantly bullied for being different. It actually shouldn’t be that hard to imagine (please reach out if it is).
And back to the backstory, when he took a chance, on Christmas, to declare his love for his classmate he was rejected and ridiculed. It was a major blow.
Now, I’m not one to allow any type of behavior just because someone had a tough childhood. We’ve all had tough childhoods. But I do have sympathy for someone who went through a trauma on a particular day and now wants to avoid anything to do with that day.
It doesn’t matter that he changes his opinion.
Did the Grinch steal all the Who’s Christmas belongings? Absolutely. Was it wrong? Absolutely. I’m not saying that he’s right in his actions. But he does ultimately change his mind when he sees that the Who’s really do believe about Christmas and not just all the material things that come with it.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
Then, as we know, the Grinch returns all the Christmas decorations and presents and food and the Who’s seem to forgive him. But no one who reads the story remembers that part.
The Grinch is an unfortunate victim of the new kind of marketing we see in political races. The story itself is called “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the famous song from the cartoon movie is titled “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. When someone gets a nickname with a negative connotation that is repeated over and over again it sticks.
It doesn’t matter that he’s changed, it doesn’t matter that he was forgiven. He will forever be associated with being un-festive. When I think about all the people in this world that have done something wrong and were able to fix it or who are simply trying to better themselves, I find it very dark and un-Christmas like that there are people who only see others at their worst and not their best.
Now who's the Grinch.
*photo by PicJumbo via Negative space