From Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” to Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Christmas tales of the most wonderful time of year are often saddled with an unsavory character. What is it about the unsavory antihero that keeps us coming back? Is it simply the juxtaposition of good versus evil that runs through most stories that even necessitates a villainous presence in a story about Christmas? Do we need the “naughty” in order to appreciate the “nice?” In other words, what is Christmas without the “bad guy?”
Fundamentally, the presumed purpose of the “bad guy” or villain in most Christmas books and movies exists to teach us a lesson. In most cases the addition of the bad guy grounds the story by adding real life elements to it even if the story itself is not based in reality. In doing so, the bad guy teaches us a lesson by magnifying the good and helps us gain perspective.
For example, the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart due to the lessons of the Ghosts exemplifies that taking a look at a situation from a different perspective can change a person. Similarly, the softening of the Grinch’s heart follows a similar pattern in that after he realizes that the holiday season is not about material things and truly about something more fundamental and wholesome, his perspective changes.
Sometimes we only see life through our own two eyes, yet a change in perspective can fundamentally change a person, teaching us a lesson we were looking at all the while, yet never seeing.
While the “Scrooges and Grinches” of Christmas tales are overtly bad in the beginning of the story and then soften their hard hearts by the end, some “villains” like Uncle Eddie in “Christmas Vacation” are not as obvious, and it is those that truly teach us lessons about ourselves. In thinking about villains, Uncle Eddie probably is not the first person that comes to mind and maybe even after reading this you will not see him as one. Nonetheless, in all of the hilarity that “Christmas Vacation” unloads in 97 minutes, the villainous presence is there, even if it is just in the details, i.e., Clark’s Christmas not going as planned thanks in part to moronic Uncle Eddie. Everyone can relate to that, life is not perfect and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the villain may seemingly reign supreme.
Similarly, in thinking about “Home Alone,” one may automatically jump to saying that Marv and Harry are the villains, but are they? In considering why villains are in Christmas stories, would not the true villain be Kevin for his seemingly innocuous thought that “Christmas is better without family?” Like Scrooge and the Grinch, being home alone at Christmastime altered Kevin’s perspective and transformed his attitude.
It is those foolish and self-centered villains that remind us that we all have a little villain in us from time to time and thus compel us to look inside and soften, especially during the most wonderful time of year. So appreciate the villain, see the bad for how it shapes us and use that to empower good by buying Tiny Tim a goose or not taking Uncle Eddie too seriously or not wishing your family away à la Kevin. Instead, change your perspective and gladly receive that Happy Holidays wish from your favorite villain.