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|The Most Revolting Story Ever Told|
Dec. 7th, 2008 at 9:49 pm
No, I’m not talking about the infamous Poop Chronicles posts at Feminist Mormon Housewives. I’m not talking about John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, in which an obese cross-dresser eats dog feces. I’m not even talking about good, old-fashioned shock-horror movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th Part Whatever.
I’m talking about The Polar Express.
The idea that children experience a kind of magic with Christmas isn’t unusual or generally false. But the notion that it’s primarily attached to receiving presents and to traditional Christmas mythology is as wrong as it is offensive. What about family and loved ones? What about charity? Why should children believe in Santa and not in Jesus?
The Polar Express is really sick stuff, written by over-indulged parents who are stupid enough to think that they can make their kids happy if they can just find the perfect gift and give it in the perfect circumstances. The fact that the book passes for wholesome entertainment makes it all the more revolting to good sense.
The movie version of The Polar Express features characters with less charm than the zombies from The Evil Dead. For the same reasons that The Parthenon uses systematic imperfection to create the optical illusion of perfection, drawings require a certain amount of stylization to create the illusion of reality. The movie’s attempt to achieve picture perfection within the framework of cartoon animation lands it squarely in the center of uncanny valley. (Ward Jenkins has analyzed the exact aesthetic problems with the characters; summary: eyes are too bright, mouths are too narrow, and eyelashes are too low.)
Critics and audiences attacked director Robert Zemeckis for populating his film version of The Polar Express with zombies wearing death masks. I prefer to think that Zemeckis captures in his characters the shallowness and superficiality of real people who actually ascribe to the vision of Christmas and childhood espoused in The Polar Express. In short, the movie is as outwardly revolting as the book is inwardly revolting. And we should lose no opportunity to congratulate Zemickis for creating such a fitting homage to The Polar Express, the most revolting story ever told.
If there’s a magic to Christmas for children or adults, then it’s about spending time with loved ones. It’s about giving to others and love for fellow mortals. And it’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus — and whether one believes in Jesus or not, He deserves more acknowledgement than the forthrightly fictional Santa.