Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Healing Clause

Film poster for The Santa Clause 2 - Copyright...Image via Wikipedia I mentioned yesterday, in addition to The Santa Clause, The Santa Clause 2 was one of my favorite Christmas films. The reason is, both of these, but especially the second, points out the significance of Santa Claus for adults. This isn't something one usually thinks about, the presumption being, Santa, his elves and reindeer are the stuff of fairy tales and, as everyone knows, fairy tales are for children. The thing is, that's not entirely true.

Fairy tales, as they are written, as "they lived happily ever after" stories, are for children. As a vehicle for communicating truths about life, however, fairy tales are for adults and most of the literature you'll see concerning their meaning applies to adults. Movies and television can be helpful as springboards for discussion because we all see the same image played out and have the same frame of reference. 

In The Santa Clause 2, Scott Calvin aka Santa, has a problem. In order for him to remain Santa, he has to fulfill The Mrs. Clause, i.e. he has to find a wife. It helps to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Anyway, in the course of searching for one he can live with, he actually finds one he wants to be with, but wouldn't you know it? she has a problem, too. When he tries to reveal his identity, she refuses to believe him. This is not a minor detail. We can't very well expect her to marry a man she can't or ought not to have believed, can we? I know of women (men, too) who've done it, but they lived to regret it. Well, Carol, our character, has a reason for her disbelief. She was very seriously disappointed as a child when her parents informed her there was no Santa.

Now, this isn't like Lois Lane's incredulity over Clark Kent telling her he's Superman. Carol was hurt so badly by her parents' revelation that she continues to be extremely sensitive about anything related to Christmas. As a result, she's done what anyone might under similar circumstances, i.e. set up defenses to avoid being hurt again. But this only makes it harder for her to trust, and before she can experience Scott's love, she has to be willing to trust.

Carol's not the only one character with Christmas "issues." We see her, Scott, and the faculty of a school where she is principal, at a Christmas party, and it's a lifeless one. There is no joy or frivolity, no one is dancing -- they all act like they've come down with a bad case of the blues. In an effort to intervene "therapeutically," Scott introduces the "Secret Santa." Although Carol whispers to him there is no Secret Santa, he insists there is and produces a bag of gifts to prove it.

When the packages are opened, each person discovers either a toy from childhood they wanted but kept to themselves or one that was especially meaningful. These aren't just any toys, these are special toys, healing toys -- ones that possess the power to touch a person, not only where they've been hurt, but where the pain lingers. In a sense, they are sacramental, conveying the grace of genuineness, of letting go, of playing with abandon. Self-consciousness vanishes as the party goers are free to be themselves.

I entitled this post, The Healing Clause as a word-play on the film's title, because it seems to me the mythic role Santa plays in the lives of adults is that of healer. It may be something we experience with our children, watching them light up at the sight of Santa at the end of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or any other parade of the season. Smaller ones, too, like Boulder's Lights of Christmas, where I've stood on the sidewalk, with gloved hands round a rapidly cooling cup of hot chocolate, alongside children who were cold as icicles until they saw Santa and his reindeer and everything changed.

Something happens as we remember old hurts and the jolly old man in a sleigh somehow touches our hearts and we begin to let them go. I don't understand it, maybe it's the power of myth, maybe it's the Season, maybe it's beyond me, but wherever the magic comes from, I know it's real because I'm different and others are different around me. If you've experienced it, you know what I mean and if you haven't, I hope someday you do. You'll be glad you did.

(Fair use of low-resolution image of copyrighted movie poster for The Santa Clause 2 to provide critical commentary on the film itself and not merely as an illustration. Source: Wikipedia)

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