Thursday, December 25, 2014

Atheists, have a very Jewish Xmas! (cartoon)

What if someone could invent something subversive to overthrow Christian myths stolen from European pagans and Siberian shamans and made their own? Only Hollywood could hope to launch such a counteroffensive propaganda campaign, and they'd have to make it something we all loved.

Simpsons' Buddhist (dunehypnotherapy)
(Off-Ramp) RH Greene: I used to feel sorry for my Jewish friends at Christmastime, and not just during the slightly sad Christmas dinners we sometimes shared down in Chinatown [before going to the movies like decent city folk].

What got to me more was the sense of encirclement I was sure they felt, as White Christmas, Silent Night, Adeste Fidelis, and all the usual suspects erupted from every speaker in America, while Rudolph [the magnificent European reindeer], Charlie Brown, and the Grinch invaded every TV screen.

I was raised a Catholic, and sometimes all that makes me feel encircled too.

On TV, there was virtually nothing Hanukkah-related to compare to the annual Christmas hits. And when I thought about Jewish families, and especially their kids, this seemed like a serious lack.

[Why?] Because TV is still our communal hearth this time of year, and the essence of community is inclusion.
America's most loveable Nazis, Col. Klink, Sgt. Shultz, sec'y Fräulein Helga (Hogan's Heroes).
Well, despair not, children of Abraham, because I'm here to share an epiphany I had maybe 1[7] years ago, when I watched the big holiday specials with similar thoughts in mind. It turns out Hanukkah has its own annual TV celebration -- a richly beloved program that's a cultural institution, and easily the coolest holiday show of all. [Why?] Because it's gently subversive, and it hides in plain sight.

Ladies and (merry) gentlemen, I give you: Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass' 1970 masterwork Santa Claus is Comin' to Town:  an origin myth for Santa and almost as Jewish thematically as the annual Chabad telethon.

Anyone Can Be Santa ("The Year Without A Santa Claus")

Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger
To begin with -- the villains, they're Nazis, okay? They wear Kaiser Wilhelm Pickelhaube helmets, and their leader is called Burgermeister Meisterburger, and the accent is straight out of Stalag 17.

The scariest moments in the special are when the Burgermeister's minions gather up Santa's first toys just after they're delivered and then burn them in front of the children they were meant for, the way the Nazis burned books at Wartburg.

By this point in the film, here's what we know about Santa: he's a foundling, who was delivered to his destiny on a winter wind the way Moses was carried by the Nile in the bulrushes. The elves who adopted him are ruled by a matriarch: Tante Kringle -- the Yiddish word for "aunt." So Santa? He's a Jew.

And he's increasingly a freedom fighter, bringing toys to the children despite the Burgermeister's anti-toy decrees.

Important to note: the Burgermeister is one of the few villains ever created by teleplay writer Romeo Mueller who isn't redeemed in some way. Mueller wrote the script for the Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer special, too, and you probably remember what a softie the abominable snowman [Yeti] turned out to be. But even cartoon Nazis couldn't be forgiven so easily. More + AUDIO

  • RH Greene, who prepared this segment on is a writer and filmmaker. His latest film is Vampira and Me.

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