Methinks the Grinch is deviously pleased.
Every program, whether a television show or movie, that is for Christmas either tries to be secular, or else has an aim of being religious. This makes sense. Those who celebrate usually pick a side, and even those who celebrate religiously may still have a visit from Santa. Most people can enjoy secular programs, but only some can enjoy religious ones.
Dr. Seuss managed to find that sliver of sweet spot, and it translated perfectly to a visual moving medium. We don’t know why Grinchy doesn’t like the Whos, and are never led to believe they don’t like him. We see someone who has no love in his heart, and the reason for that is for the viewer to ponder.
The magic in this starts when the Whos wake up on Christmas, and rather than be upset, still smile and sing.
My daughter asked why they weren’t upset all their presents were gone. You can ask anyone that, and get valid answers that vary widely. Perhaps they were able to find the joy in their loved ones being with them, and wanted to celebrate that. If they held religious beliefs, then they could be happy because of the holiday held most holy in Christianity. It continues with that ray of light rising, and the Grinch thinking things he hadn’t before.
Just what he’s ultimately thinking, we don’t know. And that’s the beauty of it. Unlike A Charlie Brown Christmas, where Linus gives a recitation of Luke 2:8-14 (don’t get me wrong–atheist-ol’-me still loves that show, and I watch it several times every year), the meaning the Grinch gets is up to the viewer. Could he had realized the Whos he detested were full of love, and that touched his heart? If his anger was over perceived commercialism, maybe his idea was broken, and that dispelled his negative feelings. The light could have been the light of Jesus reaching him in that cold place on the mountain. Whatever touches you about the holiday on December 25th, that’s what he’s feeling.
It’s perfectly clear to each viewer, and yet abstract at the same time so that each person can put a part of themselves in it, and find some joy in the Grinch’s conversion from hateful to loving.
Whatever it is, we all feel it, those of us who participate in Christmas in some way.
And I think most, if not all of us, feel at least some small sense of elation when he triumphs over the challenge he made for himself, that he resolved through whatever newly-found belief he had.
Yes, this one hits that sweet spot. And it’s clean enough of innuendo to watch with even the youngest of kids, and those of us who grew up with it will also have a sense of nostalgia, and maybe a tear or two on our own eyes. If you’re like me, that may be on your cheeks, and you’ll try quickly wiping the away before anyone notices. Some of my nostalgia is because my dad and I always watched this together, even after I was an adult, and he always had a look on his face that made me think of a small boy, and for the duration of this show, nothing bothersome or stressful could touch him. And now he’s gone, but I can share The Grinch with my own child. And I also get the same feeling of nothing in my own world can be anything less than goof for that twenty-minute stretch of time. Thank you, Dr. Seuss and Karl Borloff.