Susan Year Itch: Scrooges and Grinches

A running theme through holiday films is how the holidays turn characters into grumpy complainers. How well Hollywood knows us!

I listen to the radio a lot on the off chance that I’ll hear a David Bowie song that I already have ready access to. As an unintended result, I am very familiar with local radio ads, which are probably the bleakest in the world, particularly around the holidays. Most of them go something like this:

VO: “You’re depressed, you’re lethargic, you’re stressed to da max. It must be the holidays!”

Lady who in my mind’s eye looks a lot like Cathy from the comic strip of the same name: “I just have to give people stuff and make my house look pretty, and I have all these frigging delicious things to eat! Life is the worst!”

VO: “Well, at [INSERT PLACE OF BUSINESS], we’ve made the holidays just barely bearable for you by giving you a one-stop shop for all of your [INSERT UNNECESSARY INDUSTRY] needs. You can just close your eyes and leave everything to us while you pretend really hard that it’s January and you never have to do fun things ever again.”

And it works! Because the holidays have become a time to indulge your inner Scrooge and let a stream of complaints issue forth from your mouth, whence the seasonal goodwill used to flow. Hollywood is run by geniuses, and it knows exactly how to capitalize on every mood we have. So there’s a whole sub-sub-genre of movies that center around grumps and Grinches–but the kicker is, they are always, always, brought around to realize the True Meaning of Christmas (which usually involves somebody helping out someone less fortunate while snow begins to fall).

Ladies and gentlemen and Cathy comics of the world, we need these movies. We need to watch them over and over again in order to get outside of our dumb stresses and petty miseries. Think about it: It’s the time of year when everything looks, smells, and tastes nice, and people give each other presents. In other words, woe is not us.

The following list of films will help you really grok what the Spirit of Christmas Present has to say, helping you rise above your imaginary list of grievances. I recommend spiked hot chocolate and a blanket to accompany you on your journey.


Guys, Bill Murray. Who’s more grouchy-lovable? I remember I wasn’t allowed to see this in the theater because my mom felt it was too “mean-spirited.” My sister went, though, and she turned out mostly OK! Because, as my mom didn’t quite understand, you discover the meaning of Christmas or whatever when you watch Scrooged. Mean spirits get pwned!

Mood-enhancement: At the very least, laughing will help you feel a lot less stressed out.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmastime is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call their favorite time of year. Yeah, somehow when the Charlie Brown kids sing that song, it’s not too convincing. But with a little hand-waving, a lot of dancing with noses in the air, and one long, somewhat uncomfortable Linus speech, CB’s spirits are as improved as his tiny Christmas tree.

Mood-enhancement: Treat yourself to a repeat viewing of this holiday classic and remember happy childhood times when Short Pump barely existed.

The Ref

Denis Leary takes the worst possible hostages this Christmas. A bickering couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) makes his heart shrink by two sizes, but the holiday spirit pervades, and the criminal helps his victims make up and make out, saving Christmas once and for all.

Mood-enhancement: What a relief that it’s not 1994 anymore, am I right?


Peter (Robin Williams, of course) is a workaholic who for some reason doesn’t remember much about a childhood spent flying around in tights. The good news is: he rediscovers how wonderful life can be, thanks to his old band of Lost Boys. The bad news is: he also rediscovers the tights. Oh, and there’s a scary pirate out for revenge. But then he gets back to the real world, and it’s Christmas!

Mood-enhancement: We will never have such a complicated problem to explain to our spouses.

The Year Without a Santa Claus

The single best Christmas movie (besides Die Hard), The Year Without a Santa Claus has so many grouches in it, it’s not even funny. Only it is actually super funny. Heat Miser! Snow Miser! Santa himself! THE ENTIRE SOUTH, NAY, THE WORLD! Nobody likes Christmas anymore in this 1974 Christmas special, and two elves have to somehow restore the spirit before…something or other happens. It’s not clear. Anyway, there’s great songs and weird moments, and it is impossible to have a bad attitude when you have Heat Miser’s song stuck in your head.

Mood-enhancement: This user review from Netflix: “I love Christmas movies and this one is really good every kid needs to see weather you believe in Santa or not.” Catch the spirit, y’all.

— ∮∮∮ —

And with that, I leave you until sometime in 2012. I’m off to give birth to a kid who absolutely will not mind having antlers and Santa hats shoved on its head as soon as it makes an appearance. In the meantime, as Oscar season approaches, stay tuned for Ross’s take on films.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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