A mason jar full of tea sat near my left elbow. The tea’s assignment was to keep me alert on this short and dark December day. My headphones pumped Brandenburg concerti into my ears; their beauty and symmetry would help me focus. And then I began to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the umpteenth time.
I was rereading ACC because I had just watched Spirited, an Apple Studios, 2022 retelling of the Dickens classic. In spite of its star power, Spirited is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Its failure struck me as symptomatic of the influence of Woke and the West’s abandonment of its roots.
The West’s increasing retreat from the Judeo-Christian tradition has inspired much discussion. Will we discover that Dostoyevsky is correct, and “If there is no God, everything is permitted”? Our traditions, though, have affected more than our morality. Narrative, that is, the stories we tell, the stories that direct our lives, and the stories that simply make sense to us have been fashioned by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Anyone doubting this need only sample traditional narratives from the Ancient Pagan Mediterranean, Africa, East Asia, and the Pre-Columbian Americas. Characters, plots, and structure differ so greatly from those found in traditional Western novels that an American reader might not even recognize a traditional text as a story at all. When I assigned such material to my students, they were overwhelmed and confused. The words on the page were in English, but the stories’ scaffolding, their worldview, were untranslatable.
There are many ways to conceive of human life. One way, popular in India, sees life as a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth; note the wheel at the center of the Indian flag. The Christian view of a human life is a straight-line trajectory. A human is born, once. He is a unique individual empowered to make choices, and he responsible for those choices. He then dies, once, after which he inhabits the eternity his choices dictate.
Confession requires Catholics to meditate on their actions and motivations. A plot emerges, one that demands individual change: one is a sinner; one chooses confession; one is purified. That focus on the interior life of even common people, and that past, present, future plot trajectory, when applied to literature, populated novels with dynamic, individual, choice-making characters, characters capable of change, characters not found in literatures more focused on transcendence or on a rigid and unchanging group, rather than individual, identity. In a Western narrative, a slave can be a hero, a handsome person can be wicked, and characters can behave in ways contrary to the position they were born into.
Rereading A Christmas Carol surprised me. Given that I’d seen multiple adaptations, and have committed some lines to memory, I expected the reading to be a boring chore. In fact my mind and heart were Dickens’ playthings from the first line. I felt real goosebumps; I laughed; I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed real tears. News flash – this Dickens guy is a great writer.
I had remembered ACC as a secular text, about as religious as a shopping mall Santa. In fact ACC is suffused with Christianity. For example, the three spirits can be seen as an allusion to the Trinity. Scrooge is to be visited over the course of three days; an allusion to Jesus’ time in the tomb.
“Marley was dead”: the first three words. Dickens’ emphasis on Marley’s death, and that death as a terminal condition, is abundantly Christian. Marley lived his life badly. He was suffering an afterlife of pain for his bad choices. He would never reincarnate, never dissolve into the Atman, never fade into nothingness as those on earth who knew him forgot him. Not all Christians believe in an eternal Hell of torment, but certainly that is the dominant view, and without that Christian view, ACC would make zero sense.
Christophobes like to bash Christianity for this understanding of human life and destiny. In fact the Hell implied in ACC is a very flattering concept, one that vivifies lives if understood correctly. We humans matter. The creator of the universe is lovingly noting our every thought and action. We are powerful; we write our own fates. We can, with the turn of a heart, earn an eternity in paradise. A conviction of personal meaninglessness torments many. The Christian concept of eternity suffuses human life with deep meaning.
“God save you,” Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, calls out to him, early in the tale. That’s exactly what transpires in the following pages. God saves Scrooge. Again, a loving God intervenes to rescue us from our own bad choices, while never taking away from us our free will to make those bad choices. Fred reminds Scrooge of the day’s real meaning. Christmas is “due veneration” because of “its sacred name and origin.” Because of that, on Christmas, we should be “kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant.” At Christmas, we should remember that even those persons of different social stations to ourselves are “fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” This insistence on equality is a very Christian idea.
The opening pages of ACC repeatedly emphasize how dark the day is. “The fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages … The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible.” Of course it’s dark; the sun would set in London before four p.m. on a late December day. Dickens’ dark is astronomically accurate but it’s also symbolic. Scrooge is living in the dark; the salvation offered by the God who is the light of the world will, at the end of the tale, brighten Scrooge’s vision.
Dickens cites Satan as the antagonist of Saint Dunstan, who gained fame by besting Satan in their repeated folkloric encounters. Clearly, Dickens wants us to know he is telling us a fabulous tale, a scary tale, a funny tale, but ultimately a tale about the battle between good and evil.
When Marley haunts Scrooge, Marley’s face “came like the ancient Prophet’s rod.” The prophet here is Moses. Moses famously offers pharaoh multiple opportunities to save himself, just as Marley offers Scrooge the same opportunities. Marley is terrifying, but Scrooge had previously been offered, by Fred, an invitation to the joy of Christmas. He rejected the God of joy, so now he gets the God of wrath.
When Marley’s ghost unwraps the scarf around his face, “its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!” I don’t know if Dickens intended an allusion to Robespierre, famous and deadly enemy of Christianity, but it’s what I thought of. When the machine of Terror that Robespierre had enabled finally arrested him, he attempted to shoot himself, but he only damaged his jaw. At the guillotine, the executioner removed Robespierre’s bandage and his damaged jaw fell.
Marley, even as a ghost, expresses that emphasis on individuality that is the signature of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In Hinduism your reincarnation is significantly dictated by your caste. Marley, though, writes his own eternity. His Hell is his own “incessant torture of remorse.” God isn’t torturing Marley; Marley is torturing Marley. His fellow damned souls make “wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory.” Even after death, there is a “self” to accuse. Even the damned retain individuality in the afterlife. This is a Christian concept. One damned soul attempts to help a starving mother and child; this is an allusion to Luke 16:19-31.
Marley says that his job wasn’t just to worship; it was “to do unto the least of these as I have done unto you.” That is, as Marley puts it, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.” Light could have saved Marley, had he but seen it. “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”
No one believes that there was a real man named Scrooge who was visited by three spirits. And yet the tale raises real goosebumps. How? Dickens’ ample mastery includes his ability to tell deep truths in the midst of entertaining fantasy. Scrooge is believable as a sarcastic bastard who has convinced himself that he has all the answers. “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” he asks, when asked to donate to the poor. Like an arrogant New Atheist, Scrooge has a snarky comeback for everything. When Scrooge drops the snark and begins to exhibit fear, the reader feels that something serious is going on. When Scrooge, visiting his own lonely childhood, wishes he could relive the moment when he was offered the chance to be kind to a poor child singing Christmas Carols, but was, instead, cruel, this reader cried real tears. A moment as real as a flower blossomed from a dry, lifeless page recounting unreal events.
Scrooge is as overwhelmed by his life review as are Dickens’ readers. Still resistant, still clinging to his own ego rather than accepting, with his open hands, the salvation offered to him, Scrooge struggles to kill the light emanating from the head of The Ghost of Christmas Past. “He seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head … the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light: which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.” This passage echoes John 1:5. The next spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, makes its presence known through light. Scrooge is terrified. The spirit, “being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts.”
The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to numerous difficult settings, where the poor work ugly jobs. Even so, they encounter “an air of cheerfulness … that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavored to diffuse in vain.” Men stationed at a remote lighthouse “had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea.” Humans’ choice to embrace and spread light, in spite of the misery of immediate circumstances, “was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death.” Again and again, the poorest of the poor are endowed with the ability to change their fates. No, they can’t snap a finger and become rich, fathom life’s imponderables, or evade death; rather, than can choose to focus on the light offered them, and to spread that light. Dickens not only harkens back to John 1:5 here. He prefigures Viktor Frankl’s insights in Man’s Search for Meaning.
Dickens, the magician, packs a powerful punch in the visit of the final spirit. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge his own death. Again, we know this is fantasy; we know neither this encounter nor anything like it has ever occurred. But Dickens moves us to our core. How?
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge a corpse. The corpse’s face is covered. “The cover was so carelessly adjusted that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon Scrooge’s part, would have disclosed the face. He thought of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it; but had no power to withdraw the veil … there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.”
Dickens invites us into Scrooge’s arrogant, pathetic, ego-based self-delusion; that depiction of a frail human ego, a self-satisfied atheist who has all the answers, too rigid and timid to accept the vast and overwhelming reality of the Divinity, is what moves us. The reader knows that Scrooge is witnessing his own death and its ugly aftermath. Scrooge can’t accept this, and so he refuses to see this, and he attempts to bargain with this spirit’s revelations. Scrooge is not just afraid of death. He is afraid that death is indeed not the end, as he has told himself. There will be an afterlife; there will be a reckoning; there will be an eternity when he himself will choose to bear the consequences of his earthly arrogance, cowardice, and refusal to accept the light.
When I was reading this encounter, I was not just deeply moved; I was in awe of Dickens’ authorial skill. Scrooge, the “old screw,” will be changed by an encounter with the truth – a motif that would certainly occur in a scrupulously realistic text. In fact that is the narrative that is supposed to occur in Freudian psychoanalysis.
Dickens closes this encounter with defiant words. Death is not the big deal. The big deal is that a man has lived his life hiding from the light. Men who embrace the light can indeed say, with Chaplain John Donne, “Death be not proud.” Dickens declares, “It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!”
“Golden sunlight” floods the scene after Scrooge’s conversion. Scrooge “went to church,” and then performed acts of charity. ACC begins “Marley was dead;” it ends, “God bless Us, Every One!” ACC would simply not make any sense without the underpinning of a Judeo-Christian worldview.
Spirited is a 2022, Apple Studios remake of A Christmas Carol. It stars Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. Ferrell is Scrooge, who, in this version, has been haunting people on Christmas for almost 200 years, successfully convincing them to reform their lives. Ryan Reynolds is Clint, an unscrupulous political operative whom Scrooge attempts to reform. Spirited was directed, co-written, and co-produced by Sean Anders. Its runtime is two hours, seven minutes.
Spirited is an inept and incoherent jumble. Bodies and objects, plot points and attitudes galumph around the screen like drunken dinosaurs in a hopelessly misguided ballet class. The film includes maudlin tear-jerking, failed attempts at humor – example – “It’s weird to see a Canadian without mittens” – refusals to commit to anything authentically human, a musical quote from Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, an allusion to Busby Berkely dance routines and to the movie Elf, cameos by Judi Dench and Jimmy Fallon, and product placement ads for the French-beauty-care brand Sephora.
The narrative keeps running off the rails. Characters begin songs or dances and another character says don’t sing or dance now. Scene aborted. During a genuinely spooky scene, a character makes a sarcastic comment; scene aborted. A song begins; a character breaks the fourth wall and explains to the audience, “This is a musical.” Scene aborted. Suddenly a troupe of overweight tap dancers start their stomp, stomp, stomp, strenuously attempting to communicate, perhaps through morse code.
Why is Ferrell’s Scrooge wearing basketball sneakers and an unstructured quilted jacket that looks most like a Mao suit? No idea. Sunita Mani, The Ghost of Christmas Past and the token Asian, wears a red night shirt, an oversize, misshapen white hoodie, bare legs and ankle-high boots. Why is she – and no one else – costumed thus? Ask the tap dancers.
The tonal shifts are as jarring as the shifts in sets and costumes. Spirited depicts two deaths by suicide, alcoholic parental abuse – involving a puppy, no less, cancer, and a burning human being running from a bombing. All this is interspersed with smug sarcasm that is never funny enough to justify its callous intrusions into what are transparent, unearned manipulations of the audience.
Dickens, in Scrooge, gave us a believable villain. Spirited just gives us cute, charming, smug Ryan Reynolds being cute, charming, smug Ryan Reynolds. He displays the same twinkly eyes and dimples he displays in romantic comedies. He does not require redemption, so the plot stalls.
Ferrell, as Scrooge, never so much as attempts an English accent. Reynolds, playing an American, does attempt a Cockney accent so wretched that he makes Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins sound like Michael Caine.
The lead actors attempt to sing and dance. They fail. Apparently the idea that one should be able to sing and dance to star in a musical is another antiquated, elitist -ism that we must reject.
It’s as if Samuel Beckett, who gave us the absurdist drama Waiting for Godot, where the choppy undermining of Western narrative’s traditional trajectory is actually the whole point, had written a Christmas story.
In the original Christmas Carol, “Marley is dead” is the first sentence and death is a narrative fulcrum. In Spirited, characters choose to die and come back to life. Clint dies; no matter; he still hangs out in the mortal world. Scrooge is dead. On a whim, he returns to the physical world. He then attempts suicide. He then takes on a new human life.
In Dickens’ ACC, “good” and “bad” are objective realities, and there is an important difference between the two. In Spirited, Scrooge (Ferrell) regrets that “I’ve been obsessed with wrong and right.” Smug and charming Clint (Reynolds) has taught Scrooge that “the line between good and bad is not so clean.”
In the original, the spirits exercise the authority of weighty truth, a truth Scrooge must acknowledge when he confronts death in the form of his own corpse. In Spirited, the spirits sent to save Clint exercise no authority. They are awkward failures. Clint sexually seduces Mani, the Ghost of Christmas Past. Clint makes a laughingstock of Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and drives him to suicide. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, as voiced by Tracy Morgan, is a wannabe stand-up comic whose so-funny-I-forgot-to-laugh catch phrases include “Welcome to the Bone Zone.”
In the original Christmas Carol, Scrooge initially makes arrogant snarky comments to fend off his confrontation with truth. In Spirited, Clint’s arrogance and snark are the authority. Ferrell’s Scrooge, who believes in such old fashioned concepts of good and bad, truth and lies, life and death, or sin and redemption is rendered a buffoon.
Again, Catholic confession reinforced a Western concept of telos, of past-present-future. I was a sinner; I am now repenting; I shall soon be redeemed and washed clean. Spirited argues against redemption, against change, and against hope. Ferrell’s Scrooge is stricken with overwhelming depression. Though he has been successfully saving souls for almost two hundred years, sunk in blinding despair, he convinces himself that he is unredeemable, that no one ever changes, that he has never saved anyone, and that he must kill himself.
Modern psychiatry would diagnose Ferrell’s Scrooge as suffering from major depressive disorder. Catholicism teaches that when a mentally healthy person despairs, he denies God’s ability to redeem his creations; thus, in a healthy mind (as opposed to one crippled by mental dysfunction) the conscious choice to despair is a sin. In Spirited, Ferrell decides to kill himself after initiating a romance with Kimberly (Octavia Spencer), a vulnerable woman who would no doubt be destroyed by her loved one’s decision.
Spirited, meant to be a bouncy Christmas Carol update, in its rejection of God’s salvation, plunges its characters into a completely different conception of time, and therefore narrative. If, in the world of Spirited, there is no such thing as good or bad, and people don’t change, and people are unredeemable, we are all doomed perpetually to marinate in our own unchanging, debased natures.
But wait. Spirited does offer a light at the end of the tunnel.
Spirited opens with a subplot that never recurs in the rest of the film. It bashes that modern villain, Karen. “Karen” is a racist, misogynist, Woke insult for white women. In Spirited, a white woman named Karen Blansky – note the Polish last name – is not Woke. Christmas spirts teach her the error of her ways. She resolves to become Woke.
Karen lives on an ice-bound suburban cul-de-sac of McMansions. In the streets, neighbors play ice hockey. The players are a black woman, a Chicano man, and a Chicano child. Well, no. Anyone playing ice hockey in this setting is going to be a young, white male. A black woman and a Chicano man are shoehorned into this scene, not for their own benefit, not to tell their story, but to cover the filmmakers’ backs.
When a ghost first appears to Ryan Reynolds’ Clint, Clint asks, paraphrase, “Why save me? There are worse people.” Who are those worse people? “Racists,” Clint replies. Woke can smash all religious norms, yet sin remains, and its name is racism. Spirited’s demographically dishonest miming of diversity provides redemption.
Scrooge works with a team of soul savers. One, for no discernable reason, speaks Japanese to a character who speaks only English. Similarly, characters briefly speak Spanish and French, again to English speakers. One man sports an elaborate braided hairdo; another man wears a mustache, dangling earrings, and a supercilious look; the suggestion is that these men are transgendered.
Ferrell’s Scrooge, who assumes the “Ghost of Christmas Present” role, is a white man; Christmas past, Sunita Mani, is an Asian woman; Christmas yet to come is a black man: the diversity trifecta.
Ferrell’s Scrooge is always the center of attention. Mani and Morgan, the Asian woman and the black man, are never more than afterthoughts. Their identities mean nothing. Their roles could have been assigned the identity of Eskimos or Greek diner owners or Basque shepherds; there would be no need to change a single line of dialogue or a stitch of their costumes.
An Indian-American’s story might involve immigration, high hopes, arranged marriage, caste, and advanced placement classes in STEM. No effort is made to weave that unique story into the plot. The filmmakers merely exploit Mani’s brown skin and big, dark eyes as a corrupt purchased indulgence that earns Ferrell and Reynolds their ticket to the Heaven of stardom.
Dickens describes The Ghost of Christmas Past in detail. That ghosts’s appearance serves the narrative in a vital way. Remove Dickens’ description of how this ghost looks and the narrative is the weaker for that exclusion. Mani’s Asian appearance and her random costume mean exactly nothing. In place of a contribution that advances the plot, Spirited leaves an empty space. Those who enjoy Mani’s presence enjoy her presence not because of story, not because of art, but because her presence allows themselves to pat themselves on the back about how “tolerant” they are of “brown” people.
Clint first appears at a convention of Christmas-tree growers in British Columbia, Canada. In some shots, the majority of Christmas tree growers are black or female. In real life, British Columbia is one percent black, and, in real life, the majority of Christmas tree growers are white men.
Spirited features a dance-free, song-free “song-and-dance” number set in Victorian England. Oliver Twist, a famous fictional character, makes a cameo appearance. Twist begs Reynolds and Ferrell, “May I have some more?” This line comes from Dickens’ novel. Oliver Twist, a starving workhouse orphan, begs for food. Here is that scene:
The gruel was served out … The gruel disappeared … Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity,
“Please, sir, I want some more.”
The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds … The assistants were paralyzed with wonder; the boys with fear.
“What!” said the master at length, in a faint voice.
“Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”
The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle …
“That boy will be hung,” said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. “I know that boy will be hung.”
Dickens is recording the very real starvation that the poor faced. In Spirited, the starving boy’s appeal is a joke; it is made to rhyme with “whore.”
A-List celebrities, Reynolds and Ferrell, two white men, dominate the foreground. Behind them, in many shots, the majority of Victorians are black. Their black faces serve one purpose, They are there to provide forgiveness to the filmmakers for starring two white men.
Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist may have been inspired by the life of Robert Blincoe, “At four Blincoe was abandoned to a workhouse, never to see his family again. At seven, he was sent 200 miles north to work in one of the cotton mills of the dawning industrial age. He suffered years of unrelenting abuse, a life dictated by the inhuman rhythm of machines.”
William Blake also wrote of England’s children, virtually enslaved to deadly labor.
“My father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.”
The treatment of child chimney sweeps, aged between five and ten years old, was abusive and, ultimately, deadly. See here.
“In London, in 1830, the average life span for middle to upper-class males was 44 years, 25 for tradesman and 22 for laborers. Fifty-seven of every 100 children in working class families were dead by five years of age.” At the onset of the Industrial Revolution, height differences between the rich and poor increased to five inches. The poor were so much shorter than the rich because they were malnourished.
In America, Lewis Hine exposed the dark side of child labor. My dad was one of those kids; he was a child coal miner. Children were chosen because they could fit into narrow mine shafts. Like many who grew up poor, my dad was short; raised in a different America, his sons all grew to over six feet.
Photos convey what words cannot. Please view this photo of a child in Victorian England, his back scarred from abuse. Similar photographs from the Liverpool City Library document the lives of real children like the fictional Oliver Twist.
The filmmakers’ choice to depict Victorians as blacks is inaccurate. Victorian England was majority white. The workhouse widows and orphans, the street urchins about whom Dickens wrote with such power and such impact, children like Tiny Tim who sickened and died from malnutrition, were white. That Apple Studios distorts reality to serve Woke is what the Woke themselves would call “cultural appropriation.” And they would call it something worse were anyone ever to commit the obscenity of staging a song-and-dance number on an antebellum plantation and depicting the slaves as majority white, and their pain as the punchline of an obscene joke.
There is a well-placed, diverse actor and character in Spirited. Academy-Award-winner Octavia Spencer is a 52-year-old, fat, black woman. In Spirited, she plays Kimberly, who performs opposition research for Clint, research that could damage people’s lives. Kimberly is conflicted about her work, calling herself a “terrible person.” She does it, though, because her mother was a cleaning woman, and she regards her high salary as a sign that she has achieved “The American Dream.” We look at Spencer, see her ethnicity, her age, and her physical condition, and we know that if Kimberly were to quit her morally questionable job, she’d never find any other job that would pay as well. In this case, the actor’s appearance is not just Woke window-dressing. The actor’s appearance serves the narrative.
Who is the God of Spirited’s High Church of Woke, and where is Spirited’s Heaven? God is a filmmaker. Heaven is a movie studio. Scrooge and his soul-saving colleagues produce cinema. Throughout the film, Scrooge and his fellow soul-savers speak movie-industry jargon into head sets. They say things like “Cue scene,” “That’s a wrap,” “Cut!” and “Costume department.” Assistant producers, after hauntings, deliver coffee. In a literal sense, Spirited’s filmmakers jettison the Judeo-Christian tradition and replace it with themselves, that is, with Hollywood.
But wait, there’s more. Clint is killed when he stops Scrooge from committing suicide by standing in front of a bus. The bus hits Clint instead. Clint replaces Scrooge in the heavenly movie studio. He applies his skills as a political operative to doing the work of saving racist white Karens. But not only. He tells one of his co-producers that he wants a Ramadan Carol and a Hanukkah Carol. Because ya know inclusion. Here Spirited treats Islam and Judaism exactly as it treated the black women in the ice hockey scene, the black women at the British Columbia Christmas tree growers conference, the blacks in the Victorian crowd scene, Sunita Mani and Tracy Morgan.
You want a scene with black people playing sports in the streets? Basketball. And not a suburban cul-de-sac crowded with McMansions, but an urban playground. You want a conference scene featuring black women? Not a Christmas tree growers’ conference, but a conference of church ladies or small business owners. You want a holiday story honoring Judaism or Islam? Judaism and Islam are not Christianity. They are their own religions with their own worldviews, narratives, heroes, and value systems.
When, at the end of Spirited, Ryan Reynolds announces that he wants Ramadan and Hanukkah versions of A Christmas Carol, he is not being truly diverse or inclusive. Rather, he is exploiting Islam and Judaism to trumpet his own inclusiveness. In fact he is suppressing the unique, non-Christian identity of Judaism and Islam. All diversity is absorbed into the Woke Borg. Ironically, the real story of Hanukkah exactly is resistance to any such absorption.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.