The Christmas season is a time of joy, magic and pie, so we at The Loop find ourselves once again baffled why its most iconic movies and TV shows are so full of violent sociopaths, some of whom are even adults. America’s most consistently beloved examples of Cozy Couch-Time Christmas Entertainment include a cartoon that contains 25 solid minutes of the emotional abuse of an oversensitive bald child, a movie about a bespectacled dweeb who’ll stop at nothing to obtain firearms and a Claymation nightmare in which the main character suffers endless ridicule about his red facial deformity. There are also elves. Here are the five worst, all of which we’ll be ignoring to watch Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which is delightful.
5. Frosty the Snowman
A jolly musical about a magical snow-angel who becomes a hero to many children, all of whom must contend with the fact that he has mere days to live. Also, the snowman’s entire reason for being is a hat. What if you put that Magic Hat on a not-snowman? What if it went on a bench? Or a jug of milk? Or a horse? The show does a poor job of exploring the breadth of magic hat-based possibilities.
Christmas Lesson: Death comes for us all.
Notable Song: Three guesses. Happily, the song uses distracting phrases like “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again someday” to paper over how children just watched their new best friend die by spot-melting into a literal puddle before their eyes. Have you ever put your dog to sleep? Multiply that by 10,000 times, then imagine the dog talked and took you on adventures.
4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Ostensibly a child’s fable about being true to yourself, except it envisions a world where a dick-Santa hides all the freaks in a reject colony, where elves are militant conformist drones and where the sweet, misunderstood hero dreams of performing non-consensual root canals with a wrench in the Arctic. You don’t see Wonder pulling any of that shit, just saying.
Christmas Lesson: People only like you when you’re useful.
Notable Song: “Because You Were Following Your Natural Animal Instincts, Now You Have to Eat With Your Gums”
3. Home Alone
The huggable tale of a boy who, utterly forgotten by his garbage family, spends the season of giving beating the shit out of people who somehow fail to suffer the galaxy of facial-bone fractures that befall normal humans. It’s also the film that made the phrase, “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal,” something kids say to each other in churches.
Christmas Lesson: Airlines were real shitty about double-checking boarding passes in 1991.
Notable Song: This one had like a heartwarming theme song, right? “Somewhere in My Memory” or something? Wait, John Williams wrote that? Trump is right, this country is going to hell.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Classic children’s programming that’s full of the kind of behavior that would cause 98% of all parents to pull their kids out of the nightmare school they’re in. Also full of logical disconnects: Charlie Brown KNOWS he’s getting a jacked-up Christmas tree, so it’s not clear why he gets mopey when everyone tells him he got a jacked-up Christmas tree. And it was Lucy’s idea to make the manic-depressive kid the director; it’s not like he was clamoring for the job, especially since by the time he showed up everyone else had apparently held at least a dozen rehearsals. It’d be like making me coach your kid’s basketball team and then acting all surprised when they go 0-12.
Christmas Lesson: YOU get to explain to your kids why it’s funny that the neighborhood girls have no problem telling Charlie Brown about all the parties they’re specifically not inviting him to.
Notable Song: UGH DAMMIT it’s the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack, which is the most sweet-snowflake magical Christmas music of all time.
1. The Polar Express
I don’t even know where to start with this: It’s a mystical unexplained hell-train populated by five uncanny-valley CGI creatuers, one of whom talks like the creepiest janitor at the cafeteria and all of whom are played by Tom Hanks. The unnamed conductor is an infuriatingly vague jerk one scene, and a singing cocoa-delivering butler the next. Santa is a rock star who makes five million elves gather to celebrate his arrival, then ignores them all to talk to one kid for 10 minutes. And just when you think it’s starting to make sense, the film throws in some shrieking marionette clowns, which is especially fun when you see it in IMAX.
Christmas Lesson: If a strange man shows up in the middle of the night, tells you to get in his train but won’t tell you where it’s going, you should absolutely 100% get on that train.
Notable Song: I don’t even know what the name is, but it’s sung by an elvish version of Steven Tyler on a unicycle and I would very much like to hate it. But I discovered something this season: As these shows indicate, everything is a mess! Which is kind of the point of Christmas. Also it’s impossible to hate Elvish Steven Tyler on a unicycle.