Santa Claus is a fascist. He always has been and always will be. I can hear your shock and outrage at my writing that from here, but I have the facts on my side. Not only does this man run a sweatshop whose workers are basically treated like slaves, his whole reason for being is that he can bring gifts only to Christian kids. We’ve seen this type of selective charity before, but most of the time the groups that do it have been named things like “National Socialist People’s Welfare.”
As if to prove my point, here comes Fatman. In this, the year of your dead god 2020, we are presented a story of an embittered Santa itching to take out his white, middle-class rage on the world through the use of organized death squads as interpreted by Mel Gibson. Yes, you read that right. If that isn’t enough for you to want to lob a Molotov at every fool who goes around with “Merry Christmas” on his lips, I question which side you’re on.
Let’s start with the obvious. The fact that anyone is casting Mel Gibson in anything is itself an indictment of the current Hollywood system. It’s not just his repeated anti-Semitic slurs and the fact that he’s inherited his father’s Holocaust denialism (not to mention violent treatment of women). It’s that he has been allowed to translate these vile beliefs into his films. Yes, that’s The Passion of the Christ I’m referring to, and no, I’m not letting go of the fact that a film trading in “the Jews killed Jesus through their cunning and manipulation” was one of the biggest box office draws of 2004. Ever since then, and increasingly so, to cast Mel Gibson is to wink at an audience’s inner suburban vigilante, throwing a donut to the cop in their heads.
Studios realize this; it’s why almost all of Gibson’s acting jobs over the past decade have been either third-rate dross or sadistic fantasies like Dragged Across Concrete. One would have thought Danny McBride, the producer of Fatman, had better sense with this. He may be outwardly apolitical, but that doesn’t mean he lacks good sense. Or maybe it does. Maybe that’s what it means to be apolitical in these times.
As for the film itself, its plot contains a checklist of all the major markers of fascism and general reaction, watching the process by which middle-class resentment is weaponized. Gibson’s Santa is a small businessman whose fortunes are declining (check). He resents the outside world for leaving him behind (check), and in particular laments how the youth are out of control (check). Making the world make sense requires realigning it to his concept of “how things were” (check), which he is willing to do by force (check), including allying with the sections of the most prevalent form of institutionalized violence, the military (double check).
By now the same people who gasped when I called Santa a fash are now probably ready to say “but it’s a comedy, it’s not meant to be taken seriously, why don’t you lighten up… blah, blah, blah.”
Spare me. Just. Fucking. Spare me. There’s a clear rebuke to this argument. And it’s that the whole premise of film is so worn out as to make it aggressively unfunny. The idea of Santa descending into violent madness was a humorous concept, but it started to lose any and all originality not long after Weird Al brought the trope to its pinnacle with “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” That was the mid-90s, right around the time the “end of history” twaddle was starting to wear thin. Everyone realized that the end of the Cold War and the fall of America’s greatest enemy still left us stuck in meaningless jobs and soulless home lives, staring down the barrel of a new millennium that promised more of the same.
There was a lot of critical possibility in this realization and the anxiety it produced but, Hollywood being Hollywood, the most common filmic response was to show some white collar shlub snap, give him access to firearms, and let him take out his anger on people that are suffering a lot more than him. Twenty-five years later, with white supremacist shootings having become a weekly occurrence, studios thankfully realized that the Falling Down type movies had become gauche at best. But there are clearly enough fuckwits in development offices for the formula to get greenlit so long as it’s wrapped in sarcasm and mythical characters.
That the “lighten up” arguments still hold such purchase indicates that a fully commodified culture necessarily allows all sorts of turgid and toxic to take root within it, even by accident. Interrogation of cultural artifacts is futile, the logic goes, and so is insisting that there is something deeper happening underneath (which, as a commodity, there always is). Nobody has been better at exploiting this than the modern far-right. “I’m just trolling,” the idea that the casual glorification of violence, repression and even genocide is just a harmless laugh, has been, for some time, the introductory refrain of red-pilling. We don’t need to be reminded where it’s brought us.
Nobody reading this seriously believes that the “War on Christmas” is a real thing. Maybe it should be though. After all, even if we haven’t declared war on Christmas, Christmas has long since declared war on us. It’s as covert as it is protracted, but it’s there. Not only in the barrage of media ordering us to consume or else we’re bad parents/siblings/relatives/friends/whatever, not only in the guilt that accompanies all of it. Not even in the half-ass attempts at multiculturalizing the holiday that wind up being straight-up racist. It’s in the manipulative expectation that we all just plaster a smile on our faces during what is undoubtedly the most skull-fuckingly miserable time of the year. As Richard Seymour argued in his valiant 2007 attempt to have Christmas banned:
[S]imulating coordinated happiness is the hallmark of “totalitarian” regimes everywhere. Look at America, they’re never done smiling, and everyone fucking hates them. No offense, obviously. I don’t insist on misery, but I think an element of realism is called for. When people say, “Tis the season to be jolly,” the least that could be expected is for someone to say, “is it really? Have you seen the state of the economy? Do you know how many children died while you were saying that? Can I detain you with the latest news of what death squads have done in Iraq? Did you know that there’s shit in your hamburgers? What possible grounds could there be for this snow-based jocundity?”
There is none, of course, and doubly so now, what with the pandemic, burning continents, and roving gangs of fascists strutting down our streets. That Fatman is already getting panned well before its release probably won’t stop these knuckle-draggers from pitching a tent in theatres and living rooms across the country while Gibson’s Chris Cringle lays waste to the undeserving.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s high time we made their nightmare War on Christmas a reality. It’s sort of like the being a socialist; the right is going to call you one anyway so you may as well just be one. So let’s bring their Jewish-Islamo-Marxist-antifa conspiracy to life. Let’s fucking ruin Christmas this year.
I’m not just talking about saying “Happy Holidays.” Let’s just burn this fucker down. Let’s get Boots Riley to make a movie about elves occupying the factory and taking their jolly old boss ho-ho-hostage. “Belly laugh at this you fucker,” they’ll say while they take a wooden hammer to his kneecaps.
I reckon, if he does it real guerrilla-like, Boots can have it finished and in the can in a month. We can project it onto the massive walls of every Wal-Mart and Amazon fulfillment center as their workers revive the tradition of the Christmastime strike. If all the sweatshops in Bangladesh and China want to join in then we’ll really be moving, ready to redistribute the wealth in those useless plastic toys back to the people of the countries that made them. Sorry, suburbs. You don’t get your electric socks and talking dolls this year. We’ve found a better use for them.
The crowning achievement will be when the elected representatives of each workplace’s strike committee show up at the lighting ceremony for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. This international consortium of radical workers will push Craig Melvin or whatever non-entity now hosts it out of the way to show the world their new mascot: a bound and gagged Mel Gibson. He’ll be tossed from the top of the tree onto the giant switch that lights it up. Of course, the lights will have been tinkered with so that rather than lighting the tree up, they set it on fire. We’ll bask in the glow of the thirty-foot flames, dancing round it like the wild pagans we all wish we could be.
You may think I’m being extreme, that I’ve taken the schtick too far. That the idea of turning this saccharine yearly ritual into a site of history’s revenge is just in bad taste. To which I can only reply: lighten up. It’s just a joke. All in good fun. Maybe…