My apologies to those who couldn’t care less about the appropriation of Santa Claus and the Santa Claus myth. The concept of Santa may just be another in a series of seasonal assaults on your own particular faith, all of those assaults seemingly in the interest of selling things.
So, logically, why not just distort and bend myths as needed for commerce? First because some things are simply more annoying than others. That’s followed by the sense of loss engendered in realizing that, while Christmas may struggle in a bad economy, its tent pole traditions still seem to be increasingly vulnerable to ever more crass interpretations.
For you it might be a manger scene or crèche for the home with a sound chip that plays popular seasonal hymns. Or a neighbor’s front yard light display that mixes toy-making elves with a representation of the baby Jesus, suggesting that in some enchanted land they’re all working side by side to bring you a merry holiday.
This year for me, it’s Hunky Santa. From a press release for the Beverly Center at 8500 Beverly Boulevard: “After an exhaustive two-month search that began with more than 350 applicants, Beverly Center has crowned Hunky Santa for 2008/09. Eli Wilhide, this year’s “Hunky,” will don the signature red velvet costume and make his official debut at Los Angeles’ premiere fashion destination at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov.28th.”
Later in the same press piece: “Hunky Santa was never intended to replace the beloved Saint Nick or “Classic Santa” who also makes his annual appearance in the center. Many see Hunky Santa as a little something for the ‘big kids’ to enjoy and look forward to each year.” Wait, there’s more. From the Beverly Center’s website: “Also this year, Beverly Center is bringing back Hunky Santa’s entourage — the Candy Cane Girls. The Candy Cane Girls are stylish and friendly and share their holiday cheer with Beverly Center shoppers throughout the season. As part of Hunky Santa’s entourage, the Candy Cane Girls help make the holiday season fun and hip.”
While I wouldn’t pay the cover charge, I fully expect that other hunky Santas will be dancing in discos and that Christmas themes will dominate the holiday tableaus at gentleman’s clubs. Hunky Santa and the Candy Cane Girls don’t come out (one meaning only) at the Beverly Center until after 5 p.m. But I’m telling you now: If you drag your kids through that mall around the dinner hour, be prepared for an interesting conversation later over pizza. “So if Santa is working on my toys for Christmas, how does he have time to walk around the mall without a shirt on surrounded by chorus girls?”
And your answer can be, “Because even though an erotic conception of Santa makes Mommy want to hurl her eggnog, it’s all wrapped in good deeds.” The Beverly Center assures us that Hunky Santa will also be making appearances at charitable events all across the Southland this season. It’s a hunk of good luck for those struggling to raise funds in hard times to know that sexualized Santa and the strippers with red zippers will be on hand to boost attendance. Anyway we can get a video of them singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” with the Mayor on harmonica?
I’ll be the first to concede that my struggle with contemporary exploitations of the Santa myth are on par with a group of irate lumberjacks struggling to protect the sanctity of the Paul Bunyan legend from pancake houses and motels that would use the gentle giant as a tall post for their neon signs. But still “Hunky Santa”, out where kids can see him!?
Last week Disney opened their computer animated telling of “A Christmas Carol” to a somewhat tepid box office response. Many predict that the film, featuring more technology than charm or restraint, will gather steam as the holidays approach. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe computer-generated cartoon robots in a loud 3-D environment depicting what one reviewer called “totally pointless action scenes in favor of the poignant moments” just doesn’t connect the way solid acting by live humans in a carefully crafted real film effort might have. That’s assuming that by the end of that version Scrooge hadn’t somehow mutated into Hunky Santa, singing “Hark the Hot Hot Angels” with Candy Cane Girls all around him.