Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Cartoons from the Third Reich

I searched far and wide, long and hard for this special Xmas video. Took maybe 2 minutes. There are numerous weird, antiquated cartoons out there that express, supposedly, the spirit of the season, but this is the strangest: it's a Santa's Workshop kind-of-thing with a decidedly military flavour. This was from the early '30s and I don't think the Nazis had really happened yet, so this must have been a kind of foreshadowing.

From that disturbingly hearty beer-hall anthem at the beginning to the precision-march of the toys at the end, the whole thing is an exercise in conformity and obedience.  I was completely squicked out by Santa's final song, which reminds me of nothing more than that festive Yuletide carol, Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles. As with most cartoons and  film portrayals of Santa, he is terrifying, with an evil whiskey-voice that sounds like the guy who did Peg Leg Pete or whoever he was,  that big ugly guy with the villainous laugh.

No wonder little kids' first encounter with Santa Claus seems to uniformly inspire terror and screams, until their parents force them to sit on this bizarre character's bum-hot lap and listen through a synthetic beard to his wet flabby lips pronouncing lies about what they'll get this year.  All that "well, we'll see" bullshit.

Who IS this monster who envelops them in the scent of sweaty polyester? As with almost all childhood mysteries, no one explains it to them. They have no idea who or what Santa is. It's a kind of initiation, almost a Christmas circumcision in which the cost of entry into the Spirit of the Season is bleeding and pain.

Kids want to believe, they really do, though it must really fly in the face of logic in these days of high technology. It was hard enough when I was a kid and technology had reached its apogee with our giant Webcor reel-to-reel tape recorder in which the tapes constantly broke and had to be spliced with scotch tape. We could at least record the sound tracks of our favorite  cartoons and movies and play them over, and over, and over again until our parents screamed, the tape snapped and the reel went flap-flap-flap-flap-flapping around.

So now how do they do it? How do they maintain such a transparent fiction? Aren't they frightened by some strange man dressed in a red fur costume breaking into their house? At some point, don't they realize that their parents have been lying to them?


My daughter, a TV news reporter who at 8 years old already had a gift for getting to the real story, one day asked me in a sort of "come on, tell me" voice, "There isn't really a Santa Claus, is there?"

So what was I to say? At eight, she wasn't even disillusioned. She just wanted to wring the truth out of me.

"Well. . . ummm. . . Christmas is a lot more magical and fun if you pretend there's a. . . "

"I thought so." She looked more satisfied than dismayed, her suspicions confirmed. Then she looked at me again with that let's-get-the-real-story expression.

"What about the Easter Bunny?"

Ye gods! Was there anything left of childhood? Were there no harmless illusions we could maintain? Not in the face of an 8-year-old future TV news reporter.  It wasn't long until I overheard her talking to one of her little friends, sharing her newfound knowledge about how they'd all been blatantly deceived for years.

"Uh, Shannon. .. "

"WHAT? I'm just setting her straight here. I'm doing her a favor."

We never got to the Tooth Fairy, but I am sure by then she had figured it out on her own.