What would Christmas be without Santa Claus? For kids the world over this chubby, jovial character personifies everything that children hold dear about the festive season. Namely, getting sacks full of expensive presents and eating until you pass out.
Whether Saint Nicholas actually exists or not is a moot point, because anyone can don the famous red outfit and play the part. However, not everyone can play the part convincingly. Some are unpleasant, some misguided, and some just plain rubbish. Here are five examples of what happens when the wrong man puts on that uniform and beard.
Ho, ho, ho!
Louis Winthorpe III
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Stock market golden boy Louis Winthorpe III was supposed to be spending Christmas in his plush, New York residence with his fiancée, Penelope. Instead, having had his life of privilege reduced to rubble by his unscrupulous employers (over a $1 bet), Louis is forced to don quite possibly the filthiest Santa costume in history in a drunken attempt to infiltrate the office Christmas party. There’s nothing remotely jolly about this Santa, however. Snarling at the guests, filling his baggy pants with buffet food and planting drugs in the office of his rival, this is Santa reduced to petty crime and hysterical gun-waving.
Naughty or Nice: Louis Winthorpe III is neither, really. He’s too self-obsessed to be considered nice and far too inept to be considered truly naughty. Feeble.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Halloween can become so boring to those who invest their lives in it, year after year. Scaring kids, carving pumpkins, scaring more kids. And that’s it. Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, has hit just such a slump. There seems to be no answer to his blues until he accidently discovers the magical place called Christmas Town. Enthralled by the colour everywhere and white things in the air, Jack decides on a career change. After all, how hard can this Sandy Claws thing be? You dress in red and give kids stuff, right? He just needs to get that fat, bearded guy out of the way first.
Naughty or Nice: As the King of Halloween, and purveyor of quality tricks, naughty is pretty much Jack’s default setting. Which is what makes him such a dismal Santa Claus. He just doesn’t get it. On the other hand, he has a great singing voice.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Troubled Billy Chapman has some serious Santa related childhood issues. While most people see Santa as a benevolent figure, whose prime directive is to reward good children, Billy tends to look at the other side of the equation. Surely Santa’s job is to punish the naughty, right? Seems reasonable. What isn’t reasonable, however, is Billy’s insistence on punishing the naughty with a big axe. Still, if you’re going to go on a murderous spree at Christmas time, then the fabled red outfit is an ideal disguise. The cops will probably shoot five Santas before they get to you.
Naughty or Nice: Well, that depends on whether acts of unprovoked violence and murder with sharp implements fall into your own, personal definition of ‘naughty’. I think we can safely assume that the real Santa frowns on such things.
Kate Beringer’s Dad
Although we never actually see him, Kate Beringer’s Dad has to make any list of disastrous Santas. Gremlins is the darkest of comedies, but never more so than the moment Kate explains why she hates Christmas so much. ‘It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were waiting for Dad to come home. A couple hours went by. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.’ Only Joe Dante could have pulled this off.
Naughty or Nice: A little too nice for his own good.
Willie Stokes is about as disastrous as a Santa can get, this side of the axe-wielding psychopath. He’s an alcoholic, womanising, thieving, lazy-ass degenerate who, together with his even more reprehensible dwarf partner, takes on the Santa gigs at malls so he can rob the safes on Christmas Eve. When a kid tells him what he wishes for, this Santa’s advice is to ‘wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first’. But all of this doesn’t mean he’s entirely unlikeable. Somewhere in there is the flaccid, infinitesimal kernel of a good man, and if anyone needs a miraculous seasonal life-lesson, it’s Willie. Even if that life-lesson takes the unlikely form of a whiny fat kid. The Christmas spirit comes in mysterious shapes.
Naughty or Nice: Take a guess. Willie is so far down Santa’s list that Satan will be getting prezzies first.