© 1982, 2011, 2014 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE TO READERS: Merry Christmas, everybody, and may the Force be with you…the light side of it, I mean. Well, the holiday season crept up on us even earlier this year; pretty soon “Black Friday” will come right after the Fourth of July. (Wonder how they will gerrymander that one.)
But people are beginning to “push back” on the merchants’ greedy ambition of extended holidays. We almost saw a revolution concerning the phenomenon this year, with employees complaining about the notion of opening early on Thanksgiving Day.
Years ago, I started holing away in my hovel during early December, not turning on the radio or the TV and reducing the number of trips to the grocery store so I could avoid the incessant clamor of bells and chipmunks. I believe that the Christmas season would be much more enjoyable if they would not decorate or display Christmas items until two weeks before Christmas: Let’s see, that would be December 11, according to my calendar. I know I would probably regain the pleasure from Christmas that I enjoyed as a small boy.
Since I do not have any fresh ideas concerning December 25th, I thought it would possibly be a pleasant entertainment for you if I republished a column I wrote back in 1982 for the Monahans News. I also included it in my CD-ROM, A West Texas Journalist, in 2011. I have added a couple of sentences (italicized) in the fourth paragraph, relating more of the experience: the additional content is factual; it just was left out of my original composition in the newspaper.
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While over at Gensler Elementary a couple of weeks ago to photograph the main characters in the Christmas play, I couldn’t help but recall the time I played Santa Claus in the second grade.
At the time I thought it was a “bit part” because I didn’t have many lines and because I was so covered up in cotton beard and stuffed red suit nobody would be able to recognize me.
I recall only two other players—a boy and a girl playing precisely what they were. Surely there must have been other roles, although in those days the teachers didn’t feel it was essential that everybody in the grade have a part in the Christmas play.
Only two children for whom to leave gifts and, wouldn’t you know it, whoever filled my sack had put in an odd number of presents. I discovered that discomfiting fact during our rehearsal; and, departing from the script, I stuck one arm in the bag to search for the missing present, then turned the bag upside down, frustrated. The teacher loved that bit of unintentional pantomime and told me to repeat it during the actual performance. Ever since then I’ve had an intense dislike for long division, especially when there’s a remainder.
But the worst of it was, I botched up my only lines—the last words spoken in the play. In fact, the curtain was to be closing as I uttered them.
There I was, down center stage with the curtains swishing shut behind me and all those adult faces in the auditorium waiting for me to say something.
I thought real hard and then I bellowed: “A good Christmas to all and to all a merry night!”
Only recently I’ve noticed that Santa Claus is not really a “bit part” at all, but is usually at the center of most Christmas plays. Any boy who gets selected for the role should be proud of the fact and cherish the memory of it.
As a matter of fact, perhaps only children should play the role of Santa, since he is supposed to be an elf, isn’t he? After all, a man cannot slip down a chimney, much less be towed through the sky by “tiny reindeer”—even eight of them.
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This year, with Darth Vader in town, I’ve had occasion to observe that he is as popular among the little ones as Santa Claus. Some of those kids huddling around him had been babes in arms when “Star Wars” was released.
This has to be the “Age of Favorite Villains”! For adults, it’s J.R. Ewing; for the kids, it’s Darth Vader. Their primary attraction, I suppose, is the flair and the absoluteness of their villainy. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ll be called upon to understand them or to take sides with them. They’re fun to hate.
I’m rather glad to see a return to the depiction of Evil as absolute. Back when I was a kid, Walt Disney did a good job of it with his wicked queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Somewhere along the way, however, he and those who followed after his death became rather silly with their fumbling crooks and flying Volkswagens.
The best absolute rendering of Evil of late was in the TV mini-series production of “East of Eden”. The female lead in that show, Jane Seymour, could really spit venom!
Of course, “Star Wars” and its sequels have a moral underpinning, too. Luke Skywalker is supposed to get his moral training from the Jedi, but he hasn’t the stamina or the patience for it. We got the impression from “The Empire Strikes Back” that Luke’s days on the side of virtue are numbered.
The only trouble with movies like “Star Wars” is that the audience doesn’t go to see a resolution of the conflict between Good and Evil. Rather, they go to see the weird characters and the special effects. The evil in Darth Vader is camouflaged by the absence of humanness in him; it’s as easy to adapt to him as it is to a video game cassette.
The paradox of Evil—that it is at once a separate “force” and yet inherent in humans—has perplexed philosophers of art at least since Plato, who believed plays should be banned because they accustomed the audience to an acceptance of the unreal.
For myself, I prefer to have the knowledge of Good and Evil writ large, especially in dramatic productions, so that “he who runs may read”.
— The Monahans News, December 23 & 25, 1982