12 Days of X-Mas: Saving Christmas
Far from the uplifting tale of faith Kirk Cameron thinks he presented the world, Saving Christmas is a dreary and self-indulgent instructional video on how to emotionally manipulate your friends and family into seeing things from your perspective. It gives us a hearty 80 minutes of the one thing none of us wants for Christmas, a rich white guy telling everyone to stop whining.
The weak and contrived premise is that Cameron is at his sister's annual Christmas party and his brother-in-law is being a Debbie Downer and doesn't feel like participating. Now, right off the bat Cameron has immediately alienated anyone who may be an introvert or who has social anxiety, because god forbid someone be introverted or suffer a crippling fear of crowds at Christmas. That just goes to prove you're not a good Christian, and you're just not seeing things from the right perspective - Kirk Cameron's perspective (which is a morbid fever dream of American capitalist traditions and death).
In a series of poorly shot vignettes sandwiched between what I assume are uncomfortably improved party scenes, Cameron illuminates for his brother in law why he's wrong about Christmas. His brother in law, for the record, isn't an atheist or another religion. No, in essence Cameron is fighting his own faith here. He's fighting against people who have made him feel a momentary pang of guilt, for indulging in the flesh pleasures of Christmas when there are those less fortunate around him. He turned that little pang of guilt into a crusade fueled by righteous anger against these people, because how dare they make him feel bad about all the stuff he has!
Cameron defends American upper middle class Christmas traditions of overspending and participating in the Santa myth by making Christmas symbology over the top dark and macabre. The nativity scene, he explains, is actually a death scene. He claims the swaddling clothes and the gifts from the wise men are really funeral preparations so we should look at the manger and see baby Jesus "offering himself up as bread for the hungry. An image of a baby born to die." Ok, thanks, Kirk. I know more than a few women and men who are going to be traumatized by that but please, go on.
The Christmas tree was a strange one. Cameron makes a bold claim that the Bible begins on a tree lot, like the ones we buy Christmas trees from. I think he meant it metaphorically? Surprise, surprise, the trees also symbolize death! He encourages the audience to view a Christmas tree lot as a lot full of hundreds of empty crosses, and the vignette ends with a young girl in the midst of a lot full of trees, gazing in horror upon a large, empty cross. Run for your life, kid. Santa Claus, Cameron preaches, was a man who bullied and beat someone who had a viewpoint that didn't match his own, excusing the behavior because "back then" he didn't have the time to be politically correct. And yet this man would "bless" children at night by bringing them gifts. If that's not enough to turn you off of St. Nick, I don't know what to tell you.
He culminates this privileged travesty by saying that gifts wrapped under the Christmas tree are shaped like the city skyline of New Jerusalem. I don't know how many gifts you have to have under a tree to construct a skyline, but I've never achieved it. He invites his family to "feast" telling the audience not to feel bad about eating and buying lots of gifts. He tells them, "buy the biggest ham you can find, and the richest butter!" Richest butter? What even is that? Is that like that Irish butter that's $12 per quarter pound? No thanks, dude, I've got bills to pay. Cameron states, "don't buy into the complaint that materialism is bad." Because in his messed-up universe, we over indulge in material things because Jesus took "material form" on Christmas, so it's good to have material things. To remind us of that stretch of a metaphor, I suppose?
At the beginning of the movie, Cameron's brother in law bemoans the money he is spending on toys his kids won't play with in three months because there are children all over the world going hungry. A sentiment for which he is scolded. And that is the biggest, most glaring and insensitive flaw this movie has. A complete and total lack of interest in humanity. It is a movie monument to self-involvement, and waves its big, angry dick at anyone who would suggest alternate holiday traditions, pastimes and acts of kindness.
I was raised in a very religious household. Later in life I decided it wasn't the path for me, but that doesn't mean that there aren't good people who truly believe in Christian Christmas traditions. However, what Cameron is pedaling is not the family-centered Christmas full of love and joy. Cameron is preaching the gospel of the mega-church. The religious establishment that has glossed over Christian principals and biblical statutes in order to justify turning massive profits by placing coffee shops and gift stores in their lobbies.
It didn't need the offensively bad "hip-hop" dance number inexplicably placed at the end of the film to the longest, whitest version of Hark the Herald Angels Sing I've ever heard to solidify its vapidity, but by god it went for it. It went for it with so much gusto I thought it would never end. Here's the deal, and I hope Kirk Cameron reads this, because I'm going to address him personally.
Kirk, there are poor people all around you. My family of three makes less than $35,000 a year and I count us lucky. We can't feast on Christmas, and while we do get each other gifts, I'm sure you would scoff at what we have to offer. The day after Christmas my husband will go back to his soul-crushing marketing job knowing that he will not make as much in a year doing it as you spent on your family for your Jerusalem gift pile and your rich butter feast. And that's ok. Because unlike your soulless existence, we really love each other and our daughter. Being together, having the cheapest bottle of wine we can afford and eating Little Cesar's pizza sounds like a beautiful Christmas to me that lacks absolutely nothing. And if we can afford to feed someone who has less than we do, we will gladly do it.
Christmas is not about things, or even symbols. Christmas is about people and love. If you're going to preach anything, preach that.