Monday, December 23, 2013

Film: Nightmare Before Christmas

When I was younger I really identified with the film Nightmare Before Christmas (currently streams on Netflix). It's about Jack Skellington and the people of Halloweentown, whose job is to scare people ("that's our job but we're not mean" because "life's not fun without a good scare"). They end up taking over Christmas and making a mess of it, largely because they can't quite grasp the concept of it (regarding stockings hung by a fire, "Oh, yes! Does it still have a foot? Let me see, let me look. Is it rotted and covered with gook?"). Their misplaced attempts at Christmas reminded me of this idea, from a father of an autistic child regarding his philosophy in placing autistic individuals in places of employment that take advantage of their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses:

 “A weed is a beautiful plant in an unwanted place,” he says. “An herb is the same plant where it is wanted. Who decides if something is a weed or an herb? Society does.”

Jack Skellington and his band undoubtedly do bad things, chief among them ruining Christmas. And he does it all gleefully and selfishly, although unintentionally. Rather, he just does things in a way that comes naturally to him but is wholly inappropriate for that particular context. I really identified with that growing up. There were plenty of bad things that I actively intended, just like Jack's terror filled Halloween celebrations. But there were also times when I felt like I was using my prodigious (I thought) talents for good. Like Jack, those times were largely because I misunderstood the complexity of what I was trying to imitate. For instance, Jack in trying to decipher the secret of Christmas magic finally gives up, assuming that it can't be as complicated as it seemed:

Or perhaps it's really not as deep as I've been led to think.
Am I trying much too hard? Of course. I've been too close to see.
The answer's right in front of me.
Right in front of me.
It's simple really, very clear,
like music drifting in the air.
Invisible, but everywhere.
Just because I cannot see it doesn't mean I can't believe it.
You know, I think this Christmas thing
is not as tricky as it seems.
And why should they have all the fun?
It should belong to anyone.
Not anyone, in fact, but me.
Why, I could make a Christmas tree.
And there's no reason I can find
I couldn't handle Christmastime.
I bet I could improve it, too, and that's exactly what I'll do.
(evil laugh)

There were many times as a young sociopath that I felt similarly about the emotional worlds of others. Even though I didn't relate to my own emotions or feel empathy, I figured that there couldn't be that much to it, so I didn't tinkering around with the emotions of others.

Jack decides that although he is naturally talented and well suited for scaring people, he would like to try something new -- bringing Christmas cheer. Once Jack decides to take over Christmas, there is nothing that he won't do to accomplish his goals, largely through manipulating his minions. He tells the trick or treaters Lock, Shock, and Barrel to kidnap Santa Claus, appealing to their pride and love of the nefarious ("The job I have for you is top secret. It requires craft, cunning, mischief.") He tries to explain the spirit of Christmas to the residents of Halloween but when they don't get it, he decides to instead just tell them what they want to hear in order to get their support -- the story of the monster Sandy Claws ("Everyone, please! Now, not so fast. There’s something here that you don’t quite grasp. (Well, I may as well give them what they want…)"). It's clear that they never quite understand the spirit of Christmas because when news reports of Jack saw that he is "mocking and mangling this joyous holiday," they cheer.

When Jack realizes he has utterly failed, he is disappointed for a hot minute ("how could I be so blind . . . everything's gone so wrong"). This sentiment falls just short of repentance and he is soon feeling quite pleased with himself and his ability to do as much as he did: "for a moment why, I even touched the sky." So pretty resilient self-esteem. Again I related to this, the knowledge that I had spectacularly failed, but never really seeming to feel badly about it all or change my behavior.

So, is there a role for Jack Skellingtons in this world? Or are they weeds wherever they sprout?


  1. Lol, i swear to god we could be twins

  2. When a maladjusted social outcast sees a living doll like M.E. he
    can have two reactions. (I call M.E. a "living doll" because that's
    exactly how she appeared to be on Dr. Phil and that small repeating
    film of a couple of mounths ago.)
    The first reaction is one of rage and a desire to "posess" the person.
    We see this desire on "sour grapes" websites about losers who think
    women owe them sex just because they're "nice guys." If these
    guys have no outlet, the rage builds up to such an extent that they
    might "act out" and harm people. A movie called "The Sniper" is a
    good example.
    A second reaction to the glorious ray of sunshine that M.E. is among
    outcasts is strangely, "love and infatituation." They can't "have" her
    so thier song is: "She's So High Above Me" ("Like Cleopatra and
    Can't you see, that this is a type of torture? No human being should
    have to live this way. That's why I'm proposing the "erection" (No pun
    intended.) of a system of "relocational and re-educational camps"
    into which said people could be placed. Once such people undergo
    "treatments" at these localities, they will emerge much happier and
    well adjusted.

    1. What small repeating film was she in?

    2. anon 3:55- your post says way more about you than about ME.

    3. She's gonna blow!

    4. A living doll wearing a mask, providing some entertainment?

    5. You umderstand that being on display is difficult for an introvert, right?

  3. I suppose you could define not reaching a goal you set out to achieve to be a failure, but why should you change your behavior if your failure doesn't have any negative consequences?

    Even your cyclic self-destruction, which you could describe as a chain of failures, are really only shallow valleys nestled between cresting hills. You always climb back up, reach some new peak, and your 'destroyed life' is never really annihilated but rather crafted into something new.

    So, why change this behavior? Your life has an interesting landscape, and something interesting is always better than something easy for someone as intelligent as yourself. Nothing is wrong with you, you are not thrown into turmoil. You're merely tossing pebbles into a pond to watch the ripples mingle. While disruptive, who can bear to stare at an unchanging, placid surface for very long?

  4. This is great, M.E.

  5. There's a place for the Jack Skellingtons of this world- perhaps as an operator of an extensive set of motorized toy trains. He can completely control the landscape of a world that exists for his amusements.

  6. I think it's clear that this lack of empathy severely limits the ASPD's scope of experience.

    To put it another way, it's almost like blindness, in a sense.

  7. Beautiful post, yes, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. In the competitive world a person is better off to focus on his/her strengths, not weaknesses.

    Pathologizing the weaknesses can disable a very able person.

  8. Bless everything that represents what you want.

  9. You should consider how much socio's can overlap with artists like myself. Depending on how Dark the artist is, its possible we can have a grand old time. A true artist doesn't really understand rules of society except in terms of finding fun ways to bend them. Call it thinking out of the box, but really its an innate rebellion. A joy in smashing the status quo. I love that movie- in fact I have a pumpkin we are going to carve and put under the xmas tree and dose Santa's cookies with LSD. I only wish my possibly socio girlfriend was in town- I have this candy cane idea for after the tots go to sleep- I can think of many fun roles for a sociopath Lass on xmas... yum

    1. lols,
      hang those cherry flavour candy canes on her tree. relish the juices. good idea. yums.

    2. let her keep yr jack frost all cozy warm.

    3. Omg superchick, you're dirty!

      :o !

  10. The only actual sociopath in the movie is the Boogie-Oogie man. Everyone else is normal.

  11. Replies
    1. Hey! Both you and zoe in the same week! This is a sw treat. Xxx

  12. Aww I am so touched, Mach and Anon. Thank you. It is nice to feel that I matter!


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