The Becoming-Who of the Grinch and the Abolition of the Family

Today I went to a movie theater in Boise and saw ‘The Grinch’. I only knew about the film because Tyler, the Creator did some of the music and I quite enjoyed his take on ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch‘ (all the songs he did have heavy flower boy themes; he also did I Am The Grinch). I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the film.

To badly summarize, the film takes place in Whoville and the surrounding regions, beginning on the 20th of December. Whoville is a seemingly communitarian municipality [currency does exist but is used sparingly; there is no one shown without a home; there is a somewhat free distribution of excess resources; electricity-production is greater than could ever be imagined] however the Grinch (and his loyal canine servant Max) are under a self-imposed exclusion from the activities of the town, especially those related to the Christmas holiday. Having spent an extensive amount of time overeating as a result of stress and depression caused by the coming holiday, the Grinch must make a trip into Whoville to get groceries. As he enters the town, he is bombarded with carolling Whos, carrying a heavily Christian message that Christmas is approaching. He rushes through the town to get to the grocer, displaying anti-social behaviours towards the Whos.

Simultaneously, Donna Who is shown falling asleep on a bus going home to her children Cindy Lou, Buster, and Bean after working the night shift. Cindy Lou observes her mother is overworked and struggling to care for her children, and proceeds to prepare a letter with her wish for Santa Claus, and departs the home to deliver the letter [her one wish being that her mother be relieved of some of her obligations to her children and job]. On her way to give the letter to the post office worker, Cindy Lou [literally] runs into the Grinch who [sarcastically] tells her it would. be best to tell Santa herself than attempt to have a letter delivered. Believing this to be the best option, Cindy Lou decides to develop a plan to trap Santa Claus.

When he returns home [Mount Crumpit], the Grinch fills his time with improvising on the refrain of “All By Myself” by Celine Dion and playing chess with his dog. We soon learn of his past trauma, ostracized from the Whos as a child as he is an orphan, the weight of his isolation heightened as the holiday season comes to its peak. Every Christmas he has watched families and the community of Whos come together and joyously celebrate the holiday, while being excluded from the festivities, left to live a joyless existence in a run down orphanage. Being reminded of his traumatic past leads him to plan to ‘steal’ Christmas. What we observe is the becoming-Santa of the Grinch by first finding his reindeer. In order to find a reindeer, the Grinch performs the refrain of the reindeer, however all that appears is a goat whose scream scares away all the reindeer in sight. Only one extremely large reindeer is left, Fred, who the Grinch invites into his home.

Fred and Max assist the Grinch as he employs a nomad science and develops tools which will aid him in becoming-Santa, stealing a decorative sled from a Who named Mr. Bricklebaum [and subsequently working on the sled so that it becomes a functional sleigh], allowing the trio to begin test runs of the Grinch’s master plan. Upon his first test, the Grinch discovers that Fred has a mate and child, leading the Grinch to free Fred, coercing Max into a becoming-reindeer to pull the sled in Fred’s absence.

Come Christmas Eve, the Grinch sucessfully steals every tree, decoration, light, and present from every home in Whoville without notice. However, upon his arrival to the last home in all of Whoville, the home of Cindy Lou, he falls into her trap [a string tied to a cookie which proceeds to tighten a rope around his ankles and trap him in mid air]. Cindy Lou unties the Grinch, believing him to be Santa, asking him to allow his mother to work less. While in conversation with him, Cindy Lou tells the Grinch of the joys of singing in tandem with her community. She speaks of the communal song-creation as an event which [when experienced, even as an observer] alleviates all worries and that brings joy into the hearts of every musician-Who involved. She speaks of a universal happiness that we should be working towards [“Everyone deserves to be happy, right?”]. The Grinch agrees, though nonetheless the Grinch proceeds to send Cindy Lou back to her bed and continues to steal the final belongings.

As morning strikes Whoville, the town rises to discover that every Christmas related object in the town has disappeared. Cindy Lou is led to believe that she is at fault as she trapped [who she believed to be] Santa. Donna Who reminds her child that what was stolen was only external physical objects, and that the object of Christmas is internal to the Whos. [I am reminded that it is the mark which makes the territory.] The Whos gather to sing “Welcome Christmas”, repeating the refrain “welcome home” at such a volume and frequency that it can be heard all the way at the top of Mount Crumpit, where the Grinch fled to destroy the objects. As the Grinch begins to push the objects across the threshold of the mountain and into the void, he hears the refrain, closes his eyes, and undergoes a becoming-everyone, -everything. It is then that his heart, which was formerly described as having shrunk by two sizes, grows by three. As his sleigh crosses the threshold, he jumps off the ledge to stop it from falling, being aided by Fred, his family, and Max at the last second. He takes the belongings he stole and returns them to Whoville, admitting to stealing the objects, and apologizing for his wrongdoing, returning to his cave soon after.

Soon after, Cindy Lou finds her way to the entrance of the home of the Grinch, bringing with her an invitation to Christmas dinner. The Grinch accepts the invitation, notably wearing a tie upon arrival, being greeted gleefully by all the guests in attendance. He gives a toast, expressing that it was never Christmas he despised, but the isolation and exclusion which came with it, thanking Cindy Lou for opening his eyes, and his heart. Concluding the film, the Grinch carves the turkey at the invitation of Donna, and enters into a becoming-Who, -communal.

What I find is that the film exemplifies both a message of the abolition of work and the abolition of the family as it is only through these two that the true desires of both Cindy Lou and the Grinch can be fulfilled. It is obvious that Cindy Lou desires her mother have the freedom from work, as working the night shift and caring for her children during the day has taken an emotional and psychological toll on Donna. If obligatory work were to be abolished, her mother would have the ability to focus on what truly matters to her as it is evidenced she is working a menial job that could easily be automated. However, the desires of the Grinch may not be as clear to the average viewer as those of Cindy Lou.

It is only through a becoming-Santa that even the traumatized Grinch learns compassion, and it is through a becoming-Who that the Grinch approaches the plan(e) of consistency. Only through an experience with the cosmic refrain of Whoville was the Grinch able to enter into a becoming-everbody, -everything. The Grinch does not consummate a marriage by cutting the turkey, he does not enter into a familial bond. Instead he enters into a community, contributes to a collective index. I believe we can assume the desire of the Grinch is to create a communal bond through which he can redefine himself onto the plan(e) if consistency. Maybe I can say more about this later, my flight is about to take off.

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