December 6th, 2004

The Clash of Belief Systems

We went to Polar Express again today at Skylar's request. Both kdotdammit and I were psyched to see it again, though. Kim had such great things to say about its artiness last time. And I found it really intriguing in light of the train of thought I had last month about "voiceprinting" in animated films. This time around, I was less moved but even more interested.

It's a strange picture. That's probably why it's being considered a failure. Historically, though, I have better thoughts about failures than hits. Polar Express follows the pattern. My mind was racing with speculations on everything from the overt Matthew Barney references to the nostalgia for outmoded technology to the odd parallels between the film and -- of all things -- Twin Peaks. I'm going to try to write something more detailed for the Bad Subjects blog later, once I'm done with my preparations for teaching and I've finished revising a few more paragraphs for my book.

For now, though, I'm content to share something Skylar said to me during the film. As the story approached its climax, with Santa emerging onto the vast, Russian-style plaza at the center of the North Pole, she leaned over to me and asked, conspiratorially, "Does Santa know about Jesus?"

I instinctively answered, "Yes," even as my already-redlining mind pondered the significance of her query. Clearly, she understands that the two are competitors for the business of Christmas. And she has a desire to give them equal time, just as she wishes to honor Hannukah and Kwanzaa along with Christmas.

Sometimes, though, her deep thoughts depart from the path of childlike innocence. Yesterday, as we were pulling into the driveway on the way back from the B'sghetti Bash at the JCC, she glanced at our large, glowing Christmas Snoopy and said,"Dad, we could get a Baby Jesus like that." I acknowledged that we could, but tried to make it clear that my interest in the idea was lukewarm. "You know," she responded, "people could come over to our house and have their pictures taken with Jesus, Mary and Joseph." Clearly, this is a girl who is a little too familiar with the concept of the photographically mediated family.
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