Christmas with a Capital C: And the Legend Continues…

Wow.  I did not see the ending to Christmas with a Capital C coming, and to judge from the comments, neither did many of you.  I think we were all of us assuming the typical Christian movie ending: Mitch would be shown up, humiliated, and triumphed over by our Christian “heroes,” who would not only succeed in getting their nativity scene up at city hall, where God wants it to be, but would also personally lead evil atheist Mitch back to Christ.

Instead, although Mitch is humiliated some at the impromptu party at his empty house, by the end of the movie, he seems to have triumphed in every conceivable way: the nativity scene will be showcased elsewhere, he has a great job and will almost certainly be raising the entire town’s fortunes, and his mayoral campaign appears to be only temporarily be “set aside.”  Indeed, Dan’s bitter prediction that the whole town would “forgive” Mitch for his “lies” appears to come true.

(On the matter of Mitch’s “lies”: looking back over the movie, the only time I can see where Mitch even arguably lied is the very first scene, in which he tells Dan and Greg that the U-Haul has “all his stuff” inside it.  Which it probably does, notwithstanding that he doesn’t have a lot of stuff.  Dan and Kristin later assume that the van took stuff away from the house, and it looks like it did, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t also taking Mitch’s possessions to the house.  (It appears that Mitch has kept most of his clothes and enough personal supplies so he can semi-comfortably “camp” in his house for weeks on end.))

And, as in Part 3 of my critique, I would argue that such a lie pales in comparison to the lies Dan and Greg tell Mitch’s friend and co-worker…lies they flew 3,000 miles just to tell him.

Now, on to whether this movie was indeed a “true” RTC flick: commenters suggest several intriguing possibilities for why the ending of the movie is as astonishing as it is: executive input, non-RTC writing input, even an overall softening of the typical anti-atheism so prevalent in Christian entertainment.

Is this some kind of strange stealth job, in which an ostensibly RTC movie features the triumph of an atheist over narrow-minded and oppressive Christians?

First of all, I never did include the trailer, so here it is!

And, as is becoming more and more common in Christian films, there are actually goodies on this DVD, including a “making-of” featurette, so let’s explore!

The featurette immediately takes us to young Francesca Derosa, who plays Makayla.  Introducing us to the plot, she calls Mitch Dan’s “enemy” and the “bad guy.”

(Mayor Dan) give us his take on the story:

“In this movie, we’re talking about it right up front: y’know, this is a Christian family, with Christian values, and they’re not gonna not just talk about them, but they’re gonna find themselves pushed in a corner by the sort of political correctness of so much of the world today.  And they’ve just decided that the only way to fight back is through what they really believe is their Christian values and beliefs, which is be kind, do the right thing.  And wash the feet of the worst among you.”

“Be kind”?  That’s what the Reeds were supposed to be?  Okay, Makayla is kind.  I will give you that.  She is the only person in the movie who ever expresses concern for Mitch’s welfare and feelings.  But Dan?  Greg???  Sorry, I can think of many words to describe them, but “kind” is not one of them.

Oh, and I don’t think giving Mitch his own money counts as Christian-washing-of-feet.  That was more like just-barely-deciding-not-to-be-thieves.

Nancy Stafford (Kristin) thinks of her character as the “conscience” of the story, which…no.  That would, again, be Makayla.

Daniel Baldwin, however, earns my respect immediately by focusing  on the development of his character instead of the “message” of the movie.

***

And…oh my.  Turns out that Greg Reed/Jesus/Geico Caveman’s whole character was based off of Brad Stine’s own “comedy” routines.  So yeah, the unwatchable diatribe from the coffee shop is actually a nearly word-for-word copy of Stine’s onstage rant.

Stine appears to have been directed to tone it down a bit for the movie.  The featurette has a clip of Stine doing the rant for an audience, and his portrayal of the kind of person who wishes people “Happy Holidays” is…well, it’s something.  And that something is a hand-on-hip, high-pitched, lisping, cross-eyed person.

Draw from that what conclusions you will.

(I’m not about to post a video of him here, but you can find his “work” on YouTube if you’re curious.)

***

A great deal of talk about how everyone got along, and how beautiful the Alaskan landscape is (very true).  Daniel Baldwin gets even more props from me: his first thought is for others: that it will be a real challenge to match footage, what with snow falling then not falling, etc.

***

A lot of very vague things are said of the movie’s “spiritual message,” but there is one intriguing quote from David Cuddy, who was the executive producer and played the brown-nosing coach:

“The message, I think, is: figure out what your philosophy and your priorities are and stick with them, and don’t let yourself be pushed around.”

Okay, I am pretty damn sure he is not talking about Mitch, here, but honestly, I think it applies more to Mitch than to any other character.  Mitch knows what his philosophy is, knows what his priorities are (and I happen to think they are pretty good priorities, like raising his hometown’s economic standing and helping others), and he doesn’t let himself be pushed around by RTC blowhards like Dan and Greg.  Indeed, he meets such opposition with a sense of humor, and when he can’t do that…well, let’s just say that I stand by my philosophy that Mitch Bright is a master of the Long Game.

Go, Mitch.

So, whaddaya think?  Funnily enough, I think my final conclusion is that although the movie is not anti-atheist, that may have been by accident.  Overall, this is yet another instance in Christian entertainment of the creators being utterly unaware of how characters look to others.  Where they see good Christians living by good, kind family values, we see characters who are, at their best, smug, obnoxious, self-absorbed, and self-righteous.  And at their worst, they are liars, would-be thieves, and aggressive jerks who delight in the pain of others.

Humans are fascinating: how is it possible that we see things so differently?

Well, this whole enterprise has been remarkable.  Happy Wintermas, Part I, all!

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Posted on December 4, 2013, in Christmas with a Capital C, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. While the creators of Christian entertainment clearly want us to root for their “heroes”, the way those characters behave makes it impossible for me to do so. I’m still baffled by the fact that some people can watch Christian movies and read Christian books and think that the “good guys” in them are not utter assholes.

  2. Interesting. So it’s confirmed that the movie makers agree with Dan and Greg in the first and second act: They are the poor, beleagured and mistreated victims of horrible “political correctness” of Mitch, a.k.a. “the worst of you” who “pushed them into a corner”. And yet we have the ending where Dan and Greg actually pipe down and act reasonable about it presented as the happy ending. So where did this ending come from? The mystery remains.

  3. “In this movie, we’re talking about it right up front: y’know, this is a Christian family, with Christian values, and they’re not gonna not just talk about them, but they’re gonna find themselves pushed in a corner by the sort of political correctness of so much of the world today.”

    “Pushed in a corner”? Dan lives in a town where everybody believes as he does, AND OF WHICH HE IS THE FUCKING MAYOR, but then one dude moves in who thinks differently and somehow Mayor Dan is the oppressed minority.

    Allow me to submit that the insular Christians of Moose Poop, Alaska already live in a corner — consciously and by choice — and to the extent Mitch is doing any pushing, it’s to push them out of it.

    Also, it’s rich to complain about “political correctness” when, again, you are the mayor and politics is your fucking job.

    (I don’t really want to rag on Ted McGinley here, so much as the character whose motivations he’s describing. Whether or not McGinley believes this stuff, it’s clear he has a good handle on the persecution complex that drives the real-life Mayor Dans of the world, and that makes him a good choice for the part.)

    “And they’ve just decided that the only way to fight back is through what they really believe is their Christian values and beliefs, which is be kind, do the right thing. And wash the feet of the worst among you.”

    And those are all good, admirable values. And it’s a shame that Dan didn’t comprehend that none of those values were actually under attack. The issue was about pushing your religion in a public space, which if anything goes against those values.

    Dan, and the real-life Dans of the world, would do well to not confuse the very real and good virtues that their religion promotes with the tribal markers of said religion. To ask themselves “What is Christianity really?” and to realize that lighted manger creches have pretty much fuck-all to do with it. And that therefore one can attack specific deployments of lighted manger creches without it being an attack on Christianity itself. And then maybe, after all that introspection, the Mayor Dans of the world can finally arrive at the central question: “Am I just an asshole who is looking for an excuse to behave like an asshole?”

  4. I was curious, so I looked up some of Brad Stine’s material.

    The superior quality of the latest socket wrench kind of becomes muddled when that same wrench is being held by a bikini-clad female posing in a calendar. She may be determined that you use this particular brand of tool, but any guy looking at that calendar who has even noticed that there was a tool involved must be a former member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. […]

    “Boys will be boys” is the name of that marketing game.

    That, by the way, is an idiom that has never worked for me because it is so incoherent. There must have been a lot of creativity expended to come up with that little nugget. The highly paid ad agency probably tried out a few other alternatives, things like “Boys will be…cheese?” and thought, Hmmm, maybe not, any other suggestions? Who is writing these pearls of American wisdom? They make even Yogi Berra sound like Keats.

    […]

    I’m sure most of the Founding Fathers envisioned a day when women in handcuffs and leather masks would be marched around by a man in a Little Bo Peep outfit wielding a whip as a way of celebrating exactly what a democracy stood for.

    So, uh, yeah. It’s certainly got the tone of someone who believes that he is Doing Comedy, so I suppose that’s something.

    • Well that was hilarious. Though I’m not even sure how to parse some of that. Former members of Vienna Boys’ Choir are less interested in bikini-clad females than other men? What? Does he think that they are castrated or something? Or that Austrians are are all homosexuals? Or is singing in a choir somehow so unmanly that it removes all interest in women? I feel like there’s some important piece of background assumption that I’m missing.

      • “Does he think they are castrated or something?”

        It was fairly common once upon a time – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castrato

        (It is of course not true anymore, and I can’t find any specific accusations of it being true for the Viennese Boys Choir ever, but it was once an issue and the stereotype of choirboys being castrated so they would remain soprano exists.)

        • Before the problems of the Catholic church became widely known, choirboys and altar-boys were often used as symbols for innocence. Presumably only by people who had never known either.

  5. Wow, that was definitely not the ending I was expecting, but it made me happy! Go Mitch!

  6. Looking at some elements of Andrea Nasfell’s weblog (she was the writer of the screenplay–and as she can tell you, screenplays don’t normally stay as written):

    In early December 2009, I was sitting on the couch, watching our Christmas favorite, Elf, with my daughter when I turned to her and said, “Maybe I should write a Christmas movie.”

    About a week later, David White at Pure Flix called me up and said, “How would you like to write a Christmas movie?” I said yes immediately. The only trouble was that they needed to shoot in February, in Alaska, just nine weeks from our first conversation about it.

    They had optioned the rights to a song called “Christmas with a Capital C” by Go Fish, which had an impressive amount of hits on YouTube (tens of millions) and which sampled the stand-up of Brad Stine, a comedian and actor they had worked with on another movie. The song is really in-your-face “it’s okay to say Merry Christmas,” and while I’m not scared to be politically incorrect, I really hated the idea of a politically charged Christmas movie. Thankfully Pure Flix and the producers, David Cuddy and James Chankin, wanted to make something that was more in the vein of It’s A Wonderful Life with David’s home state of Alaska as the beautiful, snowy backdrop.

    I turned in the treatment on Christmas Eve, after a ton of research on Alaska and the Establishment Clause. My first version involved a dead mom and a family squabble, and it was no fun at all. We developed it into the story of two high school rivals, and brought in the twist that assured the story was not about politics, but rather the “real meaning” of Christmas.

    Given that she hated the idea of a politically charged Christmas film, AND that the producers wanted to sculpt this around a couple of things ALREADY politically charged…I know I’d call that caught in a bind.

    And while discussing the cast…

    Daniel Baldwin (Mitch Bright). Baldwins of course come with baggage, but Daniel is a pro. He brought a lot of ideas to the part of Mitch, truly humanizing the film’s “villain,” and he brought deep emotion where it counted. And he didn’t punch out the people in the restaurant asking endless questions about his brothers or the reporter that asked our producer (in front of him) “Why didn’t you get Alec Baldwin?”… though I know I wanted to.

    Brad Stine (Greg Reed). Based on his comedy, I expected Brad to be in a constant state of frenetic energy, but I found him to be thoughtful, funny and a real contributor to the overall story. I worked with Brad at the script stage, so we could incorporate some of his stand-up material and comedic sensibility into his character. He’s someone I want to stay in touch with because I love his vision for what faith-based comedy can be.

    Nancy Stafford (Kristen Reed). Nancy was already a friend of mine, and I had no idea they were considering her for this movie until I heard they had cast her. I was really excited, as Kristen is the soul of the movie, and the one who turns the story from a political debate toward the heart of Christmas. Nancy is that beautiful soul already, and she executes it perfectly.

    I imagine there are questions about how closely her view of Stine and Kristen hews towards the quandaries discussed above, but it does look like Nasfell had planned to switch from the political trappings from day one–and that she intended that Mitch really be only a Designated Villain from the beginning, if those quotation marks are anything to go by.

    http://ahundredhats.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/writing-christmas-with-a-capital-c/

    • {grumble} Paragraphs 6 and 7 should NOT be in bold…

    • Huh. That’s a pretty nice look-behind-the-scenes, although it does negate my secret hope that the movie’s creators were just trolling for lolz. Ah well. Can’t have everything!

    • Very interesting. I guess the mystery is solved: They started with a theocratic-fundie basis, but then brought in a writer who just wanted to tell a happy, uplifting, inclusive Christmass story. So the result is this weird bland of blowing RTC dogwhistles till your face turns blue in the first two acts, followed by a feel-good third act.

      And I suspect it’s true that we can be thankful for Daniel Baldwin. Had they given his role to Kirk Cameron, it’d have been a disaster. Much like his wife playing Hattie as the unlikable hussy she felt Hattie should be. But that did create the problem that Brad Stine was playing his character as if he was opposing a mustache-twirlingly MacEvilton-ensque villain.

      • Though I will add that it doesn’t help the writer’s case that in both posts about the movie, she makes reference to the “hate” from “angry atheists” who “hate Christianity.”

        Which I guess just makes me confused: if you experience the embrace of the anti-inclusion side of the War of Christmas, wouldn’t it be naturally assumed that the other side of that “war” would not be the biggest fans?

        And I don’t hate the movie. Or Christianity.

        Just putting that out there. 😉

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 7th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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