bradygirl_12 (bradygirl_12) wrote,

Meta: Cold War Symbolism In Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town

While Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was more about social issues, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town delved more into political/philosophical concerns.

I LOVE Kris' huge blue eyes! :)

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town was first broadcast in 1970 and while using a Cold War backdrop, was surprisingly prescient about the end of the era.

The story is set in Europe and appears to be in the Communist Eastern Bloc, which could have been Czechoslovakia or Hungary or Austria, but the name Burgermeister Meisterburger also suggests East Germany. Baby Claus is found by the toy-making elves, the Kringles, on their doorstep, after the magical winds landed him there since he was on his way to the orphan asylum in Sombertown. The Kringles live on the opposite side of the Mountain of the Whispering Winds (which represents the Berlin Wall). On the Kringles’ side (the West), all is light and airy and people have plenty to eat, and toys are abundant. On the other side (the East) all is dark and drab and kids aren’t allowed to play with toys.

The toys can represent Western materialism, but I also believe that children should have toys and let their imaginations soar. Still, if you take the materialism route, the love of Western things helped bring down the barriers between East and West (and still continue to do so in China). Once Easterners get a taste of those goodies, it’s tough going back to drab ‘n’ dreary.

The indignation about Kris’ clothes (he wears a red suit like the Kringles) is a gentle spoof of the Establishment’s obsession over hippie counterculture’s clothes (and hair) that evolved in the Sixties and was becoming less of a big issue in the Seventies, as the Establishment co-opted much of counterculture fashion (long hair, extremely colourful clothes, bellbottoms, macramé vests, etc.).

Women’s Lib gets a bit of a showing here, too. Whereas in Rudolph neither Mrs. Claus or Mrs. Donner get their own names, the future wife of Santa does here: Jessica. She is the Sombertown schoolteacher who gradually falls in love with Kris, and realizes how silly the town’s edict against toys is.

Kris is seen as an outlaw because he continually breaks the rules about no toys by supplying the children. He goes in through unlocked doors, then chimneys, and puts the toys in stockings to hide them from the Burgermeister’s soldiers.

Kris is captured but escapes, and is hunted like an outlaw, along with his friends and allies. He also represents counterculture thinking (the ‘outlandish clothes’ again) and his use of magic (New Age). The Winter Warlock, whose icy heart was melted by Kris giving him a toy, becomes a staunch ally and aids him with magic (magic corn to make reindeer fly and help them escape from Sombertown, magic snowballs that allow Kris to see when children are pouting and when they’re not).

Kris is also a big believer in the goodness of people, as evidenced by giving the fearsome Winter Warlock a toy train and melting his heart (also symbolizing Western ideas and goods overcoming Communism).

You could call this the prequel to Rudolph, but you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do as to why Santa becomes so grouchy in his later years, or consider this an AU. ;)

Kris and his ‘Outlaw Gang’ win the day (West over East) and the old ways of Sombertown (Communism) are literally relegated to ‘the dustbin of history’ as we see a boy in Western-style clothes take down the Burgermeister’s portrait and put it in the trash can, replacing it with a picture of Kris in his sleigh as he delivers presents with his flying reindeer.

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Tags: christmas, essay, holiday, meta
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